Saturday, April 12, 2014

Nevil Shute - On the Beach

On the BeachOn the Beach by Nevil Shute
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I read two Nevil Shute books years ago, when I was in school. That was during the '70s.

No Highway was about a plane crash and a scientist who has a theory about it. An air hostess and an actress fall prey to his charm and try to gain his affection.

The Far Country was about an English girl who goes to Australia for a long visit. She meets a Czech doctor there and they begin seeing each other. In typical Shute fashion, they form a deep bond without the usual romantic fuss.

I found his books good to read. They had a leisurely pace, good descriptions, good story and good characters.

After many years, I picked up a Nevil Shute book once more. I was not disappointed. His storytelling is as good as ever.

It is a post-apocalyptic world. Cobalt bombs have been dropped all over America, Europe and Asia. Nothing survives there. By virtue of distance, there is life still in Australia. But the radioactive clouds are on their way. No one will survive this. All they have is a bit more time.

The novel portrays how people behave in a time like this. On the surface everything is normal. People love, live, marry, raise children, work on their gardens, do things that people do in normal times.

Very subtly, we are made to realize what the necessities of life are. There is no petrol, so people go around in bullock or horse carts, or take the train and a tram. They listen to radio and look at films that are already in circulation. They can do without luxuries, but they need a chance to live a healthy life. They also realize how necessary it is do all that they dreamed of now, while they still have time.

Moira Davidson is a young woman who is on a drinking spree, trying to live it up for whatever time that is left her. She meets Dwight Towers, an American Naval Commander who is stationed in Melbourne because its the only place left. Love springs up between them, or rather, as Moira says candidly at one point, "Oh, he is not courting me, I am courting him." Dwight has lost his beloved wife and children in USA and he hangs on to a twisted belief that they are still well and good and decides to remain committed to them.

It is a fascinating novel. Only a bit depressing as we know it is not going to end well. I reduced one star because of the depressing factor. I think I will go back and add a star. It deserves to be read by people to realize how futile war is.

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