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On the Beach

3.95  ·  Rating details ·  35,447 ratings  ·  2,595 reviews
After a nuclear World War III has destroyed most of the globe, the few remaining survivors in southern Australia await the radioactive cloud that is heading their way and bringing certain death to everyone in its path. Among them is an American submarine captain struggling to resist the knowledge that his wife and children in the United States must be dead. Then a faint Mo ...more
Paperback, 296 pages
Published October 31st 2002 by House of Stratus (first published July 1957)
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JD This isn't really an "enjoy the plot" type of book, since the plot involves the aftermath of nuclear war. We already know, or strongly suspect, that a…moreThis isn't really an "enjoy the plot" type of book, since the plot involves the aftermath of nuclear war. We already know, or strongly suspect, that all the characters will be dead by the end of the book. No tricky plot twists!

The focus is more on how the characters cope with all this and come to terms psychologically with the loss of their families, their world, and their own impending death.

Spoiler: this is not the sort of nuclear holocaust book that features a brave survivor struggling to survive while building a lean-to in the rubble and/or fighting off mutant giant rats.
This is the type of nuclear holocaust books where you are waiting for the radioactive clouds to drift towards Australia and wipe humanity off the face of the earth. Everyone already knows there is no chance of survival. The conflict is more like, Should I euthanize my baby right now or wait till the radiation poisoning sets in?(less)

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Jeffrey Keeten
“It's not the end of the world at all," he said. "It's only the end for us. The world will go on just the same, only we shan't be in it. I dare say it will get along all right without us.”

 photo 923a08d5-7ac4-40e1-8533-0a8ec35137b8_zpsa1ff16d3.gif
An Instructional Manual from 1951 on what to do in the event of an A-Bomb attack.

On the Beach was published in 1957, but the novel is set in what was then the near future of 1963. Those years between 1957-1963 proved to be tumultuous years indeed. When I checked this book out of the library, the librarian,
...more
karen
Oct 17, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: the-end
it's the most pleasant apocalypse ever!there is war! there are bombs! and everyone in the southern hemisphere knows the rest of the world is dead dead dead and they are just waiting for the radiation to drift downwards where they will succumb to vomiting and diarrhea and weakness and eventual death. let me repeat: this is known. and so what do they do to prepare themselves? not a whole lot. they buy some presents for children they know are already dead in other parts of the world (yes, this mean ...more
Duane
Oct 21, 2013 rated it really liked it
It's a dystopian story that is possible, it could really happen. How a global nucular war would play out nobody knows, but Nevil Shute's version is realistic. It is tragic, horrific, romantic, and sad. It shows humanity at it's best and it's worst and makes us all wonder how we would react in a similar situation. The ending was brilliant; an instant tear in the eye and lump in the throat.
Hanneke
May 14, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 1001-read
This is definitely one of the silliest books I ever read. That's precisely why I kept reading! Imagine, you are living in a post-apocalyptic world and you are on the south coast of Australia where the last remaining people on earth are living. You are scheduled to die within a couple of months, so then tell me, do you really care if your daffodils are coming up next spring or whether you should be faithfull to your wife, far away in the U.S., who surely is dead as everyone else is over there? We ...more
Brenda
Peter Holmes was a Lieutenant Commander in the Royal Australian Navy and was soon to join the USS Scorpion as a liaison officer under an American submarine captain, Commander Dwight Towers. Peter lived on a farm just outside Melbourne with his wife Mary and their baby daughter Jennifer. Since the radioactive particles from the nuclear bombs of WWIII had started drifting across the earth, communities in the northern hemisphere had been wiped out. The southern hemisphere had quickly followed, and ...more
Chrisl
Jan 13, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sff, australia, 1950s
Unlike many others by Nevil, I've only read this one once. Didn't see movie. Remember enjoying the Australian setting and characters, how Shute depicted their mindsets and behaviors.

Encourage readers who have read only this to try others by the author. Pied Piper, Round the Bend, and ... Alice.
Pied Piper
Round the Bend
A Town Like Alice
A classic post holocaust speculation from when terrorism wasn't ...

When stationed at SAC, near Omaha, in the early 1960s, my barracks was closest to the flight lin
...more
Michael
"It's the end of the world as we know it and I feel fine..."

That line from the old REM song pretty much sums up Nevil Shute's "On the Beach." The world has ended and everyone's pretty much OK with it.

Written in the late 50's and set in the near future of the early 60's, "On the Beach" finds World War III has come and gone. The final battle was set off by a misunderstanding with the bigger nuclear powers shooting first and asking questions later. The result is the northern hemisphere is gone, nuk
...more
Megan
Jun 06, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Nevil Shute’s On the Beach, originally published in 1957, is a post-apocalyptic novel which takes place in Melbourne, Australia a year or so after a nuclear World War III. This final world war was so devastating that radioactive clouds are slowly traveling the earth, and killing all people and animals in its wake. Due to some (probably not very) complicated weather and wind pattern science, Australia and it’s surrounding islands are just about the last inhabited places to be affected by the radi ...more
Melki
"Maybe we've been too silly to deserve a world like this," he said.

