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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A picture of what can be seen if you really look hard
It is a phenomenal and moving book. You can't put it down without knowing what will happen next. I'm a slow reader- I read 'east of eden' by John Steinbeck, in 5 months. 'The Beach' is about the same size and I read it in less than a week. The story makes you realize that we are actually destroying this world at our heart's content. Richard hated going back to...
Published on 24 Feb. 2000

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars the main protagonist - who we all know is "really" Leonardo DiCaprio - is actually a Brit who is given to making fun of the vacu
This is a particularly tricky book to read if you've already seen the movie, as many people will have. Discovering that Richard, the main protagonist - who we all know is "really" Leonardo DiCaprio - is actually a Brit who is given to making fun of the vacuity of American tourists causes a little bit of an adjustment shock.

But once you've got past that...
Published 2 months ago by Chris H


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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A picture of what can be seen if you really look hard, 24 Feb. 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: The Beach (Paperback)
It is a phenomenal and moving book. You can't put it down without knowing what will happen next. I'm a slow reader- I read 'east of eden' by John Steinbeck, in 5 months. 'The Beach' is about the same size and I read it in less than a week. The story makes you realize that we are actually destroying this world at our heart's content. Richard hated going back to civilization. He wanted to stay in paradise because he saw all the destruction whereas others were blind to it. This book also shows how your mind and feelings can change- how paradise can quite easily turn into hell. It was a great experience to read and my advice is- READ THE BOOK- DO NOT SEE THE FILM, IT'S A DISASTER- IT RUINS IT!
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Welcome back to the valley of death, 4 Jan. 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: The Beach (Paperback)
I appreciate that a lot of people have enjoyed this book so don't want to go over the top with praise...I think the references to Vietnam give the paradise dark overtones i.e. paradise cannot last forever, history will scar and repeat. The knowledge of the main character that he is going crazy, psychosis, i believe is excellent and catalogues in depth how Richard is influcnced by his surroundings and the death of Daffy. Ultimately, most readers will not completely understand the connections between Vietnam and the beach, aside from the geographical location. I think this is part of the intrigue; the book is dark and mysterious and encourages multiple readings to try and understand it. Even if you only grasp the idea of the break-down of civilisation, the book is compelling and the description of Asia leave a deep impact on the imagination. If you do however, believe that the author is too-hyped up on Vietnam, read his second novel, The Tesseract and you will see a completely different type of book, though with a complex make-up. In short an excellent first novel and well-worth its money as it can be read so many times without losing the edge. On a lighter note, Leonado DiCaprio was a pathetic cast for Richard, with no dark side and a sad attempt at going round the bend.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars the main protagonist - who we all know is "really" Leonardo DiCaprio - is actually a Brit who is given to making fun of the vacu, 23 Feb. 2015
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This review is from: The Beach (Kindle Edition)
This is a particularly tricky book to read if you've already seen the movie, as many people will have. Discovering that Richard, the main protagonist - who we all know is "really" Leonardo DiCaprio - is actually a Brit who is given to making fun of the vacuity of American tourists causes a little bit of an adjustment shock.

But once you've got past that minor issue, this is an absorbing read. Garland is not a great writer by any stretch of the imagination, but he very successfully captures that typically restless, almost-spiritual quest for a pure travel experience that backpackers strive for, against the backdrop of a Thailand that is rapidly being 'contaminated' (as he sees it) by mass tourism. Drawn into a drop-out community living in isolation from the world on a secret idyllic beach, Richard is confronted with the question of whether it is actually possible 'to re-create Eden' with a community of people who have little in common except their shared discovery, and their need to keep it a secret from the outside world. And is the availability of virtually limitless, free marijuana a godsend or a curse?

The descriptions of the beach would give anyone travel envy, but the book has a deeply unsettling core, especially in the recurring image of 'Daffy Duck', the crazy Scotsman who gives Richard a map to the beach before killing himself. Ultimately, most readers will end up half-wishing they could have an adventure like Richard's, and half being glad that they actually stayed at home in Watford.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not quite 'Eden'..., 27 April 2007
By 
B. Wright (Gloucester, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Beach (Paperback)
This book is very well-written, capturing the reader's attention from the start. A travel-fiction set in Thailand, following a backpacker as he searches for the perfect 'Eden', a place unsullied by other tourists; 'The Beach'.

