I picked this book up because I watched the movie in 2000 and can’t remember anything about it, except the part when they swim towards the island and the song Pure Shores by All Saints was playing in the background. 😦
We are introduced to Richard. (Oh bother, Richard again. I read 3 books this year that have Richard as the main character, The Secret History by Donna Tartt, This Book Will Save Your Life by A.M. Homes and this book!) a gap-year student, holidaying in Bangkok, Thailand, met a man named Daffy Duck who stays next to his room and talks about a beach. Soon after Mister Duck cut his wrist and left Richard a map to an island.
Richard recruited some help from his hostel’s friends, French couple Étienne and Francois (oh, I love those French names) who took in the idea more fervently than Richard, and plan their way to this mysterious island. The position is in Koh Samui island, last stop at Koh Phang-Ngan and off Koh Phe-Long. (The film however is filmed on Phi-phi island on the east coast of Thailand). Before Richard left, he drew a map of the island and left it at the door of Zeph and Sammy (two Americans surfers he met on the beach), just in case.
With Maggie Mee instant noodle and chocolates, they made and wade their ways to the mysterious island. Once there, they escaped from the guards of weed field (drugs / grass) and dive into the pool from the waterfall and greeted by Jed the lookout member of “the Beach” tribe. As Richard recuperating from Malaria, he gets acquainted with the inhabitants. Sal is the leader and Bugs her partner (who bugs Richard all the time and took credit of the papaya farm that Richard discovered). Keaty is the cook (until he accidentally poisoned them with dead squid), Sten, Karl, Christo is a group of Swedes who stumbled upon the Beach. Moshe, Cassie, Gregorio and others. Étienne and Francois remained as a team with Richard whose duty is to fish.
The beach idyllic life lulled Richard and his French friends into a false security. Swimming, fishing, smoking grass, watching algae glow in the dark, flirting with Francois, occasional boat trip to refill supplies, Richard’s life in paradise is one interminable bliss. Days become month, and for some months become years, the inhabitants of the beach have no desire to go back from where they come from. Cut off from the outside world, they live within their own nucleus of society. Sal is doing all she can to keep the morale up, and to keep the beach a secret. Things soon become ugly as many calamities befalls on the inhabitants of the Beach, for example: shark attack, food poisoning, rifts between inhabitants and the threat of intruders exposing the islands to the outside world. The Beach is a secret that Sal wants to keep as much as the Thai guards who grows the weed.
With drugs and glamourised violence of Vietnam War films haunting his perceptions of his Thai Paradise, Richard soon find the hideaway becomes a nightmare. He bears the cross of leading his paradise seekers friends to their brutal death, he and his beach friends have to find a way out of the Beach and he has to execute his ploy during the celebration of Ted, a celebration of the founding of the Beach.
Things go wrong, and Richard’s life is at risk. Will Richard get out of the Beach? Depends if you care enough to read it to find out what happened to Richard at the end.
What I like most about the book: the part where Jed nursing Christo despite knowing Christo is dying, the fact that the clan did not visit him, pretending the bad things doesn’t exists. The settings brought me back to the memory of the days I spent loitering around Khao San Road, exploring the nook and crooks of the place, and the days spent on Koh Samui visiting Chaweng and Lamai beach, exploring as far as the islands Koh Phang-Ngan and Koh Tao. It was beautiful. It was my favourite paradise. Warm and fuzzy feeling when I recreated the scene on my mind, the only high I get from reading the book.
What I like least about the book: flippant, some part seems like an endless doldrums. Overall, not my kind of book.
About the Beach : The Beach was published to immediate acclaim, and has since become a bestselling cult classic and a Hollywood Blockbuster staring Leonardo DiCaprio. For more see: Wikipedia. directed by Danny Boyle of “The Slumdog Millionaire” fame, the movie is slightly different than the book.