The population of a small town in Australia goes very, very gently into that good night as they wait for a cloud of nuclear fallout to reach them.

" . . . no wind does blow right into the Southern Hemisphere from the Northern Hemisphere. If it did we'd all be dead right now."

"I wish we were," she said bitterly. "It's like waiting to be hung."

"Maybe it is. Or maybe it's a period of grace."


For the most part, everyone goes about
...more
Marialyce
Apr 04, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have wanted to read this book for quite some time, and when it was offered on edelweiss, I decided to take it on. Perhaps it was not the best time to read a book about the world ending through nuclear war, but then again, it just might make me realize that there are and were truly worse things that threatened our existence. I realize the Wuhan virus is awful and a terrible ordeal for us all, but in this story most of the people of the world are already dead through radiation poisoning, and the ...more
Dave
"It's The End of the World and I Feel Fine"

The one scene that always sticks with me from the movie Titanic is the band on the platform playing on as the ship goes under. They continued on, doing what they knew how to do, without panic, without losing their cool. Nevis Shute's On the Beach plays out that same idea. It's a story, first published at the height of the Cold War with everyone in fear of utter nuclear annihilation. However, it's not a science fiction end of the world story. There are n
...more
Jan-Maat
This is a tricky book to review without spoilers, there is basically only one incident that drives the entire book, and that happens off the page before the book begins, and that event means that a certain thing is going to happen, to everybody, the problem is that this certain thing will happen to everyone anyway (sorry if that comes as a spoiler to you, but it does) so from a literary point of view the author either has to find some new or particular meaning or convince us that this is particu ...more
Deborah Ideiosepius
This is an old, absolute classic, of science fiction from the days before sci-fi and fiction had separate shelves in the bookstores, it is almost the prototype of dystopian fiction. Re-reading it after many years I wonder if it was one of the books that helped fix in the public's mind the notion of 'mutually assured destruction' and of just how costly to the planet nuclear war must be.

Despite the finality of the end, it is surprisingly not depressing, rather I found it a cleansing sort of ending
...more
Sara
Nov 04, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: kindle-purchase
This is a stirring, eerily believable short work by Nevil Shute. It is post WWIII and everyone in the world is dead except those who are in Australia and New Zealand. But, they are not safe, they are just waiting for the radiation to reach them. There is an ample mix of denial and acceptance in each of the characters, some of whom prepare for next year's garden even though they have been told the end is expected in a matter of months.

The main characters are a US submarine commander, Dwight Tower
...more
Carrie
Apr 09, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: All Mankind
Recommended to Carrie by: My excellent English Tutor
Hmmmmm.....probably one of the most sobering books I have ever read....plausible, poignant, post accidental apocalyptic....it left me mad at Man; mad at His stupidity; mad at His ridiculous striving after world dominance, instead of striving after world harmony.

Nevil Shute's sharply perceptive understanding of Human emotions is pure genius (I would have written 'mastery' there but I understand in some lands that word can be considered offensive....in England, it is not....however, I have decline
...more
Tracey
What do you do when all hope is lost?
For the people in this book about our world dying of radiation after an atomic war the answer seems to be carry on as normally as possible. Go to the beach, swim, sail, go to work, enjoy parties and drink, plant the daffodils, clear the trees and chop the wood .
There is no let up for the reader, always the knowledge that it will happen.
It's a bleak vision of a post apocalyptic world that is at once both terrifying and moving.
As I said in my earlier update it
...more
Lucas
Dec 23, 2008 rated it did not like it
This book was recommended after my disappointment with Cormac McCarthy's "The Road." I cannot say it was an improvement.

The characters in the novel are largely one-dimension with little contrast and their interactions are superficial and or stereotypical. John is the lifelong geek who finally gets a thrill. Moira falls for Dwight based on a few half-drunk interactions; this kind of quick connection is the kind of poorly-earned romance typically found in bad movies. Mary is the stereotypical hous
...more
Dan
Jun 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My dear son,

It’s quite absurd that I should spoil the last days of your life by hanging on to mine, since it is such a burden to me now. Don’t bother about any funeral. Just close the door and leave me in my own bed, in my own room, with my own things all round me. I shall be quite all right.


In 1957 Nevil Shute penned this amazing post-apocalyptic novel.

Russia and China have started World War III and dragged the other superpowers into it. Within 30 days nearly ever atomic weapon in the world, t
...more
Jim
Nov 24, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Well written & so plausible that it's scary, it's also survived the test of time very well. Written over 50 years ago in 1957 by engineer Nevel Shute Norman, an engineer who owned a firm that made secret stuff for the British government, it amazed me by how the politics & cause of the war are still so possible.

