The Khao San Road, Bangkok - first stop for the hordes of rootless young Westerners traveling in Southeast Asia. On Richard's first night there, a fellow traveler slashes his wrists, bequeathing to Richard a meticulously drawn map to "the Beach."
The Beach, as Richard comes to learn, is a subject of legend among the young travelers in Asia: a lagoon hidden from the sea, with white sand and coral gardens, freshwater falls surrounded by jungle, plants untouched for thousands of years. There, it is rumored, a carefully selected international few have settled into a communal Eden.
Richard sets off with a young French couple to an island hidden away in an archipelago forbidden to tourists. They discover the Beach, and it is as beautiful as it is reputed to be. Yet over time it becomes clear that Beach culture, as Richard calls it, has troubling, even deadly undercurrents.
After watching this movie recently, I decided to hunt up the book and read it. Ever so glad I did. This was a remarkable read. While very similar to the movie, it was also very different and filled with more depth.
The characters were so well written I felt like I was there standing on the sidelines watching the book play out. I kept thinking would a secret "Beach" really be paradise? I think for a short time it might but at the same time I imagine the seclusion from the world would be detrimental to ones state of mind.
Richard is the main character so you mostly see this world through his viewpoint. Backpacking through Thailand he is given a map to a secret Beach. Richard being the curious guy he is decides he must see for himself and he talks to French backpackers into going with him. After traveling for a few days and swimming from one island to the another, they find the Beach. At first it seems like one would imagine, paradise. They settle in almost immediately. Feeling as if they have found a home away from the world. You get a really good idea how life was on the Beach for everyone. You can sense how close knit the community was but at the same time you could see the tears in seams. You could tell that while it appeared to be strong, it was indeed very fragile.
The book takes you on Richards journey to the Beach and back. It's a journey I highly recommend you take if you happen across the book. I think you will be pleasantly surprised how the book settles under your skin leaving you thinking long after you have put it down.
Disclaimer: I review books both bought and received from authors/publishers, etc. To be in compliance with the upcoming FTC policies, if a book I am reviewing came to me for review from a publisher/author I will state so in my review.