The irresistible novel that was adapted into a major motion picture starring Leonardo DiCaprio.
The Khao San Road, Bangkok -- first stop for the hordes of rootless young Westerners traveling in Southeast Asia. On Richard's first night there, in a low-budget guest house, a fellow traveler slashes his wrists, bequeathing to Richard a meticulously drawn map to "the Beach."
The Beach, as Richard has come to learn, is the subject of a legend among young travelers in Asia: a lagoon hidden from the sea, with white sand and coral gardens, freshwater falls surrounded by jungle, plants untouched for a thousand years. There, it is rumored, a carefully selected international few have settled in a communal Eden.
Haunted by the figure of Mr. Duck -- the name by which the Thai police have identified the dead man -- and his own obsession with Vietnam movies, Richard sets off with a young French couple to an island hidden away in an archipelago forbidden to tourists. They discover the Beach, and it is as beautiful and idyllic as it is reputed to be. Yet over time it becomes clear that Beach culture, as Richard calls it, has troubling, even deadly, undercurrents.
Spellbinding and hallucinogenic, The Beach by Alex Garland -- both a national bestseller and his debut -- is a highly accomplished and suspenseful novel that fixates on a generation in their twenties, who, burdened with the legacy of the preceding generation and saturated by popular culture, long for an unruined landscape, but find it difficult to experience the world firsthand.
Garland's amphetamine-paced first novel plunks some young European expats down on a remote island in the Gulf of Thailand. There, tired of the prepackaged experience available to them in the West, they try to create their own paradise. The narrator is an Englishman named Richard. Born in 1974, he has grown up on popular culture and is a fan of video games and Vietnam War movies. While staying at a creaky Bangkok guest house, he finds a carefully drawn map left by his angry, doped-up neighbor, a suicide who called himself Mr. Daffy Duck. The map points the way to a legendary beach where, it's rumored, a few favored international wanderers have settled. Richard's new friends, Etienne and Fran oise, convince him to help them find the island. But Richard, inspired by sudden anxiety about Etienne, gives a copy of the map to two American backpackers-an act that later haunts him as keenly as the ghost of Mr. Duck. Richard and his French companions find the island: half is covered by a marijuana plantation patrolled by well-armed guards; the other half consists of a gorgeous beach and forest where a small band of wandering souls live a communal life dominated by a gently despotic woman named Sal. At times, Garland seems to be trying to say something powerful about the perils of desiring a history-less Eden. But his evocations of Vietnam, Richard's hallucinatory chats with the dead Mr. Duck and various other feints in the direction of thematic gravity don't add up to much. Garland is a good storyteller, though, and Richard's nicotine-fueled narrative of how the denizens of the beach see their comity shatter and break into factions is taut with suspense, even if the bloody conclusion offers few surprises. 150,000 first printing; $150,000 ad/promo; foreign rights sold in the U.K., Germany, Holland, Italy.
Dark, interesting. Kept my attention.
A trip to the dark side of traveling
Read this while traveling in Thailand and couldn’t put it down! It’s so much fun and a bit paranoia inducing!
A roller coaster ride from beginning to end.
I had watched the movie dozens of times before finding out it was a book so naturally I came to the with preconceived notions. Boy am I glad because it made the book even better since the movie bears very little resemblance to its source material. You never quite knew what was around every corner which kept me swiping pages furiously into the night. By not having a romance in the central plot, it made Richard even more interesting. We only hear things from his point of view, and I really think he thinks he’s closer to people than he actually is. He doesn’t really realize he’s been cast off just as jed was. You have this island where we never actually see the newcomers accepted as a part of the community. The gift they are given is almost out of a sense of duty. But in the end, you’re not really allowed to leave. Which brings about the question-had others tried to leave before-and sal had them killed? Is this why daffy (mr duck) was insane, because he went crazy trying to leave, similar to Karl. Because we’re only seeing it through Richards it’s hard to tell but some of the people don’t really even seem to like it there which makes it all the more intriguing why are they even there? Because sal said so? The book raised more questions than the movie ever did but it’s the good kind of questions, not annoying ones. Definitely a good read.