Escape through travel works. Almost from the moment I boarded my flight, life in England became meaningless.
Seat-belt signs lit up, problems switched off. Broken armrests took precedence over broken hearts.
Before the hit movie there was the cult novel written by an unknown 26-year-old writer called
Alex Garland, with this being his astonishing debut novel.
His exhilarating writing style and beautifully executed use of prose is astounding for Alex's
age, with The Beach literally being a thrill-fest of vividly brought-to-life
set-pieces that all lead up to a shocking climax once trouble in paradise erupts.
If I'd learnt one thing from travelling, it was that the way to get things done was to go ahead and do them.
Essentially a thriller novel, elements of action, adventure and drama all intertwine to stunning
effect, set against the backdrop of solo world travel, in this occasion to a remote island off
Thailand to which Richard - the main character who narrates the extraordinary story - feels
drawn after he hears a rumour that there is THE fabled beach on such an island that is almost
untouched by human habitation or visitation and is the closest place to paradise for miles around.
So Richard sets out with a French couple that he meets, and they all swim to the island to see
how such rumours reflect reality. Sure enough, there is a beautiful beach on which a group of
travellers are secretly living the good life. There is one major worry, however... and that's a
plantation of drugs on the island that is been grown and duly guarded by some Thai dealers,
and once the dealers come to learn about the travellers' self-made retreat nearby, tensions
funnel to terrifying levels of violence that are shot through with heart-attaching bursts of sheer fear.
I wanted to witness extreme poverty. I saw it as a necessary experience for anyone who wanted
to appear worldly and interesting.
Garland, who went on to write The Tesseract after this debut, is a truly
amazing writer and even though The Beach is a long story, I felt compelled
to read on and on and on once I'd started, seeing the book right through to the finish in
the best part of just one day.
Garland successfully pits thrilling sections of action against some tender
spurts of compelling human drama, as all the travellers interact and develop their relationships
with each other: romances develop between some and hate builds between others.
Also, Garland - through his characters - offers some fabulous moments of philosophy. For instance, 'If you accept the universe is infinite, then that means an infinite amount of chances for things to happen, right? Well, if there's an infinite amount of chances for something to happen, then eventually it will happen - no matter how small the likelihood.'
Even if you've seen the Leonardo Di Caprio-starring movie adaptation, the book is still more than worthy of a look. I always think that it's far more exciting to read the original story if the novel preceded the movie, as it infamously did in this particular case.
This way it's perpetually interesting to witness how filmmakers interpret the stories and visualise the words set down on paper. What say you?
I say The Beach is a masterpiece of modern times.
ISBN 0-140-25841-8 (first published in 1996; Penguin)
Reviews, Theatre - Fields of Gold at Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough By Nick Quantrill
For some time now thisisUll.com has been bringing news
and reviews of events that are happening in Hull.
It is quite noticeable that what is going unreported is what's happening in the near-by towns
surrounding the city of Hull.
Reviews, Books - The Body by Hanif Kureishi Reviewed By Steve Rudd
I imagine that to participate in the world with curiosity and pleasure, to see the point of what is going on, you have to be young and uninformed. Do I want to participate?
This is an incredibly compelling novel from Kent-born Hanif (who proves himself to be ever-the-philosopher)
Reviews, Films - Five Children and It Reviewed by Ruth Wilson
The other day I went to the UGC cinema in Hull to see 5 Children and It.
It was a very good film, based on a book by E. Nesbit. It's about 5 children
(surprise, surprise! I can't remember their names, though!) who get sent to live
with their loopy uncle in the country during the
Kids, Reviews, Books - Freak-Outs and Very Secret Secrets by Karen McCombie Reviewed by Ruth Whitehouse
I have recently read a brilliant book called Friends, Freak-Outs and Very Secret Secrets by Karen McCombie,
a teenage book, part of the Ally's World Series. If you want me to be precise, it's number 4.
Now, onto the actual review. It is about a teenage girl called Ally who has a best
Reviews, Books - Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer Reviewed By Steve Rudd
Reaching the top of Everest is supposed to trigger a surge of intense elation; against
long odds, afterall, I had just attained a goal I'd coveted since childhood.
But the summit was really only the halfway point. Any impulse I might have felt toward
Reviews, Books - Down Under by Bill Bryson Reviewed By Steve Rudd
As I write this review it is the height of British summertime, and as I'm staring
outside the window at 8:30 PM it's almost black dark out there and pouring it down with rain.
Which is - to extents - to be expected, given the UK's terminally unpredictable climate.
Reviews, Films - Saw By Steve Rudd
As if there isn't enough sick and twisted violence out there in the real world as it is,
there are hordes of film-makers that feel that violence is the essential ingredient to
make a winning movie. To make their movie as violent as possible often seems
Reviews, Books - Travels in a Strange State by Josie Dew Reviewed By Steve Rudd
A man called Jonathan Raban once said, The only way to travel is to travel alone.
It opens you up to the world. It puts you in the way of luck and chance.
With such a sentiment Josie Dew whole-heartedly agrees, as do I.
This fantastically written book
Reviews, Theatre - Confessions Of A Hull City Supporter at Hull Truck By Nicholas Boldock
There must be few examples of award-winning playwrights penning an entire play to celebrate a
football team winning promotion, even if that promotion took 19 long years to arrive.
After Hull City won promotion from Division 3 last term, local writer Alan PlaterRead more...
Reviews, Books - Santaland Diaries by David Sedaris Reviewed By Steve Rudd
All of us take pride and pleasure in the fact that we are unique, but I'm afraid that
when all is said and done the police are right: it all comes down to fingerprints.
Which, I presume, means that Sedaris (who is both a highly respected playwright and
Reviews, Books - The Hard Shoulder by Chris Petit By Steve Rudd
Focusing on how a fresh-out-of-prison man copes and slowly re-adjusts to life on the outside,
The Hard Shoulder is an exceptional novel - and primarily enthralling for being both a
thriller and poignant drama.
O'Grady is the man who has been released from prison