The Beach
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The Beach

3.86 of 5 stars 3.86  ·  rating details  ·  42,116 ratings  ·  1,479 reviews
After discovering a seemingly Edenic paradise on an island in a Thai national park, Richard soon finds that since civilized behavior tends to dissolve without external restraints, the utopia is hard to maintain. (Nancy Pearl)
Paperback, 448 pages
Published February 1st 1998 by Riverhead Trade (first published 1996)
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The BOOK was BETTER than the MOVIE
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Ryan Chapman
I will defend this book's subtle intelligence to the ends of the Earth. Garland's performative act--seducing us with the myth of perfect travel, deftly balancing the naive hypocrisies of Westerners rooting out the exotic in the East--creates a brutal ending that recasts what had led up to it. While Garland could have easily stopped with a cautionary tale, he went further by lacing his character's thoughts not with literary allusions, but filmic ones. Which 20-something British kid wouldn't think...more
Ryan
I basically devoured this book. Started on Friday, finished by Monday. Part of it has to do with the way the book is written (short, three to four page vignettes that make it easy to say, "Oh I'll just read one more") but a larger part has to do with the momentum of the story. it doesn't really ever let up. i was never bored reading this book in fact I almost compulsively needed to know what would happen next. The whole thing kind of plays out like a really well-done summer popcorn movie.

Two de...more
Maciek
Having never heard of Alex Garland I picked up his debut novel, "The Beach" because the cover and premise were intriguing. I'm happy to say that Mr. Garland delivered exactly what he promised and I breezed through this little yellow book in two days. If Jack Kerouac wore shorts and hung out with William Golding, the two might have produced something like this.

The Beach is compulsively readable because of several factors. First, the chapters are structured and trimmed into an expert lenght, ofte...more
Hannah Eiseman-Renyard
Gorgeous, Cynical, Well-Observed

Believe it or not, despite the hints throughout about dark and terrible things to come, this novel doesn't really turn dark until around the last fifth.

Until then it's beautiful scenery, well-observed love triangles and petty dislikes, and a new traveller trying to get to, and then assimilate into, the hidden island paradise known as the beach. However, our boy, English narrator Richard, was originally given a map to the beach by an angry/disturbed guy he met in...more
Chrissy
Excellent writing -- different, interesting, and colloquial without being cliche. His short descriptions of the characters are beyond adequate, as he lets you immediately understand the person. Richard, the main character, is both elusive and relate-able -- he's an enjoyable character for me because I could see myself in him. He's selfish and flawed, but tries to remain a team player and at the end of the day (or the trip?), he tries to save himself and his friends.

Everything about this book is...more
Trudi

GR friend Maciek recommended this book to me, and I highly recommend that you check out his most awesome review that does a brilliant job of capturing this book's strengths. As for me, I knew very little about it save from what I could vaguely remember from the movie that's over ten years old now.

It's hard for me to classify this novel as anything other than "an experience". Parts of it are fun and breezy, others dark and depressing. Still others surreal and uncomfortable. It has adventure. It...more
Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
Given time, Shangri-La never is.
You must grow up and live in the real world, complicated and unpleasant as it may be. Seems to me this is something every generation has to figure out for itself, with assistance or hindrance from various psychoactive substances.

Richard, age 21, goes to Thailand and finds his way to a hidden settlement on a secluded island that is supposed to be off-limits to tourists. The people there are enjoying an Edenic existence, getting nearly everything they need from the...more
Becky
I've never seen this movie, but I have seen the commercials for it. I have always thought this book was a thriller and picked it up based on that assumption. But... It wasn't. Or, it mostly wasn't. The last 25 pages (minus the epilogue) were thriller-esque, but that's not what this story is about.

What was it about? I'm not really sure. It feels like one of those books that are kind of infinitely interpretable. Every person who reads it may see something different in it. For my part, I didn't re...more
Nicola
I first read this book about 10 years ago and I've read it at least 10 times since then. As a simple adventure story, it doesn't lose its punch, even upon rereading. Richard, a young English traveller, is given a map in Bangkok by a man named Daffy Duck, who promptly commits suicide. The map leads Richard to a secret beach, where a commune of travellers live in apparent paradise. Unfortunately, this tiny microcosm of existence, while idyllic, is also prone to disasters – from the banal, like a b...more
Scribble Orca
Jan 04, 2013 Scribble Orca rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Scribble by: Maciek

I've put off writing anything about this hoping that I'd be able to drag my weary disinterest through to the end of the novel...unfortunately that never occurred. Maybe it's because of having done the itinerant traveller thing, or maybe it was because the book felt too contrived, or maybe....I expected something else or something more. Whatever. This just didn't do it for me.