The book follows about 6 people for the last 6 months of their lives. There is no explicit sex or violence. The northern hemisphere has been turned into a radioactive wasteland & the radio
...more
Anna
Jun 27, 2008 rated it it was ok
This really is not a good book. It's a combination between an F. Scott Fitzgerald novel where everyone just sits around having double brandies all day (but with no sex) and the Plague(but with no gory details.) The premise, an atomic holocaust has obliterated the northern hemisphere and all of Australia awaits a radioactive cloud that is coming to kill everyone on earth in 6 month of time. The whole book is just a count down in which you get to know some of the most boring and two dimensional ch ...more
Amy Sturgis
It's appropriate that I should review this novel on the 65th anniversary of the successful test of the first atom bomb in Alamogordo, New Mexico. On the Beach is set in what was the near future to British-Australian author Nevil Shute, writing in 1957: 1963, approximately a year after World War III. The northern hemisphere has been devastated by nuclear war, and those in the southern hemisphere wait for the nuclear fallout to reach them. The story follows the lives of several Australians and one ...more
Suzanne
Oh God, Sebastian, what did you do to me? At Goodreads, we have a tradition in December called "The 12 Days of Goodreads" where we essentially send a chain email across the company with each person nominating a book to be given to the next person, and so on. We have 12 Days to complete the chain. In 2016, Sebastian, chose "On the Beach" for me. I must admit I was a bit grumpy about this as I had carefully cleaned up my Want to Read shelf to ensure maximum chances of getting a book I was really i ...more
Annie
Aug 15, 2018 rated it it was ok
Dear God, that was depressing. Soul-crushingly depressing.

But considering this is a book about the end of the world, there’s no sense of urgency. There’s just this sense of complacency among most of the characters that drives me crazy. Captain Towers’s philosophy is a good example: “You just can’t dodge it. You’ve got to take what’s coming to you, and make the best of it. We’ve just got to take it.”

Towers (and the author, clearly) gets frustrated with Moira, my favourite character, because he
...more
smetchie
Apr 01, 2013 rated it really liked it
Reminded me of The Sun Also Rises. Sassy dame. Excessive drinking. Fishing.
Except it's way more interesting because everyone is about to die in a few months from radiation poisoning! YEAH!! Plus the sassy dame is funnier, nicer, and drinks even more!! I know, I know. Hemingway and all that. But it's my review and I can compare this book to some classic if I want to. Anyway I don't like Hemingway. Please take that as saying more about me and my literary idiocy than it says about Hemingway and cra
...more
Manny
Dec 20, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science-fiction
Read this book if you're ever tempted to think that global nuclear war wasn't a real threat. People were scared shitless, with good reason.
Wayne Barrett

Actual 3.5

Based simply on how this book culminated to its end I really wanted to give it 5 stars. But I just can't. I guess I'll discuss my problem with the story first and save the best (the reason I would really like to give it a 5) for last.

One book in particular that always comes to my mind when thinking of dystopian literature is Cormack McCarthy's 'The Road'; the reason being the disturbing nature of the story. Nevil Shute's 'On The Beach' is a disturbing tale as well (a big reason for wan
...more
Rosie
Aug 23, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics
I read this book ages ago and it is one of my favourites. Clearly I have a bit of a morbid sense of enjoyment, given this is about the end of the world. The war is over and a radioactive cloud is slowly killing everyone in the world. An American submarine captain, Dwight Towers and his crew arrive on the shores of Australia: the last inhabitants of the world. Dwight Towers and his crew, along with the Australian Lieutenant-Commander Peter Holmes set out on a submarine mission to America to ident ...more
Baba
Jun 02, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: scifi, modernclassic
One of the last inhabited places, on a post Northern Hemisphere nuclear war Earth is Australia; and as the fallout slowly but steadily comes south, people start making preparations (or not) for the big end. Meanwhile the second to last US nuclear submarine is docked at the harbour. A truly wonderful read. 8 out of 12
...more
Lisa
Sep 25, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Probably the most heart-wrenching book I've read. It's the story of an all-out nuclear war. And, although Australia has been spared the bombs, the fallout is spreading and heading that way. It was so easy to deeply care about the characters as they live their final days...how they prepare...how they avoid preparation. Heavy, dark and emotional...but one of those books that envelopes you and that you never forget. I read it for the first time almost 20 years ago and it is still one of the best bo ...more
Maria Hill AKA MH Books
I finished this book seven days ago and it is still haunting me. People quietly going about their lives waiting for the world to end in a few month's time. Going to work, raising their families, going to the club for lunch, planting next year's garden, etc. That is basically the whole premise of the book.

Part of me could not believe that people would continue on with their own lives, making future plans when nobody and no animal will be alive on the planet next year. Then again I had a friend wh
...more
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Who else thinks that this book didn't age well? 12 234 Aug 01, 2017 04:05AM  

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Nevil Shute Norway was a popular British novelist and a successful aeronautical engineer.

He used Nevil Shute as his pen name, and his full name in his engineering career, in order to protect his engineering career from any potential negative publicity in connection with his novels.

He lived in Australia for the ten years before his death.

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Need some help planning your summer reading? Goodreads employees are a very bookish bunch, so we asked our colleagues to...
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“It's not the end of the world at all," he said. "It's only the end for us. The world will go on just the same, only we shan't be in it. I dare say it will get along all right without us.” 78 likes
“No, it wasn't an accident, I didn't say that. It was carefully planned, down to the tiniest mechanical and emotional detail. But it was a mistake.” 27 likes
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