Thursday, 17 December 2015


I loved Shute’s ON THE BEACH as a teenager, so was excited when I found this in a second hand bookstore. It has a great premise. A man arrives back at his parents’ home in Australia after fighting in the Second World War to find that their maid has just killed herself. He regards this as mostly inconvenient – until he finds out that this woman is in fact the former fiancé of his dead brother, for whom he has been searching for years. Where is this going to go! Why was she there? Why did she kill herself?

The answers are not as interesting as the questions. After the war, the woman was overwhelmed with grief, and with guilt about her role in the war, and so wanders the world, vaguely suicidal, until she decides to go and visit her dead fiance’s family. For reasons I couldn’t follow, but seem to be mostly about embarrassment, she doesn’t introduce herself, but rather signs up to help them as a housemaid. British people are sometimes truly inscrutable. Then, when she learns that her fiance’s brother is coming back, who she knows will recognise her, she decides to kill herself rather than face a reveal she thinks will be traumatic.

I don’t know. It was hard to relate. Maybe it’s a profound story of PSTD and I’m just not following.

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