Thursday, March 11, 2010

On the Beach by Nevil Shute

Nevil Shute's On the Beach is a classic Apocalyptic novel that focuses on the relationships of the characters as they face their deaths. Published in 1957, Shute places the setting of his story in the ruins of a nuclear war. The entire Northern Hemisphere is lifeless after an exchange of nuclear weapons and radioactive fallout have killed all life. The radiation is now spreading to the Southern Hemisphere where the characters, living in Australia, try to cope with their impending and guaranteed doom.

Shute's novel is not a story about finding solutions to avoid dying from the radioactive fallout. No solution can turn away this fate. Instead, his characters try to carry out every day life and maintain their relationships while knowing they only have a few more months to live. Some struggle with dreams of the future lost forever. Some try to find contentment in their every day life...focusing on the present. Some carry on their plans as if nothing has changed and ignore their impending death.

While Nevil Shute's novel may seem out of date, his focus on his characters and a future that cannot be saved is very refreshing. His audience knows that no life will survive this catastrophe. We feel for the characters as they struggle with how to live their last few months. We quietly ponder the decisions they make in their deaths. I highly recommend this classic novel. It will leave you wondering how you would act if you knew when you and all the world would die.

If you enjoy Shute's On the Beach, then you may also want to pick up a copy of the movie that was made from the book. On the Beach, directed by Stanley Kramer, is an excellent adaptation of the novel. The movie debuted in 1959 and stars Gregory Peck, Ava Gardner, Fred Astaire, Anthony Perkins, and Donna Anderson.

You can find both Nevil Shute's On the Beach in the Virginia Public Library system as well as the movie On the Beach in DVD format.

You may also want to try The Last Ship by William Brinkley.

Also check out our review today at the Virginian Pilot's Bookmark book blog.

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