Newest Review: ... unlike anything else I've ever read. The central characters are vivid and believable and the pace is quick despite the potential for it to ... more
No Leo in sight, but still great
The Beach - Alex Garland
Member Name: scarletcanary
The Beach - Alex Garland
Advantages: Great sense of place
Disadvantages: Possibly a bit marmitey
The Beach does exactly what all good fiction should do- transports you to a whole 'nother place with just a few well placed words.
It follows Richard, a british backpacker in Thailand, who feels simultaniously under and overwhelmed by the whole experience.
Through Richard's first person view it is easy to feel that you are actually in the bustling overhyped world of Bangkok, and when he gets a way out of it via a mad, suicidal scotsman called Daffy Duck the relief is palpable.
Daffy has given Richard a map to a secret paradise island, a commune of like-minded travellers who choose to live off the beaten track.
However, being the immature type Richard shows off about this discovery to the pretty french girl in the next room (and her boyfriend... he's not just immature, he's somewhat dumb too!), and they join Richard on his quest to find this paradise.
It's not that simple though, as they can't get boats to go there, and Richard gets scared. In a particually stupid move he gves a copy of the map to a couple of American stoners, in the vauge hope that they will somehow protect him in case it all goes wrong.
After swimming to the island the travellers find out that the island is owned by cannabis farmers, and the commune is allowed to stay there as long as they don't bring too many people in....
However, for a while all actually is paradise, more or less, and the book settles into it's real beauty, describing the island with such clarity that you can almost taste the rice!
Sadly it can't last, and the paradise becomes slowly more of a nightmare
I am sure a lot of people will have come to this book from the film, and while I did enjoy the film, I found it a rather watered down version of the book, so if you liked the film you will probably like the book more.
The characterisation in this book is a bit odd, Richard is essentially very selfish and childish, his frequent vietnam fantasies make this book undeservedly slide into surreal territory, and there is no "payoff", as he stays the same throughout.
The supporting characters didn't help much, although they had great descriptions they were never allowed to really show the reader who they were (although I suppose this is in keeping with Richard- he just didn't really notice what they were like)
The book's real character is the island, and I can't fault it on this
I loved this book, and it made me a lifelong fan of the small but significant works of Alex Garland.
Summary: This will either end up at the charity shop or firmly on your favourites shelf- I bet on the latter!