AUTHORShute, Nevil
TITLEOn the Beach
PUBLISHERBallantine Books
CITYNew York, NY

Nevil Shute created such a reaction with this 1957 novel that the Eisenhower administration used TV and radio messages to quell public fears of atomic warfare. The story portrays how humanity deals with its own extermination. It takes place in the early 1960s after a 37-day atomic battle fought by the major nations of the world. The deadly fallout of cobalt bombs wipes out civilization in the northern hemisphere. Those in the southern hemisphere have three months to live before the radiation kills them as well. Peter Holmes, the main character, is a lieutenant commander in the Royal Australian Navy with a wife and newborn baby. Nuclear war is a distant, yet continuous presence in the novel as people rush, in a peaceful and measured fashion, to live their dreams in mere months. The Australians commit mass suicide to escape the agony of radiation sickness. The title page quotes T.S. Eliot: “This is the way the world ends, not with a bang, but a whimper”. The novel, while not quite literature, conveys a true sense of sorrow and futility in atomic warfare. The book has also been made into a movie.

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