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4.3 out of 5 stars
The Beach
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on 24 February 2000
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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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on 4 January 2001
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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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
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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on 2 March 2014
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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on 19 December 2011
The first time I read this book, I was 19 and on my way back from Thailand and indulging in the cliché of reading the well known book (thanks to the amazing film by Danny Boyle staring the equally amazing Leo) which is set in the back packer haven of Thailand. The premise starts with a boy arriving on the Khoa San Road after feeling disillusioned with his life back in England, his girlfriend left him and the only logical escape is to head East. He meets an even more disillusioned Daffy in a hostel who gives him a map to a mysterious utopian island before an abrupt suicide. Accompanied by a French couple he sets out to find this paradise.

What I like most about this book is the number of levels it works on. On one level you have the story of Richard life on the Island and the politics involved with 'paradise' and harbouring a crush on a beautiful, yet unattainable French girl. On another level there is the the whole concept of a 'paradise' and how utopia's fail because of the human agency involved. With some brilliantly real characters whose emotions leap out of the page giving them a realistic dimension that I think is Garland's reason d tre. I am one of the few who thought his 'The tesseract' was actually an amazing book even though it was criticised for the abrupt ending just before the climax.

Watching the Utopia unravel was one of the best flights I have ever had and was a nice change from the Wilbur Smith book I left on the 747 in exchange for it.

An amazing story full of believable characters, (down to the slightest of emotional rifts which are often so insignificant they are all together ignored in other books) an amazing exotic setting of 'paradise' with the back drop of the 'seeking something more' back packer culture.
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on 2 September 2011
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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on 11 February 1999
I've seen almost as many people reading this on the Tube in London as I've seen reading Captain Corelli (I bet more saw The Beach through to the end, though). However, let's not get carried away because someone has finally written a backpacking (don't use the word 'traveller', they're just want to be called that) novel. This is the Lord of the Flies repackaged, but not as clever (there is also a similar short novel by John Wyndham, the title of which escapes me at the moment). Those who have done the South-east Asia backpacker trail will undoubtedly be able to identify with the places and characters - but there's nothing clever in writing about that - there are a million and one backpackers personal diaries with exactly that in them.
It is definitely quite addictive reading as you do finish it quickly - but it's also really easy-going as none of the characters are really developed beyond them fitting a particular stereotype.
There is a great scope for a good backpacker novel (William Sutcliffe's 'Are You Experienced' starts on the right lines but loses its way halfway through) but this isn't it. If that's indeed what it intended to be. If it was meant to be a perceptive take on paradise and society, then it's even further from the mark.
I did wonder for a moment if it was just me, and I was being too cynical, but then the Tesseract came out, I started reading it and it was utter rubbish.
For me Garland is not going to make it beyond the likes of Charles Higson and James Hawes - great entertainment if you've hours to kill in a hotel room - but never destined to be in the league of the likes of Martin Amis, David Lodge and so on.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 8 May 2000
i decided to read this book 2 days before the film was due to come out, recommended by a friend at uni. i read it in 2 days - and couldn't put it down! this book is amazing - garlands descriptions of the characters are so vivid - you can see everyone and hear everyone - and by the way - leo IS NOT richard in any way shape or form. who was responsible for casting the film! i went to see the film and wish i hadn't - it was such a let down after the book - so many essential characters and events were completely cut out or changed which just missed the whole point of the book and left out the key points. the book shows you richards slow descent into madness, the inhumanity of the supposed paradise and the people within it, and the hell that richards life becomes. the film missed the point of all of this and cut it out. the book is amazing, the film absolutely terrible. if they had read the book before filming, it might have helped. if you've seen the film and are not sure whether to read the book, then you definitely should. you won't be disappointed - just forget what happened in the film!
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 15 July 2006
I am reading this for the second time, seven years on. I never do that. It is one of the best books I've ever read and I just felt I had to re-visit it, wondering why it was just so brilliant and why it made such an impression on me. For travel lovers, or even people who are simply interested in watching faraway places on telly, don't get through life without reading this. Okay, it might be a little spoooky for some, not for the faint hearted. Its a thriller. The characters are frighteningly real. The stuff that people say/think and how they might act in unusual circumstances are illustrated perfectly.

If you saw the film just remember that Richard, the main character, was an ordinary English bloke; not gym workout six-hours-a-day, pretty boy Leo. This makes it more enjoyable (except for the Leo fans of course). And there's loads of details that a film wouldn't have time to portray/ put in. The book is loads, loads better.

Love it!!!!... Keep writing Garland.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 3 November 1998
I read this book within the space of about 24 hours. I tried to put off the ending but the tension just kept rising and I couldn't put it down. This book takes about 100 pages to get you hooked but by then you are hypnotised into the same kind of stoned state the main character is in. I recommend this to all X-generationers as with references to the A-team and the Waltons it hits all the right spots. Oh by the way the setting and characters are magnificent.
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