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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 5 days 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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars First 50 pages are golden, 21 July 2012
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This review is from: The Beach (Paperback)
The first 50 or so pages are some of the best I've read. It'll grip you tightly with it's rich narration of exotic adventure, accuracy of detail and the way it effortlessly dances away from meaningless bells and whistles. I've re-read that first portion about 4/5 times, motivated on each occasion by marvel as to why I wouldn't have finished such an engrossing text which kicked off so well.

It's difficult to describe. Garland has a way of drawing me in so naturally with his words that I sometimes forget I'm reading a book at all. The language is too accessible and relatable not to feel closely connected to it.

All too often, authors are far too complicated with their creative writing. It almost always results in an obscure mess of terms that completely sidetracks my cognitive perception from the very place, feeling or character they were trying to portray.

For instance "the moonless blossom shimmered the forceful rays of untoward light into the wind bringing a sense of peace", Garland never does this stuff and it's what I admire most about him - This fine balance between simplicity and effective down-to-earth description is golden.

After those first 50-55 pages though when we meet the two Americans Sammy and Zeph, my attention veers off and I merely begin reading "words" without a care for who said what in the dialogue. Their initial surfer-dude twang is painful enough and although short-lived, that point marks the change of what was a really connecting narrative experience abroad into a play of monotony. And that fatally damaged my momentum to continue reading.
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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
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
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 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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5.0 out of 5 stars BEST BOOK EVER, 2 Sept. 2011
This review is from: The Beach (Paperback)
What's so special about `The Beach'? I must have been recommended this book ten times before I finally picked it up, yet when pressed for reasons, my prompters could only seem to provide a shrug of the shoulders and a repeated urge to `just read it'. There is certainly something ineffable about Garland's novel; it's not magic, but he's definitely hit upon a winning formula. What's refreshing about `The Beach' is that stuff happens. Too often novels are divided into either nauseously sentimental Harry-meets-Sally affairs [enter the `chick lit'], or cooler-than-thou, gruellingly serious Post-modernist works, with more streams-of-consciousness than you can shake a fist at, but where plot is an idea deemed too unfashionable to be put into practise. Garland's prose is honest, there's no need to wade through metaphor to grab some action, it's parred down and understated, and yet it's clever. It is clever. Richard is served up a real person. He's no hero, but he still entertains the superhero-type fantasies that we all indulge in. His moments of glory seem almost accidental, he's well-intentioned but ultimately a coward, he's funny and awkward and most probably insane. He's absolutely a person, and disconcertingly easy to relate to. Garland, in his unassuming, almost humble manner, achieves what many post-modernist writers attempt at but repeatedly fail to do; he describes the inside of someone's head and exacts an earnest nod of recognition in the reader. Richard could be any one of us. There's a cool setting [Thailand - still the teenage backpacker's knee-jerk destination; this book has barely dated], characters that are penned in the same realistic vein as the protagonist, and a plot that DEMANDS attention, for it is the plot that ultimately makes this book. Mystery and intrigue shadow Richard's adventure from the outset, and with only 400 or so pages to play with, there's not a dull moment. You hurtle from start to finish, and when you finally put it down [finished - this is definitely a `read in one sitting'], you'll need to catch your breath.
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The Beach
The Beach by Alex Garland (Paperback - 26 Jun. 1997)
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