Suzanne's Reviews > On the Beach

On the Beach by Nevil Shute
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it was amazing
bookshelves: the-12-days-of-goodreads

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 interested in. Embarrassingly, I'd never heard of "On the Beach" despite living in Australia for 8 years before moving to San Francisco.

But the upside of all of this is that when I did start this book, I went in completely blind. Zero expectations. And it's the rare time I get to do that these days.

I was immediately drawn into a world which seemed both familiar, but with something off-kilter. Slowly, clue by clue, you add pieces to the jigsaw puzzle and start to realize what you're facing: the last survivors of an "accidental" nuclear war.

There's a divide amongst reviewers about whether people are acting the way you'd expect in this situation. I have to say I found it very believable, especially for the period that Shute set this in (early 1960s) when Australia would have been very much following the principle of "stiff upper lip" set by England (they call England "home" in the book, even if they've never been there). I have a feeling they've already gone through the five stages of grief and are at acceptance. But it definitely forces you to confront the question: "What would I do?"

What was absolutely terrifying, though, was reading this in a world where we have North Korea and America saber rattling, except with nuclear bombs. It suddenly made it all too horribly real.

Thanks to Sebastian for an amazing book choice. Even though the concept was frightening, the writing, characters, and quintessential Australian/English moments were immensely satisfying.

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Reading Progress

December 20, 2016 – Shelved
December 20, 2016 – Shelved as: to-read
December 20, 2016 – Shelved as: the-12-days-of-goodreads
January 30, 2017 – Started Reading
April 22, 2017 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-2 of 2 (2 new)

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Sebastian Haha, I'm glad you enjoyed it (even though you tried to game the system ;) It was one of the books that had the most profound affect on me as an older teen. I was actually inspired by your review to go back re-read the book and was horrified by the plausibility of the accidental apocalypse scenario, something that I'd forgotten about. Sombre stuff, indeed.


Suzanne Agreed! The accidental nature of how this all came about was all too plausible, which made the whole situation terrifyingly real.

Funny how the impact of the 12 Days of Goodreads continues with this leading you to reread it!


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