If you haven't backpacked through Asia, I guess this book could be an interesting read...and if you had, it might be chock...more
Tressa
First of all I would like to thank my friend Maciek for suggesting this great book! I couldn't tear myself away until I finished it.

The only thing I knew about this story is that it was made into a movie with Leo DiCaprio and it got lukewarm reviews. I stayed away from it for that reason. If the movie is 1/10 as good as this novel, then I missed a treat.

Three world travelers have a map to a beach that is described as Eden. Feeling adventurous, they make the difficult journey there, and are soon...more
Kathryn
Aug 28, 2012 Kathryn rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Kathryn by: Trudi
My immediate thoughts on finishing The Beach are this: It was pretty good. Four stars. Not the best ever I've read. Quite different than the movie adaptation.

What I liked about The Beach were several things: I really enjoyed the way Garland wrote this story. For me, it was a realistic aspect of the way someone might think, speak, feel, and act. I enjoyed the realistic quality of the dialogue. To me, it didn't really seem forced, or trying too hard. For a first novel, I'm kind of left impressed....more
Tom
Apr 02, 2007 Tom rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: backpackers
This book is of course way better than the movie.
The movie was watered down, warped, and completely missed the point Garland tried to make in his astonishingly succesful first novel.
For starters, Richard, the main character, is brown, English, and doesnt have sex with anybody. He's not Leo at all.
The first half of the book is incredible and really gets deep into the backpacking culture in Thailand, and is the best example of backpacker literature for our generation that I've yet seen.
Still, a...more
Karly *The Vampire Ninja*
Happy St. Patrick's day all :).

It seems rather fitting that I would finish The Beach by Alex Garland today, as this book is a bit of a mind fuck, and the day of the Irish tends towards the same. The similarity, naturally, ends there.

The Beach is Golding's Lord of the Flies for a twenty-or-thirty-something audience. And whilst I know I may get flayed for this, I have to say, I liked it quite a bit better.

I know that Golding did it first so when I feel the pull between my favourite character in...more
Sally
whoa. words fail me right now, yet clearly they never did author Alex Garland.


The voice of my generation, in a way. I really enjoy watching the world through this narrator's eyes, so much that I'm willing to follow him down a sinkhole of madness. What a beautiful demise to paradise.

Don't worry, not a spoiler alert. The narrator is fine in the end. In the movie version. How is the book different?
I dare you to read it and tell me for yourself.


The adaptation was all I knew of this story, and tha...more
Amy
This book is maybe my favorite book ever. I have read it 5 times (just completed the fifth read) since I bought it in 2000. I never get tired of this story. The writing is extremely witty and transports you to a world that seems beautiful on the outside, but quickly turns on its protaganist to become deeply sinister and threatening. The main character of Richard is relatable to everyone: he is searching for something, he is not sure what, but thinks he has found it in the beach. He never escapes...more
Bryce Wilson
Old Shit I've Been Revisiting Part 1:

The Beach was the catalyst for this experiment I've started, I couldn't believe that it'd been five years since I've read the thing. It was also the book I was most afraid wouldn't hold up. It's reputation has suffered since the awful Danny Boyle movie, not helped by the fact that Alex Garland answered the question "Would he be the great novelist of Generation X?" with a resounding "No!".

The Beach was one of those perfect time perfect place books. I read it...more
Sarah
A fortunate find at the anniversary Big Book Sale with S and K on my first day of vacation. I'd been toying with reading this after something triggered my memory of the awful movie (perhaps after hearing Porcelain or another decade-old Top 40 soundtrack song at some store in the Bay Area, as is prone to happen around here), and after toying with the idea of going backpacking before my window closes, i.e. before I truly become too old and curmudgeonly. Thank goodness I read this rambling book and...more
Jason Baldwin-Stephens
The copy of The Beach that I read has a quote from a review from The Oregonion on the first page. The reviewer compared this novel to Lord of The Flies, Animal Farm and On The Road, and mentioned that it was a postmodern update on all three of them. That really is the best way to describe this novel.

Other ways to describe it are: outstanding, profane and disturbing.

My only regret in reading this novel is that I never got around to it until now instead of when it was first published in 1997, as i...more
Rashad Pharaon
I looked everywhere for this book, nowhere in the e-book stores (and why??) Finally got a hold of a copy and read right through it. The style and plot remind me of William Golding's Lord of the Flies, and I learnt quite a few new words along the way.