For a first novel it's fantastic; it kept me going back and reading. I read half of it in one stint, but then had to slow down a little due to work. The characters are believable and the society in which they work is convincing too. It is funny (if you're into black humour...), witty, and human.

My only problem, possibly due to hype from the film (which I haven't seen yet...), was that I felt the book was building and building to a huge climax, and then when it got to the end I felt a little letdown and like the payoff I was expecting hadn't arrived. The book is definitely worth reading and I'd recommend it to anybody, but just don't go in with expectations. Chances are it will differ from them.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Garlands passport to success......., 24 July 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: The Beach (Paperback)
Having read the book during the World Cup weeks of Summer 1998, I decided to re-read ahead of the pending Leonardo Di-Caprio movie release. It is and always will be "a classic" of the travel theme novels. Whilst there are a lot of un-answered questions about the characters and plot that you ask yourself when reading such as " How do the residents of The Beach deliver their wish you were here cards to friends and relatives ???", you become swept up in the community free living that surely must be most peoples escapism dream. It will be a very hard act to follow for the author, but then if the movie is a huge success, he may not even need to work again......
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars read this before you watch the film, 13 Aug. 2003
This review is from: The Beach (Paperback)
I read this book before watching the film, and I loved it. The descriptions are so vivid you get transported to another world. My only complaint was that I found it hard to empathise with the main character, Richard. I think this is true of the film as well.
Richard is a backpacker who has set off alone to Thailand. On his first night on the Kao San Road he meets Daffy, a fellow traveller (a very scary character! - this haunted me after seeing the film!). The next morning, Richard goes to find Daffy and sees him dead in his hotel room, having slit his wrists. However Daffy has left behind a map to the 'beach' - and the setting for the rest of the story.
The beach is an amazing community on a private island. The idyllic beauty of the area is overshadowed by the dope farmers that the islanders share their home with. This adds danger - especially when Richard and others are nearly caught in the dope fields by the Thai farmers with their guns.
Eventually the island life begins to fall apart, with strangers arriving at the island and people being bitten by sharks. The leader of the community refuses to let anyone go to the mainland for hospital treatment and this causes a rift in the community.
This book has stayed with me since I read it about 4 years ago. I have read it several times since, even though I hardly ever read a book more than once. And I was one of the few people who actually enjoyed the film, although I thought the book was better. I think my knowledge of the book enhanced my enjoyment of the film. This book made me want to visit Thailand.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Not for me, 29 Mar. 2015
By 
Anne (Sheffield, Yorkshire) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Beach (Paperback)
Richard is a backpacker in his early twenties roaming around the far East in search of something but he doesn't quite know what. He connects with other backpackers on the same nebulous quest - they drink a lot of alcohol and smoke plenty of cannabis. They are always searching for the unspoiled places where they can have some kind of spiritual awakening and resent the places where there are lots of tourists. In Thailand Richard hears rumours of an unspoiled beach and then the person in the next room to him passes on a map - together with two other backpackers Richard makes his way to an isolated island and finds the beach where there exists a community of similar souls who live and love together more or less in harmony.

The author conveys very well the sense of ennui experienced by Richard and his companions. We understand that he sees the systems of the world as false and feels a need to experience something more rather than participating in the lifestyle lived by others. Unfortunately, he doesn't manage (at least not to me) to turn understanding into sympathy - the book seems to be full of a lot of young people who are opting out of the world and seeking fulfilment by lazing around and smoking weed. I may not be the ideal reader for this novel - I suspect that if you liked "On the Road" by Jack Kerouac then this may be an appropriate book for you.

The author does show up the Western lifestyle as false but fails to put anything in its place. The community on the beach consists of ex-patriots from a variety of countries but they don't connect with the lifestyle or the belief system of the Thais in any way at all. They have a self-sufficient community until something goes wrong and then they endanger the lives of their members in an effort to keep the beach secret as though their isolation is more important than human life. In the end, and in fact from the beginning, the beach community is a failed utopia possibly because at no time do its members articulate its purpose and it is possible that they do not all share the same view of the reason for its existence.

Richard is a strange character who is quite isolated from others. He tells the story in quite an emotionless way and we see much more about how he is feeling when he has dreams which involve dialogues with the dead man who gave him the map in the first place. He doesn't really connect with the others and develops an unreasoning hatred of one person which even he cannot explain. He feels that some of what is going on is wrong but is unprepared to do anything about it. He thinks from time to time that his parents must be worried about his disappearance but does nothing about that either. He is difficult to like.

