kelsy’s summer reading list 3: the beach.

OK. I just finished this book and I can honestly say it scared the living daylights out of me, and if I ever go to Thailand (seems actually quite imminent as my brother is marrying a girl from there) I will be going nowhere near the Gulf of Thailand, and I will certainly not be visiting any marine parks. I might even avoid the Khao San Road, just in case.

Before I launch into my complicated retelling of everything in the book I loved and hated, I must first say that the movie is a completely inaccurate summary of the novel. They eliminate an entire character, who is pivotal to the story. And they throw in a few completely unnecessary sex scenes that don’t occur in the book.

Anyway. The book begins in a fairly acceptable manner, and it seems legit. Everything makes sense and it seems like something an ex-backpacker could actually have written. In fact, it seems legit up until well past the point where the group actually arrive on the Beach, give or take a suicide and some crazy dreams which inform the narrator of things he wouldn’t have known otherwise.

No. The book enters into serious surrealism around the point that [SPOILERS AHEAD] Richard, narrator, is asked to ‘take care of’ a crazy Swede named Karl, who has been rendered insane through watching his two friends be mutilated in a shark attack. The book reaches the absolute peak of it’s peculiarity near the end, though, when one scene sees, firstly, several rigor-mortified corpses being deposited in the camp, and secondly, the [completely twisted] beach community taking to them with knives and dismembering them.

It’s basically Lord of the Flies, but with grown-ups and weed, and though it terrified me, I loved it. The concept is phenomenal, the characters are richly illustrated, the set-up makes you wish you could live in a similar community, and as I mentioned before, you believe it could be true right up until the end.

Probably the height of terrifying is the shark attack on the three Swedes (Sten, Christo and Karl, who seem like lovely chaps) which prevented me from sleeping for several hours after I forced myself to put the book away. It’s not made easier to handle by the fact that Richard tells you they’re about to get into trouble, but kindly leaves out details.

Anyway. READ IT. You … may well regret it, but it’s an achievement to have read and you will certainly enjoy it. It’s also relatively recent (only 1996) and so there are several pop culture references in there that even I (and I am rather young) understood. Lovely.

It’s by Alex Garland. Track it down.

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