I have called this a review just because of the semantics/titling. It’s more like a ‘I’ve actually got through a book and fucking loved it’ kind of thing.
You wouldn’t believe the amount of time I spend in charity shops looking at books thinking I could buy and read every single one of them. ‘The Beach’ is one that I actually bought; think for 70p. And to say I’m late to the party with this one would be an understatement, considering it was published 20 years ago and the author (Alex Garland) has gone on to write and now direct many massive films (28 days later, Ex Machina etc). Though I guess a book is for the time that you read it and not the time everyone else did, if that makes sense? I mean I read Emily Dickinson poems in school 150 years after she penned those bad-boys and thought they were as sexual as the Victorians did.
Anyway I picked it up because I saw Garland’s name, being a fan of his work in film. And I’ve got to say I’m pretty much in love with the guy after I conquered this book just last night. It’s a story for the backpackers, which I’m totally not and I profess that any travelling I do is nowhere near Eastern Asia, where the story is set. To be honest the plot is quite difficult to describe because about half way through the book I was convinced it was about nothing; simply a meandering tale about some gap year tossers looking for a lovely patch of sand.
The events of the narrative crept up on me and the dark characterisation of the voice of the book (Richard) is slowly unravelled before being thrown in your face by the final third. Minor spoilers here but the imaginary friend plot played a bigger role than I thought it would and becomes the main arc with about 100 pages to go. And for me these were the weakest points of the novel but it’s honestly brilliant when it picks up the pace towards the end.
Essentially I found that this book was a series of escapism writing, but the sort of escapism I don’t really want. This is probably why I liked it, a nicely paced travel book suddenly became a real blood and anguish thriller at any moment. It had the ability to shock me and interest me, though most importantly engage me. I banged out about 420 pages in a week and it’s inspired me enough to write this, so I must have enjoyed it.
To give it a score would be cheap, but I would definitely recommend it to anyone and now I’m eager to see the film adaptation, that I’ve heard is shit.