One of those books where you set it down and then sit in your chair for a while without talking.
I read it in high school and still occasionally think of it 40 years later. If that alludes to the gravity of the book.
Read this book a couple of years ago and it's really stayed with me. The idea of waiting for death to slowly spread down through the world killing off city by city until all life is extinguished is unbelievably bleak. The book raised a very good point too that the southern hemisphere would be paying the price for the suicidal wars of the northern hemisphere.
When I was a kid, I used to see these old cartoons on television, set during World War I or II--these weren't anything obscure, they would play along with Tom and Jerry or shows like that. They scared me pretty badly back then, talking about people killing each other off and the world ending, things like that. I read this book in high school, and it's a very similar sort of feeling. That ending, with the last characters on the beach as far south as they can go, watching the cloud that will kill them rolling in, has always stuck with me. I don't believe the world will end like that...but back in the cold war, we all believed it might. It's a powerful image, and quietly terrifying, even now.
I used to work at The Scholarship Shop, which was the University of Chicago's Little School thrift store on 53rd street in Chicago. We had someone donate every single Judy Blume book, which I read, and Nevil Shute's On the Beach, which I also read. Nice little story about everyone getting dead from Radiation, or from not caring since there was nothing you could do, or from caring, but there being nothing that could be done.
There's a pretty good movie, too, with Gregory Peck, Ava Gardener, Fred Astaire, and Anthony Perkins. It was directed by Stanley Kramer.
I must have sat in that shop and read a hundred books.
Everything in the store was donated, mostly by people from The University of Chicago, and all the sales helped The Little School, which was part of the U of C.
Working there I saw the same group of maybe 30 people, maybe eight or ten a day. Several were only there to change their dirty clothes, leaving them behind and taking other clothes, several others were there to chit chat, and a few would look around and buy stuff. No one bought the books, or stole them, but we had a ton of them. We had The Boxcar Children and the Flowers in the Attic series and other stuff I read, I remember a travel story about Tuscany.
I thought this book was amazing. I love how the author mentioned that at first, everyone was going crazy (drinking, drugs, sex) with the impending doom. Then that just got boring for most and they went back to their lives as relatively normal.
The car race was one of the scenes that stuck with me the most, that and the animal care towards the end. Different reactions of humanity to the wiping out of civilization, but all of them are very human.
I read this over 50 years ago - and it still resonates in my brain.
You will never forget this.
On The Beach is in my top 5 novels. I read it once a year, and it affects me every time, even though I now know what is going to happen. The scenes towards the end with the family with a young baby absolutely knock me for six.
I've been chasing the feeling this book gave me with other post-apocalyptic books. Haven't quite found anything as good. Make a recommendation!
Great book. Read it more than 20 years ago and I still remember it. Very haunting.
I read this book a few years ago and I still remember parts of it vividly. The way that the characters carry themselves in a world that has been 99+% depopulated and where their own lives are on a timer is heart-wrenchingly realistic.
I remember reading it when I was a kid, loved it. Been meaning to read it again actually.
I read this book in the 1960s. Shute was quite well known in those days, at least in Canada. Every time there is an international argument going on I think about it.
This book broke my heart. I read it last year but I still think about the baby... I have a young child so reading anything where a child dies just kills me. It's definitely a different apocalyptic book, and imo much quieter and more peaceful than how it would probably really go down. But that just made it more heartbreaking - everyone is just helpless and waiting to die, knowing no one will survive.