– Richard: a british traveller, who comes to Bangkok and gets a map to a secret hidden beach. He has seen every movie about Vietnam, and he sometimes believes being there. He also is addicted to video games.
– Daffy Duck: the man who gives Rich the map; he had been on the beach before and had left it for some reason. After his death, he often appears in Richs daydreams. He always speaks about Vietnam, and he knows everything before it happens.
– Etienne and Francoise: a french couple that Rich meets in Bangkok. He shows them the map, and together they go to the beach.
– Zeph and Sammy: two Americans who are given a map of the beach by Rich.
– Sal and Bugs: Sal’s the leader of the community, Bugs is her boyfriend. They were the first people on the Beach, together with Daffy.
– Jed and Keaty: two friends of Richard on the beach. Keaty has a gameboy, on which he and Rich often play; Jed is always on a mission spying out if there are people coming to the island.
The story starts in Bangkok, where Richard is led into a guesthouse by a man sitting beside the road. There, he gets into an argument with the man in the room next to him. The man, who calls himself Daffy Duck, is talking about some hidden beach, and he tells Richard that he won’t let him alone anymore. The next day, Richard finds a map taped on his door which describes the way to the beach. As he looks into mr Duck’s room, he is lying there with his wrists slit. From now on, he will never let Richard be alone, he will follow him in his daydreams and make him go mad.
At the police station, Rich meets Etienne and Francoise, who are staying in the same guesthouse, and tells them about the map. They persuade him to try to reach this mysterious beach, and so the next day they start their trip.
On Ko Samui, a station on their way, Richard meets Zeph and Sammy, and before leaving, he draws a map and slips it under the door of their hut.
R,E;F hire a fisherboat to bring them to the island next to the beach, and from there they swim.
They manage to reach the island, even though its a long swim, and after having passed an obstacle course including some grass fields and a waterfall which they have to jump down, they finally reach the camp.
Once arrived, they assimilate very quickly to the beach live. They help to catch fish for eating, and Richard becomes friends with Keaty.
When there is no more rice to eat, Richard and Jed have to go to the continent to get some more. There, Jed buys the rice while Rich is hanging around. When they meet again to take the rice back to the beach, Jed tells Rich that he heard two Americans talking to some german people about a map to the beach, and that they were using Richs name. Rich is alarmed: this must be Zeph and Sammy!
Some days later, Sal asks Rich to join Jed on his journeys on the island, because there are some other people on the next island. Luckily, she doesn’t know that Rich knows them. So Rich doesn’t see his other friends anymore, because he is always out on the island, and he becomes very lonely. Jed and he start to play games, they pretend being in Vietnam while they are watching the people on the other island.
One day, as they get back to the camp, everything is in a mess because Keaty had catched a dead squid and they had all eaten of it. In the camp, there had also been an argument between Bugs and Keaty. Bugs had hit Keaty, and the others had taken the part for one of them, so the camp is now divided in two parts.
At the same time, the people on the other island are coming over to the beach island on a raft they had built. Jed is looking after the sick people in the camp, and Rich has to watch what’s going on with the rafters. So, from now on, he’s out alone all day, smoking grass and talking to his imaginary friend mister Duck.
Sal, who is worried about the troubles in the camp, talks to them about the Tet festival, which marks the day of their arrival. She wants everybody to be happy again, so she tells them that they should forgive each other and be friends again by the time of this festival.
Now, as the rafters reach the island and get into the grass fields, they are very excited. They jump around and cry, so that they are heard and caught by the guards. They are carried away and shot down. Richard, who is hidden in the trees, sees all that, but he doesn’t intervene because he is afraid of being killed himself.
The people in the camp had heard the gunshots, and as they didn’t know what that was they believe that Rich is a killer. Now they’re all afraid of getting shot one after another.
So, as Rich and Etienne meet, they have an argument. Rich convinces Etienne that he’s not a killer, and he proposes him to leave the island the same night. Etienne agrees, and they also persuade Francoise, Keaty and Jed to join them.
The same night, the Tet festival takes place. It ends in a fiasco: the cook had put a drug in the coconut beer, and now everyone is tripping, except the escapers which had been attentive not to drink or eat too much.
Suddenly, the dope field guards turn up with the dead bodies of the rafters. They warn the people not to tell anyone about the island anymore or they’d all get killed. The people, gone mad with fear, start to stab with their knives into the dead bodies. And as Sal finds the map Rich had drawn for Zeph and Sammy, she turns completely mad and starts stabbing him. The others join her, and they put intestines of the dead bodies around Rich, until they are too tired to do anything anymore. Then, finally, Jed comes and releases Rich from his pain, and they leave.
The book ends with Richard remembering how they got home and telling what had happened since, writing an epilogue to that book.
the book is written from Richs view, in form of a first person narrator. It is written in chronological order, so you easily understand everything, although ist a bit long. Ist main theme is the mental illness, first of all how Rich with his Vietnam stuff slowly gets mad, but also how the use of drugs gets everyone else mad, although Sal had meant the festival to be a sign of the unity of the camp. I would like to read two text excerpts to show you what I mean:
s.323, richard and mr Duck: this is the turning point for Richard. Having been alone out on the island for days, his imaginary friend mr Duck gets more and more powerful and takes over Richard. Before, Rich had been sane enough to distinguish dream and reality, but from now on he would believe mr Duck was real, he would talk to him as with a real person, and he would act as if he were in Vietnam and not on his beach. This is also the turning point of the whole story, because soon after it the people on the other island would start their raft, and the whole madness on the beach would begin.
s.428, Sal stabbing Sammy :Sammy is dead! So you see, they must really have gone mad to cut his head off and such things. There had some drug been put in the beer, and it had been Sals intention to put all the people together again in a happy trip. But after the turning-up of the dope guards everything had turned into terror. So something that had been meant in a good way had finally broken the camp up, and after this happening their dream of a secret community on a hidden place had finally been destroyed.
while reading this book, I was never bored; I often wondered what might happen next. As I haven’t seen the movie I didn’t know what the book was about, and so I was really interested in the story. But after having finished the book, I asked myself what was the point. The whole story seemed very unreal to me, and I asked myself what the author had written this book for. I think I wouldn’t read it again, and I would only recommend you this book as a matura lecture if you like this type of books, although ist very easy to read.