In the past my holiday reads have been geared towards cheesy chick lit, but I’m finally bored of that and look for something that can hold my interest these days. I do like my holiday reads to evoke holiday feelings though, so The Beach by Alex Garland was an obvious choice! Set in Thailand it follows backpacker Richard on his search for, and life on, an elusive hidden beach paradise.
I’ve seen the film, and although it’s basically the same, there are some major plot differences, and the book overall is much darker. I also much preferred the character Richard in the book. Even though Leo DiCaprio seemed like a good choice when watching the film, I don’t think that’s exactly what the author had in mind!
The Beach gives you a good sense of the backpacker mentality (something I personally don’t share as I love my home comforts and prefer not to see the worst of a place alongside the best bits). When reading it though, I found it easy to appreciate why the promise of a hidden paradise untouched by tourists holds such an appeal for backpackers who have realised that there seems to be nowhere left that is unspoiled, and once Richard and friends reach the Beach it was really enjoyable to read about their life there – especially when lying on a beach myself. Perfect holiday reading!
I mentioned that the book is pretty dark, and I wouldn’t want to give too many spoilers, but it’s definitely an interesting read and pretty gripping to watch Richard’s mentality change throughout his time there – initially light-hearted and loving life but increasingly troubled and constantly making references to the Vietnam War. There’s quite a subtle change in the way the beach and its community is portrayed too – initially life there seems perfect but gradually we see how the human touch has spoiled even this hidden paradise, and it finally leads up to quite a dark and dramatic conclusion.
I found it very easy to get into and really enjoyed the summery vibe created by the setting. I’d definitely recommend it as a good read and once it started to build momentum it was quite difficult to put down. I much preferred it to the film too, although I’ll probably have another watch of it now I’ve read the book.