I am not quite sure what the author was trying to do with this book. Was it a reflection that spiritual quests don't work ? Was it a sort of "Lord of the Flies" for adults but somewhere warm ? Are we expected to sympathise with Richard and his quest for meaning ? Does the author intend to show us that everything is essentially meaningless ? I wasn't sure and after I had finished I didn't really care either.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Backpacking with a difference, 2 Mar. 2014
This review is from: The Beach (Kindle Edition)
Richard is a backpacker from England and arrives in Bangkok Thailand. He is disillusioned from mass tourism and the filthy side of this is more than evident in Thailand. He checks into a small hotel and during the night, Duffy, the Scottish guy in the room next to his, starts talking to him.Duffy is clearly stoned and tells Richard about a secret community in an secluded island off the waters of Koh Samui, completely undiscovered by the world and he gives Richard a hand-drawn map. The next morning Richard discovers that Duffy has committed suicide. Initially shocked, he starts talking to a young French couple in the same hotel, Francoise and Etienne. He shows them the map and tells them about the secret community and they decide to look for it and go over there. Richard also gives the map to two American students he meets in Koh Samui.

Richard, Francoise and Etienne reach the secret beach, and by sheer luck escape local marihuana farmers on the island. They find the community where all kind of different young people from all corners of the world live. They learn that Duffy was one of the original founders of the community, together with Sal and her boyfriend Bugs who are still there. Everyone who is there got invited by either of those 3, apart from Jed, an English guy who heard about the beach on the mainland. They initially love the beautiful beach and being away from the tourist buzz. But they soon discover that not all is beautiful and great. Sal and Bugs run the community with an iron rod. Cleaning, obtaining food via fishing and farming, cooking, gardening, carpentry all needs to be done, are quite often hard and everyone gets tasks allocated which are nonnegotiable. They don't want any new joiners to their community because this defeats the object of a secret community, but Richard, Francoise and Etienne get accepted as the last newcomers. Richard, of course, doesn't tell that he has given the map already to the two Americans in Koh Samoi.

Things get more serious soon...Even when most of the camp gets seriously ill with food poisoning, and after an incident with a shark where a community member dies, the secret of the community is to be kept and no-one is allowed to go and ask for help. Once there, you can't leave this wonderful secret community. And the American students who Richard had given the map, in the meantime, are intrigued as well and are looking for a way to get in.

I absolutely loved this book and it is on my 're-read list'. I like the idea of that secret community and all the different nationalities who live there away from all the worries of our world (no financial crisis there!) but of course there are other issues on that island. Still, have you ever read a book and feel that you would like to be in it?? Despite that not all was well in paradise. I love all the characters and the way they are beautifully drawn out: Richard, Jed, Keaty, an English guy always with his game boy, The Swedes, Unhygenix (!!) the Cook, Sal who probably is not a bad person but will do everything to keep her secret community….

The film adaptation is well known and yes, I do love it as well. I found it strange that, in some ways, the film keeps to the book exactly (almost down to the dialogue, for example at the beginning when Richard comes into the hotel and sees the cleaner wiping water from the floor and almost getting electrocuted from the poor wiring, or the way the meet the Marihuana farmers etc.). Some parts differ completely. Without giving too much away and wanting to spoil the reading of the book -- the movie has been majourly 'sexed up'! The book is more dark and graphic in the descriptions of the not so nice things which happened on The Beach.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Don't be distracted by Leo in his shorts, 9 Oct. 2013
This review is from: The Beach (Paperback)
You can be forgiven for being distracted by images of a young Leonardo diCaprio, fresh faced from ‘Titanic’, wandering around a glorious deserted beach in nothing but his shorts. Or have the AllSaints song (remember them?) playing in a loop in your head. But putting all this aside, ‘The Beach ‘ has more of a darker side than either of the distractions allow.

I, like so many others in this world, watched the film and then decided to read the book. Obviously the film follows the main gist of the story, but there is a lot more depth to this novel than people may originally realise.

The story is told through the eyes of Richard, a traveller who gets a copy of a map to ‘Paradise’ whilst bored and alone in a hotel in main Thailand. Right from the beginning of the book we are exposed to two parts of Richard’s character: the analytical observer and the young man that he is who loves to play video games. Over the course of the novel the two become intertwined and the reader sees Richard escape into an alternate reality: one he feels is more exciting and that is more like the video games that he enjoys playing. With this, I think Garland is trying to emphasise the point of how remote and detached the islanders are from the ‘real world’, yet it is this that ultimately seems to drive them apart as a community; the characters feel like they are in Paradise but at the same time feel a longing for something more.

