The Beach: travel book review

The Beach by Alex Garlanda
The Beach by Alex Garland

The Beach, a book and movie I’d heard about but never come across until Nepal

The Beach was one of those books I’d avoided as it never really appealed to me. Backpacker arrives in Thailand goes to hidden island with others learns a lesson leaves. What’s more when it became a film it lost even more appeal. Strangely I’ve not come across either the book nor movie on my travels that much. That is until recently I walked into a bookstore in Pokhara Nepal and saw a secondhand copy.

Having read it and just watched the film – how was The Beach?

What is The Beach about?

Richard, a young English (North American in movie) backpacker, arrives in Khao San road Bangkok Thailand for his great escape and exploration of a different culture. He soon meets Daffy a slightly crazed hashish smoking man who dies in his room and leaves Richard a map to a secret island.

Enthralled with finding an unspoiled island Richard invites two French backpacker to join him. A few adventures later and they discover the island, its isolated community of backpackers along with some Thai hashish farmers.

Issues of community, isolation, freedom, leadership and learning about paradise continue and conclude in a bloody ending.

Does The Beach sound familiar?

I couldn’t help but continuously think “Lord of the Flies” when reading The Beach. The former shining that bit more over Alex Garland’s book. Starting off well I enjoyed the initial sentiments and Bangkok experiences. Daffy was an interesting character and things do fall into place quite well.

However the book quickly began to drag a little. Characters did not seem to have that much depth and personally I did not have much of a liking for Richard. That’s not usually a problem as there is at least one other likable character. Unfortunately they all seemed pretty two-dimensional. And there are quite a few of them. Daffy being the only one who resurfaces in Richards nightmares that made a strong showing.

A beach island in The Philippines
Is a beach island paradise? Or just like anywhere else in the world?

Lord of the Flies in terms of character development beats The Beach hands down.

On and on and on …

This was my biggest issue with The Beach. It just seemed to drag on rather predictably. With only the vague notion of wanting to know who would survive at the end spurning me on. And even then it wasn’t that much of a goal as none of the characters made be care enough for the predictable end.

The one shining light with The Beach is that it’s stood the test of time. Reading it today one can still imagine and see people searching for their “beach experience” when traveling.

Is the film better than the book?

When are films ever better than a book? I watched The Beach recently. It was a lot better than I expected it to be. There’s much less Daffy which is disappointing and while holding largely true to the book the ending seemed a little weak.

Who would enjoy The Beach?

If you’re a twenty-something backpacker heading to the beaches and islands of South East Asia then this book should appeal. If you like books about trying to find a better society or exploring societies then this is for you. If you’ve read Lord of the Flies, enjoyed it and want more, then try this on.

Purchase options:

If you’d like to buy this book, please consider purchasing it through my Amazon affiliate stores below: I get a tiny, tiny commission of about USD$00.14. Maybe enough to one day save up and buy a Kindle so I can keep these books with me as I travel.

The Beach (Amazon USA)
The Beach (Amazon UK)   The Beach (Kindle UK)

If you’d like to read some more travel reviews on books, movies and guides I’ve read then please visit my travel book review section.

Have you read this or another really good travelogue? If you have, can you leave the name of the book in the comments, I am always on the look out for good travelogues!

This is an additional travel book review based on books I’ve read throughout my journey

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9 Replies to “The Beach: travel book review”

  1. I read this years ago when it came out. No my favorite either. I might be too old. It’s a backpackers book in my opinion

  2. Good review, however Richard was an Englishman in the book. He was changed to an American in the movie to increase the commercial appeal of the project.

  3. The beach doesnt attract me…neither saw the picture. My best like ever:Bill Bryson,A Walk in the Woods,1997;then in the order:Clare de Vries,I&Claudius,Travels with my cat,1999;Matteo Pennacchi,Il grande sogno(The great Dream),1999;Cees Nooteboom,De omweg naar Santiago,1992;Alex Roggero,La corsa del levriero,on Greywound from Pittsburgh to Los Angeles1998 ed Feltrinelli;Chris Steward,Driving over lemons,1999 & Three ways to capsize a Boat,2009;Davide Le Breton,Eloge de la marche,2000. Why don’t you write a book?(on paper)?

    1. That’s great selection of books Giovanna! I’m writing the names down!

      Already have two manuscripts done. Really don’t have the time or resources to push any further with them. I think that’s the price of this lifestyle vs working from an office! I might have to push through soon though ;)

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