Yes, it’s true, I’m reviewing a book that’s been on the market for over twenty years. The truth is, I’ve grown to greatly appreciate Garland’s film directing and wanted to check out his written work.
The Beach, which you may remember was a film released back in 2000 which starred Leonardo DiCaprio, was based upon the book published just four years prior.
It features Richard, a young man who suffers from a seemingly permanent case of wanderlust. He is constantly searching for the perfect destination–a place untouched by tourism, commercialism, or average people, really. While in Bangkok, he happens across a man who gives him a map to just such a place.
The man cannot travel with Richard, and I won’t tell you why, but Richard does manage to befriend a French man and woman–a couple–to join him. None are sure the map is real, but they chance it anyway. After a courageous swim through the ocean itself … they find the beach.
The beach seems idyllic in the beginning. There is a small group of people living in tandem with one another–all vested in the same interests. Life is very good … until ill-timed tragedies strike. The group could handle these adversities well, or they could … fall apart. I’m sure can guess which occurs.
The Beach is a well-written book. At almost 450 pages, it’s a long read, but it’s also a relatively fast one. I would not describe it as a page-turner, but Richard’s psyche is particularly interesting and it’s fascinating to witness his development throughout the story.
The tale itself is rather complicated. On one hand, the beach dwellers are in love with nature, independence, and a simple life. They are perfectly happy to pull their weight, support one another, and waste the days away in paradise. On the other hand, a certain selfishness resides in each of them, as does a touch of irresponsibility. The beach is a total secret, one worth killing for, and everyone there has decided to turn their backs on their previous lives in order to enjoy their Eden. It takes a bit of a misguided person to go to such an extreme, wouldn’t you say?
Garland executes perfect pacing in establishing Richard, logically delivering him to the beach, allowing us to see the beauty of the island, but then also in dissecting each character as catastrophe unfolds.
After all, when you think about it, if each one of these individuals was willing to turn their backs to their own flesh and blood, how much can they really depend upon one another when things go bad?
Some have compared it to Lord Of the Flies as well as Heart Of Darkness, and these are certainly appropriate comparisons. I personally don’t feel it achieved that level of mastery, but it’s a solid read well worth your time.
As I said, Garland was a very good writer back then and has only gotten better. His characters in The Beach are interesting from start to finish. The story itself, while enjoyable, felt awfully derivative of the classics mentioned already. I have to wonder if I’d feel differently had I read it back in 1996.
(Did you enjoy this review? Check out Scott William Foley’s latest book HERE!)