David's Reviews > On the Beach

On the Beach by Nevil Shute
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's review
Apr 25, 10

bookshelves: wrist-slashingly-depressing, read-in-2010
Read from March 22 to April 25, 2010

(Revisited after a 35-year interval)

One can only imagine the conversation between Cormac McCarthy and Nevil Shute.

Written in 1957, at the height of the Cold War, Shute also imagines a post-apocalyptic world. Nuclear war has annihilated the countries of the northern hemisphere* and the radioactive plume is working its way slowly down south, killing everyone in its path. By the luck of geography, Melbourne will be the last major city to survive.

An American submarine has made it intact to Melbourne, and is now charged with the grim business of travelling north to try to assess whether the destruction is complete. But, as the novel progresses, and the radioactive cloud moves inexorably farther south, all hope for survival vanishes.

In Shute's portrayal, his doomed protagonists move towards their end with dignity, calm, and a huge helping of denial. There's nary a spot of civil unrest, from Buenos Aires to Cape Town to Sydney. It defies belief, frankly, and though his writing is moving at times, the book is far more of a snooze than I had remembered. Plenty of grace notes in a minor key and an interesting reminder of how the world must have seemed at the height of the Cold War, the book now seems little more than an interesting footnote.

*: The initial aggressor was - Albania - which I suppose was a politically safe choice of bad guy back in 1957. Things get out of control when the U.S. bombs the Soviet Union by mistake. And so it went ....
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message 1: by Sandra (new)

Sandra How naive we were.

Peter one of my favourites, but i enjoyed your review

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