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On the Beach
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Moderator's Choice > On The Beach by Nevil Shute (June 2020)

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Nigeyb | 9427 comments Mod
Welcome to our Mods' choice for June 2020.....


On the Beach by Nevil Shute

After the war is over, a radioactive cloud begins to sweep southwards on the winds, gradually poisoning everything in its path. An American submarine captain is among the survivors left sheltering in Australia, preparing with the locals for the inevitable. Despite his memories of his wife, he becomes close to a young woman struggling to accept the harsh realities of their situation. Then a faint Morse code signal is picked up, transmitting from the United States and the submarine must set sail through the bleak ocean to search for signs of life.

On the Beach is Nevil Shute's most powerful novel. Both gripping and intensely moving, its impact is unforgettable.


This book is currently a mere 99 pence in the Kindle edition in the UK

It's a steal





Nigeyb | 9427 comments Mod
I plan to start this as soon as I finish The Rings of Saturn by W.G. Sebald - another of our June 2020 discussions


message 3: by Roman Clodia (new)

Roman Clodia | 4911 comments Mod
This looks more tempting than I initially thought... Your updates have persuaded me that I should read Sebald too.


Nigeyb | 9427 comments Mod
Splendid news - on both counts


I always enjoy reading your musings


message 5: by Annabel (new)

Annabel Frazer | 82 comments I read On The Beach as a teenager and absolutely loved it. It's been years since I reread it so now seems like the perfect moment. I'm not a Kindle person though, so it all hinges on whether I have a copy on my shelves or not - I think I do.

I also want to reread The Far Country, which was my first Nevil Shute and is probably still my favourite. It's a happier story than OTB (understandably a bit downbeat).


Nigeyb | 9427 comments Mod
Oooh. Exciting. Please let us know if you locate your copy Annabel


Jill (dogbotsmum) | 620 comments I will be making this my next read. I'm not sure if I have read it before or just seen the film, but either way it was a long time ago.


Nigeyb | 9427 comments Mod
A good day just got even better - looking forward to your reaction Jill


Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 4538 comments Mod
I have downloaded this but haven't started it yet - like Annabel, I remember loving it as a teenager, when I had a spate of reading Shute, and somehow got him mixed up in my mind with Nigel Balchin!


message 10: by Jan C (new) - added it

Jan C (woeisme) | 1186 comments I tried to start this the other week but I was distracted by the Food Channel, which I having been bingeing on for the past few months.


Nigeyb | 9427 comments Mod
So long as it's just the channel you're bingeing on, and not the food itself!


message 12: by Jan C (new) - added it

Jan C (woeisme) | 1186 comments It may have me snacking more.


Nigeyb | 9427 comments Mod
Now I've finished The Rings of Saturn (one of our buddy reads this month)....


....I can get going with On the Beach

This is my second book by Nevil Shute and my expectations are fairly high having thoroughly enjoyed A Town Like Alice


message 14: by Jill (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jill (dogbotsmum) | 620 comments I'm halfway through this now, and one of the things that I find is annoying is that the american starts all his speeches with "Why" or "Sure" This is obviously to try and make him sound american. I don't think he needed to do this. Maybe it is just me being picky.


Nigeyb | 9427 comments Mod
That does sound unnecessary Jill


Nigeyb | 9427 comments Mod
What do you think of it so far Jill?


message 17: by Jill (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jill (dogbotsmum) | 620 comments I do like it and it is easy reading, if you can call the end of the world that. The people's reaction seem to be very much like the reaction to this virus at the moment, some people are scared and others are in denial.


Nigeyb | 9427 comments Mod
Sounds very promising. Thanks Jill


message 19: by Annabel (new)

Annabel Frazer | 82 comments Nigeyb wrote: "Oooh. Exciting. Please let us know if you locate your copy Annabel"

Sadly no. I only seem to have A Town Like Alice.


message 20: by Annabel (new)

Annabel Frazer | 82 comments Jill wrote: "I'm halfway through this now, and one of the things that I find is annoying is that the american starts all his speeches with "Why" or "Sure" This is obviously to try and make him sound american. I..."

I remember finding this annoying too.


Nigeyb | 9427 comments Mod
Thanks Annabel


I'm underway with this now. As in A Town Like Alice, it's noticeable how the characters avoid self-pity and repress any strong emotional reactions.

Quite hard I'd have thought given the context of the novel.


Nigeyb | 9427 comments Mod
I think I'm going to race through this. It's a quick and easy read.


I am not so sure Shute's style works as well with dystopian fiction as with historical fiction. That said, I can well imagine this would have been a powerful and shocking read when it was first published, and would have effectively help raise awareness of the threat of a global nucleur war.


Nigeyb | 9427 comments Mod
Interesting to note that Shute has the characters make the best of the time left to them. I wonder to what extent people would really do that in the circumstances?


Nigeyb | 9427 comments Mod
Has anyone seen the 1959 film film adaptation starring Gregory Peck, Ava Gardner, and Fred Astaire?


Or indeed the 2000 made-for-television film starring Armand Assante, Rachel Ward, and Bryan Brown?

I'd be interested in what either is like


Nigeyb | 9427 comments Mod
Jill wrote: "I do like it and it is easy reading, if you can call the end of the world that"


Yes. It's interesting how Shute's characters are generally very forebearing and stoical, no matter how drastic the circumstances.

