Anthony Eaton's Reviews > On the Beach

On the Beach by Nevil Shute
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May 06, 10

Read in April, 2010

I finished reading On The Beach about three weeks ago now, and haven't been able to bring myself to write about it until now - it's a book I needed a bit of distance from before coming back to it.

There have been four books in my adult reading life that have fundamentally changed me. Lots I've enjoyed, but only three that have rocked me to my very core.

The first was The Great Gatsby. The second was Slaughterhouse Five. The third was The Book Thief. The fourth is On The Beach.

Put simply, this is perhaps the most powerful book I've ever read; a masterpiece of gentle writing and understatment, of characters, of pathos, and of craftsmanship.

It's post apocalyptic, set in Melbourne during the dying days of the human race, after a nuclear war has released a slowly moving cloud of radioactivity into the atmosphere which is - gradually and inevetably - moving south and killing all life as it does so.

But there is nothing of Mad Max about this tale of end days; instead Shute leads us gently through the minutes and hours of his characters. The final chapters are gut wrenchingly awful, but as much because they are achingly human - the entire question of existence stripped back to it's barest and most fundamental aspects - as because of the events of the plot.

I don't often cry when I read books, but this one moved me to tears, kept me awake all night, and has been in my head ever since.

Read it, and allow yourself to be moved.
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04/10/2010 page 24
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