Eden Book Club: The Beach Discussion
Alex Garland’s The Beach takes the dark underbelly of a Western backpacker’s mindset and splits it open. Thoughts of idealism, utopia, and travel superiority slither out—guts spill, confessions convulse.
The Beach is an anti-backpacker story with a wolfish energy. Richard’s appetite for the newness and exoticism of travel is maddening and intense. Ravenous for paradise, he sets out in search of the beach.
This novel had me up multiple nights. The suspense tied my stomach into knots and made me wish I wasn’t a slow reader. I can’t wait to hear how you feel about this book. Let me know all your thoughts in the discussion below!
Book Club Discussion Guidelines
Discussion posts (like this one) will have a series of questions as starting points. But honestly, you can talk about whatever you want regarding the books. You don’t have to answer all (or any) of the questions. I’d still love to hear your thoughts!
You can join in regardless of whether you’ve read, not read, or DNF’d the book! I understand that not everyone has the time to read or finish the book so I try to include a general discussion question as well to make the discussions more inclusive.
The Beach Discussion Questions
- The Beach is often hailed in the backpacker community as one of the best backpacker books. A quote frequently latched onto is “Tourists went on holidays while travelers did something else. They traveled.” Yet, in an interview, author Alex Garland said, “The Beach was meant to be a criticism of this backpacker culture, not a celebration of it.” Why do you think the messaging of The Beach got misconstrued?
- Had you heard of The Beach prior to this book club (or seen the movie)? What were your expectations going into the book?
- How do you feel about the length and pacing of The Beach?
- How important are pop culture references to the story? Do you feel like they added to (or subtracted from) the novel?
- Why do you think Richard, Francoise, and Etienne felt so compelled to find the beach? What do you think drove their travels?
- “Collecting memories, or experiences, was my primary goal when I first started traveling. I went about it in the same way as a stamp collector goes about collecting stamps, carrying around with me a mental list of all the things I had yet to see or do. Most of the list was pretty banal. I wanted to see the Taj Mahal, Borobudur, the Rice Terraces in Banave, Angkor Wat. Less banal, or maybe more so, was that I wanted to witness extreme poverty. I saw it as a necessary experience for anyone who wanted to appear worldly and interesting (pg. 138).” What does Alex Garland reveal about the nature of bucket lists through Richard’s thoughts?
- How do you feel about the way Garland portrays assimilation (of Western backpackers trying to fit into Eastern culture)?
- How does Mister Duck reflect Richard’s declining mental health?
- How does Jed’s time with Christo feed into the main themes of The Beach? How did Jed’s feelings about Christo impact your perception of the story?
- In what ways does The Beach expose travel superiority? How do you feel about travel superiority?
September 2023 Book Club Pick
Let me know your thoughts in the comments below! Of course, these are just starter questions. There are no right or wrong answers. Feel 100% free to discuss anything regarding the book (or otherwise). I’ll be jumping in and responding as well!