It's the same in A Town Like Alice


Nigeyb | 9427 comments Mod
I've read most of this now.


I'm a little disappointed and conclude it's a bit dull.

Perhaps this is because I've been lucky enough to read some really great books in the last couple of weeks, and this just pales in comparison?

It's a brave decision to keep it so understated, and to make the characters so stoical and accepting

What elevates it is that the characters know they are all living on borrowed time and so the interest, such as it is, comes from their reaction to this existence.

Not many novelists would write about this horrific scenario with such understatement.

I can't help thinking it's just too restrained and could do with a bit more action.


message 27: by Roman Clodia (new)

Roman Clodia | 4911 comments Mod
Nigeyb wrote: "I'm a little disappointed and conclude it's a bit dull."

Ha, now you've said that I can confess that I DNF'd after about 40-50 pages for the same reasons. I did snigger when the Aussie got on the nuclear submarine and asked for a pink gin... but I think for the wrong reasons!


Nigeyb | 9427 comments Mod
I'm glad it's not just me RC.


I'm going to finish it as quickly as I can

Especially with Donald Henderson and his Goodbye to Murder waiting in the wings


message 29: by Jill (last edited Jun 06, 2020 05:06PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jill (dogbotsmum) | 620 comments I have finished this now. I enjoyed the characters, but I cannot see people being as calm as these are. I think there would have been a lot more looting and rioting and crime in general. Also a lot of people trying to get as far south as possible, once known by the rest of the world it was a safer place to be, relying on the weather with winds being wrong. I just didn't think people would take it so calmly. Having said that it was a quick, easy read


Nigeyb | 9427 comments Mod
Thanks Jill. I agree with all that you've said there too.


message 31: by Judy (new) - rated it 3 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 4538 comments Mod
I've started this now and am only a short way in - must say I'm really enjoying it so far. I was very surprised by the idea of going back to horse transport and push bikes because there is no oil.


Nigeyb | 9427 comments Mod
I hope you carry on enjoying it Judy. I am looking forward to your comments.


message 33: by Judy (new) - rated it 3 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 4538 comments Mod
Thanks, Nigeyb. I already want to see the film with Gregory Peck and Ava Gardner.


message 34: by Brian (last edited Jun 07, 2020 06:44AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Brian Reynolds | 499 comments I read this as assigned reading in a freshman or sophomore high school English class, about '67, '68 or '69. I remember being impressed by it. Its understated approach to the nuclear event aftermath proved powerful to my 15 year old self. I also saw the movie and enjoyed that too.
After reading some of the comments here, I decided to pass on reading it again. I think a reread so far removed from when it was written and first read by me might affect those fond memories I have. I'll let it lie.
Instead, I bought A Town Like Alice and will finally get around to reading another Shute later this month.
(I originally typed the book title as A Town Called Alice and didn't notice the error until I decided to use the "add book/author" link instead. Thanks, Paul Weller)


Nigeyb | 9427 comments Mod
Brian wrote: "I bought A Town Like Alice and will finally get around to reading another Shute later this month"

I eagerly await your thoughts Brian. I was very impressed by A Town Like Alice


message 36: by Jill (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jill (dogbotsmum) | 620 comments Judy wrote: "I've started this now and am only a short way in - must say I'm really enjoying it so far. I was very surprised by the idea of going back to horse transport and push bikes because there is no oil."

As this was not set in a city, made it possible for the people to draw on horses, but I do think people were more resourceful at the time. I doubt very much that many people nowadays would be able to mend a bike tyre ,let alone devise a trailer for one


Nigeyb | 9427 comments Mod
I frequently repair bike tyre punctures and yesterday I fixed a wheelbarrow puncture. Not that I am particularly good at DIY more generally, so you are right Jill. Years of cycling just happens to have equipped me to sort out punctures


message 38: by Judy (new) - rated it 3 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 4538 comments Mod
I put this down for a while because of catching up with some other books, and now that I'm back to it, I'm finding that I agree with Nigeyb and RC and find it a bit dull.

All the restrained polite conversation is getting repetitive - I am 40% of the way through now and not all that much has happened. At the start it felt very tense to me but not so much now. However, maybe it will pick up again soon.


message 39: by Judy (new) - rated it 3 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 4538 comments Mod
Just to add, near the beginning I thought there was more feeling of desperation centred on Moira, with her hard drinking which has a sort of lost generation/post-war feel to it, but now the novel is getting away from that atmosphere.


message 40: by Judy (new) - rated it 3 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 4538 comments Mod
Getting towards the end and must admit I'm losing enthusiasm - it seems to be getting too repetitive, with too many conversations where people pretend it isn't happening and talk about things they plan to do next year, or places they want to visit which have already been wiped off the map.

I think there are some powerful sections, like the one where the submarine travels to America, but the momentum falls away in between when not much is happening. I also find Mary rather a stereotyped wife and mother, even for the period - she doesn't seem to have any individuality.


Kirsten  (kmcripn) I read this back in 2012 and really enjoyed it back then. I remember thinking how little panic there seemed to be. (Considering today's reaction to coronavirus and the run on toilet paper, bleach, detergent, rice, etc). I also really liked the characters.

Sorry for those who found it dull.


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