Jennifer's Reviews > The Beach

The Beach by Alex Garland
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's review
Dec 19, 11

really liked it
bookshelves: made-into-a-movie, travel, thriller
Read in March, 2004

** spoiler alert ** This book was made into a movie with Leonardo DiCaprio (yummy!) This book was similar to the movie, but different in some ways, especially the ending. It's about travlers, disillusioned twentysomethings, community, right and wrong, etc. Basically, Richard is traveling in Thailand. We don't know much about Richard's home life or his life outside of his travels. He has no occupation to speak of so he is not defined by what he "does" or where he went to school. He is left a map by a guy with whom he shared a room in a boardinghouse that leads to a secret beach. He and his two new French friends, Etienne and Francoise, join him on his journey to find this legendary Eden. They make it through all the obstacles - dope field guards, waterfall jump and a long swim. They meet the other campers including Sal who is the leader. She is sad to hear about Daffy's death, but not really surprised. Daffy's fate almost becomes Richard's as he becomes more and more like Daffy. He sees him all the time and they talk. Richard is in love with Francoise, but never makes a move on her. Life is good at first. Richard gets switched from fishing detail to guard duty with Jed. This is when he goes a bit mad. He wants excitement and adventure and he tempts it by stealing dope. He left a copy of the map with some friends he met before leaving for the beach. This is a big no, no, but only Jed knows about it. They watch from their lookout point to make sure these visitors don't make it to the island. Richard begins to feel estranged from the other campers. He doesn't get along with Bugs. Then things start going downhill frist with a food poisoning epidemic, then three campers are attacked by sharks. Then, Richard's friends make it to the island and get killed by the guards. Sal starts making unreasonable demands. People are afraid. Richard decides to leave and takes some of his friends with him. But before they escape, the guards break up their annual celebration by dumping the dead bodies of Richard's friends at the camp, beat Richard up and warm them that they cannot bring anymore people to the island. He reveals a note that Richard left his friends telling them about the map and the beach. Everyone starts attacking Richard until Jed rescues him and they escape the beach.
"Collecting memories, or experiences, was my primary goal when I first started traveling. I went about it the same way as a stamp collector goes about collecting stamps, carrying around with me a mental list of all the things I had yet to see or do. Most of the list was pretty banal. I wanted to see the Taj Mahal, Borobudur, The Rice Terraces in Banave, Angkor Wat. Less banal, or maybe more so, was that I wanted to witness extremem poverty. I saw it as a necessary experience for anyone who wanted to sppear wordly or interesting."
"Of course witnessing poverty was the first to be ticked off the list. Then I had to graduate to the more obscure stuff. Being in a riot was somehting I pursued with a truly obsessive zeal, along with being tear gassed and hearing gunshots fired. Another list item was having a brush with my own death. In Hong Kong, aged eighteen, I'd met an old Asia hand who told me a story about having been held up at gunpoint in Vietnam. The story ended with him having the gun shoved in his chest and being told he was going to be shot. The funny thing about facing death, he said, is that you find you aren't afraid. If anything, you're calm. Alert, naturally, but calm."
"The dope fields had fitted neatly into this category of the list, and so did the air pocket. The only downside was that I wasn't able to claim being alert (naturally) but calm, which was a line I fully intended to use one day."
"I don't keep a travel diary. I did keep a travel diary once, and it was a big msitake. All I remember of that trip is what I bothered to write down. Everything else slipped away, as if my mind felt jilted by my reliance on pen and paper. For exactly the same reason, I don't travel with a camera. My holiday becomes snapshots, and anything I forget to record is lost. Apart from that, photographs never seem to be very evocative. When I look through the albums of old traveling companions I'm always surprised by how little I'm reminded of the trip."
"If only there was a camera that captured smell. Smells are far more vivid than images. I've often been walking in London on a hot day, caught the smell of hot refuse or melting tarmac, and suddenly been transported to a Delhi side street. LIkewise, if I'm walking past a fishmonger I think instantly of Unhygienix, and i fI smell sweat and cut grass (the lawnh kind) I think of Keaty. I doubt either of them would appreciate being remebered in such a way, especially Unhygienix, but that is how it is."
"I got my thousand yard stare. I carry a lot of scars. I like the way that sounds. I carry a lot of scars."

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