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2 March 2014

The Beach
Alex Garland
Publication Date
travelling, backpacking
Unusually so, I've seen the movie for The Beach before I read the book. So when reading I kept 'seeing' Leonardo DiCaprio which isn't necessarily a bad thing :)

Quote: (and I so agree with these words!!)
Escape through travel works. Almost from the moment I boarded my flight, life in England became meaningless. Seat-belt signs lit up, problems switched off. Broken armrests took precedence over broken hearts. By the time the plane was airborne I'd forgotten England even existed.” 

Richard is a backpacker from England and arrives in Bangkok Thailand. He is disillusioned from mass tourism and the filthy side of this is more than evident in Thailand. He checks into a small hotel and during the night, Duffy, the Scottish guy in the room next to his, starts talking to him.Duffy is clearly stoned and tells Richard about a secret community in an secluded island off the waters of Koh Samui, completely undiscovered by the world and he gives Richard a hand-drawn map. The next morning Richard discovers that Duffy has committed suicide. Initially shocked, he starts talking to a young French couple in the same hotel, Francoise and Etienne. He shows them the map and tells them about the secret community and they decide to look for it and go over there. Richard also gives the map to two American students he meets in Koh Samui. 

Richard, Francoise and Etienne reach the secret beach, and by sheer luck escape local marihuana farmers on the island. They find the community where all kind of different young people from all corners of the world live. They learn that Duffy was one of the original founders of the community, together with Sal and her boyfriend Bugs who are still there. Everyone who is there got invited by either of those 3, apart from Jed, an English guy who heard about the beach on the mainland. They initially love the beautiful beach and being away from the tourist buzz. But they soon discover that not all is beautiful and great. Sal and Bugs run the community with an iron rod. Cleaning, obtaining food via fishing and farming, cooking, gardening, carpentry all needs to be done, are quite often hard and everyone gets tasks allocated which are nonnegotiable. They don't want any new joiners to their community because this defeats the object of a secret community, but Richard, Francoise and Etienne get accepted as the last newcomers. Richard, of course, doesn't tell that he has given the map already to the two Americans in Koh Samoi. 

Things get more serious soon...Even when most of the camp gets seriously ill with food poisoning, and after an incident with a shark where a community member dies, the secret of the community is to be kept and no-one is allowed to go and ask for help. Once there, you can't leave this wonderful secret community. And the American students who Richard had given the map, in the meantime, are intrigued as well and are looking for a way to get in. 

I absolutely loved this book and it is on my 're-read list'. I like the idea of that secret community and all the different nationalities who live there away from all the worries of our world (no financial crisis there!) but of course there are other issues on that island. Still, have you ever read a book and feel that you would like to be in it?? Despite that not all was well in paradise. I love all the characters and the way they are beautifully drawn out: Richard, Jed, Keaty, an English guy always with his game boy, The Swedes, Unhygenix (!!) the Cook, Sal who probably is not a bad person but will do everything to keep her secret community…. 

The film adaptation is well known and yes, I do love it as well. I found it strange that, in some ways, the film keeps to the book exactly (almost down to the dialogue, for example at the beginning when Richard comes into the hotel and sees the cleaner wiping water from the floor and almost getting electrocuted from the poor wiring, or the way the meet the Marihuana farmers etc.). Some parts differ completely. Without giving too much away and wanting to spoil the reading of the book -- the movie has been majourly 'sexed up'! The book is more dark and graphic in the descriptions of the not so nice things which happened on The Beach.