On the BeachOn the Beach by Nevil Shute
My rating: 3/5 cats
One StarOne StarOne Star

it’s the most pleasant apocalypse ever! there is war! there are bombs! and everyone in the southern hemisphere knows the rest of the world is dead dead dead and they are just waiting for the radiation to drift downwards where they will succumb to vomiting and diarrhea and weakness and eventual death. let me repeat: this is known. and so what do they do to prepare themselves? not a whole lot. they buy some presents for children they know are already dead in other parts of the world (yes, this means that even though they know they will be dead within the month, there are still people reporting to work at the toy shop). they plant gardens they will never see. they have a car race. they buy a playpen to keep their baby from harm. duck and cover, indeed. it’s more like an old navy commercial than the end of the world. not one single character freaks about about dying. not one goes on a looting spree or has sex or has a bomb shelter with canned goods to at least give survival a go. it’s all shrug, “oh well.” here is a quote, “no good agonizing about it. have another whiskey.” yes, there is some drinking, but even that seems to be in moderation, except for the wine-uncle, who seems more concerned about not letting the wine cellar go to waste than as psychological padding from his doom. i’m sorry, but i get frustrated by unrealistic across-the-board behavior. one character in denial, sure, i can see that. one who is hopeful that the drift will just dissipate and never get to them. fine. but after one character is reminded that her hopes for grandchildren are probably not going to come to fruition, she remarks, “oh, dear, i keep forgetting.” i don’t see how the end of humanity is something that slips the mind. maybe the first sign of radiation poisoning is a lack of affect. i honestly don’t know. but cheer up, it can’t get any worse!

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    Sean O'Brenan

    June 5, 2020 at 4:51 pm

    Hi Karen, you have a great Blog, good review for ‘On The Beach’, however, my reading of ‘On The Beach’, is completely different from yours. I get the subtlety and ‘anti-anticlimactic’ tone as so very real. The action is indeed all over and ordinary people simply seem to try to cope with the madness of it all by …not coping. Think of all the people we know whom simply tune out when ever there is an atrocity or a world crisis. The human ego’s greatest challenge, and it is often impossible for us. I thought it quite real that they would plant daffodil bulbs for a spring they will never see, etc. For me it resonates as all quite probable.
    I’ll end with T.S. Elliot’s famous and very grim quote, ” This is the way the world ends, not with a bang, but a whimper.”

    • karen t. brissette

      karen t. brissette

      June 6, 2020 at 9:56 am

      maybe so. i read and reviewed this eleven years ago and i’m less critical and more exhausted these days, so i might have an entirely different take on it if i were to reread it now, here in my tiny quarantine while the world whimpers around me and i distract myself with animal rescue videos on the youtube. and i did plant some windowsill basil this past week, so point taken! (:

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