Alex Garland is a very eloquent and studied writer, and the editing is top-notch. I can see why it's a cult classic, it definitely expounds on a traveler's idea of the perfect getaway.

I highly recommend this book, a great read which I am getting read...more
Alex
A great update on Lord of the Flies, and an exploration of how utopian ideals can lead to dystopian reality. Garland pulls off this marvelous trick: he shows us how our hero and first-person narrator, Richard, slowly comes to realize that he is actually the villain. And we realize it right along with him. It's perfectly done.

This is also, by the way, plenty different enough from the movie to entertain you even if you've seen the movie like three times, which for some reason I have. I'm one of th...more
Bethan
I picked this up because I was feeling jealous of people that backpack around the world because I so want to do that (but do not have the work/balls set-up to), so I thought that it might keep me a little in touch with it, if only through imagination.

Our backpacker, Richard, is in Thailand when he's given a map to a relatively unknown beach by a neighbour. He and a French couple decide to try to find it. They discover this Eden of an island that has a small community on it which they join. They...more
Joel
I really wish the copy I read didn't have shirtless Leonardo DiCaprio on it.
Vanessa
I went into this book not knowing what to expect whatsoever. I hadn't seen the film, and only had the vaguest of ideas about what this book was about. It's not the kind of book I would normally pick up, but I decided to give it a go because it was an old battered copy that I had received from my dad, and the title made it seem like it would be a typical holiday read. But let me tell you something; this is in no way a light holiday read.

I became enveloped in the storyline very quickly, and found...more
Jason
This is one of those novels that I had been waiting to read for years. Circumstances just always prevented it, even after I'd seen the movie three or four times. I could never find a copy in China where I was living, I'd forget about it each year I came home and wouldn't order it from Amazon. But finally, I picked this up for my Kindle (bootleg, as it doesn't seem to have an official Kindle release) and dove right in. I started it at the perfect time, too: on a bus ride through central Malaysia,...more
Anna
So I couldn't really do a travel month without reviewing the most famous title in travel ficiton in the last 15 years now, could I? Well, I could, but it would have been a travel month with a great big gaping Beach-shaped hole in it. I first read this book in about 1998 when I started university. I was THE book to read at the time. Everyone had either been on a gap year on was planning a jaunt to South-East Asia and if you hadn't read this then you would have a copy shoved under your nose at eve...more
Adrienne
4.5 i never saw the movie which i think was probably a good thing..when i was at school i read 'lord of the flies', The Beach has a similar feel....i also love first person narratives either present or past so again this ticked a box for me...what can i say? the premise is well known....travellers in thailand meet, one has a map which details the way a secret commune,a blissful place in a location so remote most would give up before even setting out to find it....it's an 'old fashioned' adventur...more
Sarah
Don’t be distracted by Leo in his shorts:

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...more
Cau
captivating and riveting to say the very least :). three pages into the book and i was hooked ( hey, it rhymes!! im a poet and i dont know it LOL ).
the only time i put the book down was when i had to do number one. and by then i realized that i was well on my way to pulling an all-nighter.
okay, so sue me for stating the obvious, but for me the book is about adventure. and hopes. and dreams.
about to what extent one is willing to pursue them. and once those things become reality, what is one prepa...more
Claudia
With abuot 100 pages to go, I told my students this book felt like LORD OF THE FLIES, but I couldn't tell if grown-up Ralph or Jack was the narrator. Garland has given us, in Richard, a narrator we love and get irritated with. There are times he deeply disturbs me, and times he flat-out scares me. Still not sure if he's Ralph or Jack...I'll let others decide.

I want books to take me someplace I've never been, and I don't want to ever go to the beach. Like other utopian settings, this one has a ro...more
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Alex Garland (born 1970) is a British novelist and screenwriter.

Garland is the son of political cartoonist Nick (Nicholas) Garland. He attended the independent University College School, in Hampstead, London, and the University of Manchester, where he studied art history.

His first novel, The Beach, was published in 1996 and drew on his experiences as a backpacker. The novel quickly became a cult c...more
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“When you develop an infatuation for someone you always find a reason to believe that this is exactly the person for you. It doesn’t need to be a good reason. Taking photographs of the night sky, for example. Now, in the long run, that’s just the kind of dumb, irritating habit that would cause you to split up. But in the haze of infatuation, it’s just what you’ve been searching for all these years.” 101 likes
“If I'd learnt one thing from travelling, it was that the way to get things done was to go ahead and do them. Don't talk about going to Borneo. Book a ticket, get a visa, pack a bag, and it just happens.” 72 likes
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