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On The Beach - Nevil Shute



Review by Lizzie Guilfoyle

OPPONENTS of nuclear disarmament would do well to read Nevil Shute's sobering, yet compelling novel, that chronicles the lives of a select few - the very last people alive upon this Earth.

Set in Australia, a year after nuclear war in the Northern Hemisphere, and an invisible cloud of radio-active particles has all but enveloped the globe.

There, for Lieutenant Peter Holmes of the Royal Australian Navy,his wife, Mary, and baby daughter, Jennifer, life goes on pretty much as normal.

 

But for Peter, the harsh reality becomes doubly clear when, as Liaison Officer to Commander Dwight Towers of the US nuclear-powered submarine, Scorpion, he sails to the coast of North America to investigate a sporadic radio signal coming from the Seattle area.

Could it be that life still exists where none was thought possible?

On The Beach is a chilling tale, all the more so because of its utter feasibility, and although it may or may not be scientifically accurate - there is no mention of nuclear winter - the concept is real enough.

And great story-teller that he was, Shute fully captures the mood of the moment - be it disbelief, anger, a refusal to accept the inevitable (Mary, for example, planting bulbs that she will never see bloom), despair and finally, resignation.

On The Beach is an extremely good read that, dare I say, owes more than a little to morbid curiosity. Nonetheless, it could prove a valuable lesson for mankind.

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