Heads and Tales Book Group -February 

On the BeachNeville Shute

Penguin 1957

Shute’s day time job as an aeronautical engineer gave him enough science to accurately imagine the end of all human life on the planet. The story is set around Melbourne in Australia where people are the last to die as a cloud of radioactivity spreads slowly southwards across the globe as a result of an accidental atomic war in the northern hemisphere. He describes the everyday reactions of government, the US navy, society and the home life of interlinked characters in his narrative. The story strongly reflects norms at the time. Its central message is that most folks continued with their plans, relationships, duties and pleasures in much the same way as in the past. Some were able to satisfy lifelong ambitions, indulgence was justified by much reduced life expectancy but acts with long term outcomes, which would not occur, were justified by the pleasure of doing them. Some painful and sacrificial choices were made through denials of a dramatic change in expectations.

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