I’m heading to the coast again tomorrow, which got me thinking about books with beach settings. Not guilty-pleasure novels to read while sunbathing at the beach, but literary classics that take place amid the sand and surf. There’s probably many out there, but I decided to pick my favorite and least favorite to share with you:
Soak it all in: The Stranger by Albert Camus (1942)
The quintessential existential novel about a French Algerian named Meursault who shoots an Arab man on the beach during a stay with a friend, for apparently no other reasons other than he was hot and the sun was in his eyes. His apathy is both hilarious and disturbing, as the reader follows him through his imprisonment and trial. You’ll love him, hate him, and call him crazy, but what Camus demonstrates is that sometimes there isn’t a reason for everything, that the world doesn’t have to make sense. If you’re super religious or a believer in fate, then you might not like this book, but if you enjoy a story which makes you ponder whether there’s a meaning of life at all, then The Stranger is definitely for you!
Hang it out to dry: To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf (1927)
I’ve already said that the thing I hate the most in literature is stream-of-consciousness, which is why I can’t stand this book or anything else by Woolf. This story is SO boring, because nothing ever happens. Part I opens with Mrs. Ramsay telling her son James that they’ll go to the lighthouse the next day. Some friends visit for a dinner party, but no lighthouse. Then it cuts to Part II ten years later, after World War I, and Mrs. Ramsay and a couple of her children are dead. Still no lighthouse. By the time James sails to the lighthouse with his family in Part III, they actually don’t want to visit it anymore and when they do, they discover that it wasn’t at all what they imagined. And that’s it. Seriously, if my life was that dreary and unexciting, I’d pull a Woolf and stuff rocks in my pockets and drown myself in a river too.
What other books come to mind when you think about the beach? And for those of you familiar with these two selections, what did you think about them?