I wouldn’t normally comment on the structure of the book but on writing this think that the short chapters (sometimes just a couple of pages long) are not only convenient in making this an ideal book to dip in and out of, are also meant to reflect Richard’s immaturity to some of his experiences. This escapism grows throughout the novel as he spends more time on the island, and I was expecting Garland to do something with this. However, the closing of the book does not elaborate on this state further and to some extent I found this disappointing, leaving me wanting more. So I guess this is Garland’s point: leave you wanting more after reading about a paradise, just like the characters on the island.

I would definitely give this book a read. It is interesting to see how the characters change to their new surroundings but I must admit there are points where things get a little bit dull. If you have already seen the film, it will give you a fair idea of what this is about, but definitely expect more to Leo/Richard than you originally perceived.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Tropical storms, 21 Nov. 2012
This review is from: The Beach (Paperback)
Having seen the movie on its release in 2000, I didn't arrive at The Beach until a few weeks ago - I wish I'd discovered it sooner. A bit weird that I didn't, given that 1996 was around the time I was off on my own travels, but there we go.

(I didn't think the movie was that bad, actually, but having now read the novel there were some strange production and casting choices made - but that's for another day.)

Other than period-specific references to Gameboys it's difficult to believe the book is 16 years old, but it's still fresh, vivid and moves along at a surprisingly quick pace. If the overall measure of a good book is how quickly you read it then The Beach scores highly - I finished it in a couple of days, and found myself going to bed early to read it, reading it while the kettle boiled and waiting for kids to get ready for school etc. The short, cleverly-titled chapters help with this as well - you can consume a couple of chapters in bite-size mouthfuls while waiting for the bus.

I say the pace is surprising, because, really, not a huge amount happens. The story is told in the first-person by (anti)hero and narrator Richard, an 20-something English lad travelling alone in Thailand. After being left a map to a mysterious beach by the mysterious Mister Duck, things become, well, more mysterious. He hooks up with Etienne and Francoise, a French couple whose company makes for an interesting trifecta of dope-buoyed emotions.

There are key events in the story that advance the plot and threaten the fragility of the beach's evolving society (leading to the inevitable Lord of the Flies comparisons), but I won't itemise them here. Suffice to say, the paradise slowly and insidiously starts to turn sour, and this is done so skilfully that you can feel the paranoia and foreboding descend as the skies start closing in. Particularly clever is the way the tension builds in apprehension of some kind of disaster - you're never quite sure what, but the transition from heaven to hell is conveyed like a ripe fruit turning rotten.

On which note, Garland's style is deceptively simple. At first I found the descriptions of the Thai setting a bit bland - indeed they read a little bit like a GCSE creative-writing exercise - but I later realised I had a very clear picture of the beach and the camp in my mind, and, as one reviewer says, any bells-and-whistles are completely superfluous.

Having drawn you in, Garland's real skill is in how he deals with death. Or, rather, Death. You can feel every blow, every bite, every dwindling breath. You smell the skin and the decay as the heat rots the wounds. You can genuinely feel the shock and horror of a `normal' situation being turned upside down by a violent assault, the fear and panic of seeing your friends suffer and not being able or willing to help them, and that no-turning-back feeling that surfaces when the cast - and, in particular, Richard - undergo irreversible change.

My quibbles are minor - firstly, I think there are too many characters, with some of the bit players appearing too late in the story to be anything other than convenient. Some of the more major characters also lack depth. On the same note, where the `less-is-more' approach worked with the physical setting, I found it difficult to picture the characters and some physical descriptions wouldn't have gone amiss. Also I think there was a great opportunity to create considerably more mystery and tension around the fate and demons of the troubled Mister Duck.

I am loath to say this is an `important' book - you hear that kind of thing about Booker nominees ad nauseam and I'm never quite sure what it means, plus I feel there's always a risk of detracting from the story itself. Yes it deals with Big Themes but I am content to just say I thoroughly enjoyed it - it's gripping, pacy, colourful and extremely cleverly written. Don't dissect it, just enjoy it.
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The Beach
The Beach by Alex Garland (Paperback - 26 Jun. 1997)
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