I've never seen this movie, but I have seen the commercials for it. I have always thought this book was a thriller and picked it up based on that assumption. But... It wasn't. Or, it mostly wasn't. The last 25 pages (minus the epilogue) were thriller-esque, but that's not what this story is about.
What was it about? I'm not really sure. It feels like one of those books that are kind of infinitely interpretable. Every person who reads it may see something different in it. For my part, I didn't really feel like there was much of a story at all for most of the book, but then, maybe I just didn't see it because I'm not the type that would. I'm not the adventurous traveler type. I like to do fun things that I've planned for, and I'm not the pick-up-and-go-on-a-whim type. This book is full of jaded travelers... they've been everywhere that's anywhere, and crave something different, something that hasn't been turned into a tourist trap, something that still remains pure.
So, our intrepid travelers find the beach and are enchanted with it and the little commune of people who live there. Awesome... Except I don't get it. There were a lot of inconsistencies that just didn't work for me. Like our main character narrowly escaping armed guards on one part of the island, and then chatting up the next person he sees without a care in the world. No suspicion that this is another guard, just "Hey, how's it going?"
I also didn't really get the allure of the beach, or the Borg mentality surrounding it. I can understand wanting to preserve a secret place, but it just seemed that everyone was so extreme. I couldn't identify with really any of the characters except for Etienne. Actually, I take that back, I liked the main character, Richard, in the beginning, and then lost it as I kept reading. It was incredibly weird, because it was like as the story went along, I found myself kind of staring incredulously at my nook, wondering what the hell was happening, what everyone was thinking, what was wrong... I couldn't put my finger on any of it. Nothing was really happening at all, but it just kept feeling more and more "off" the longer I read.
Maybe that's what the author intended. It could be, and it would make sense. There's a definite surreal quality to this book, where things are and are not at the same time, and you're not really sure what we should believe and what we should dismiss. And it's told in 1st person, and Richard is not exactly a reliable narrator, so that only adds to the confusion and chaos... which again is out of place, because there's this underlying feeling of confusion and chaos, but very little is actually happening in the story, plot-wise.
It's very off-kilter, and isn't really my cup of tea.
But, even so. I'm giving this 3 stars, because even though the surreality and oddity and lack of tangible plot aren't my thing, I applaud the author's skill at writing this story, and doing so in a way that I felt all of these things while seemingly nothing was really happening. I'll admit that's pretty impressive. And honestly, I'm not even sure what it is about the writing that was so great. It wasn't written unusually, or with any gimmicky style or anything, just straight prose, but it was effective. During the Tet scene, I felt the chaos in the clearing, the celebratory vibe, I could almost hear a kind of primal drumbeat setting the tone...
So, while the story wasn't my thing, I thought the writing was very good, and justifies my giving this a higher rating than I would if it were based on story alone (which would likely be two stars, if you're curious).