WANA Friday: Reading books the second time around

From the age of 14 until I was 21 I read Lord of the Rings every Spring. It wasn’t until I was 22 that I made the connection with the season. There’s probably something deep and meaningful about Seasons and Age and the book itself and all that if I thought about it. But I don’t particularly want to. That was so long ago and a completely different era.

The book I want to talk about is Nevil Shute’s post-apocalyptic novel On the Beach (1957).

Why does is speak to me? The tragedy and the humanity. A total immersion in TS Elliot’s lines from The Hollow Men

This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper

From Wikipedia: The New York Times called it “the most haunting evocation we have of a world dying of radiation after an atomic war.

From The Atlantic: “Only a very humane writer could have told a story as desolate as this and made it seem at once so close and implacable. The book held a kind of cobra fascination for me. I didn’t want to keep on looking, but I did to the end.”

It’s an old book now and I understand the science on which it hinges is wrong, but for me that changes nothing. The story is set in Melbourne after a nuclear war, the hero is an American submarine captain, the heroine and Australian woman. It’s about how we face death and I like the way Shute has drawn his characters as they wait for the inevitable. To say it is ‘deeply moving’  doesn’t come near the impact this book has on me.

Two movies have been made – In 1959 starring Gregory Peck and Ava Gardener and the other in 2000 starring Armand Assante, Bryan Brown and Rachel Ward. Both films were good and worth watching but they both changed the original story, watering down the ending. Even Gregory Peck is said to have objected to the changes, let alone Nevil Shute.

The epigraph from my 1958 reprint

Perhaps some of my friends prefer more cheerful books – lets go and see:

Rabia Gale – Writer at play

Ellen Gregory – To Beyond and Back

Linda Adams – Soldier, Storyteller

Cora Ramos – Drinking the eclectic coolaid

Kim Griffin – Forever, for now

Janice Heck – My time to write

Tami Clayton – Taking tea in the Kasbah

Seth Swanson – Random musings from my ADHD riddled mind

PS The 8th International Nevil Shute Conference is in Hobart this year, it’s called The Rainbow Connection in reference to the book he wrote set in the South West Wilderness region of Tasmania – The Rainbow and the Rose

15 thoughts on “WANA Friday: Reading books the second time around

  1. Pingback: My re-reading book: The Lions of Al-Rassan | Ellen Gregory

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  3. I will have to read the book. I did see the Gregory Peck movie and it haunts me to this day. It reached right inside me and griped hold of my deepest concerns about mankind.

  4. Pingback: Favorite Novel Reread | Kim Griffin's Blog

  5. I had not heard of this book before but like everyone else has said above, I’m compelled to read it. I might also have to see the movies (after I read the book, of course!).

  6. Pingback: Tuscany in Mind – Second Time Around | JaniceHeck

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