Book Reviews


This week the Wellbeing Zone is promoting emotional wellness. Physical or mental illnesses and stress at work, college or home can leave us all desperate for an escape. The three texts below take place in alternative communities, where like-minded people distance themselves from the outside world. Presented as Utopias, or perfect worlds, these towns and islands are often hard to leave- rules, rather than comfort, compel you to stay, and outsiders are treated with extreme suspicion. Do any of these locations offer a real alternative to the stress of everyday life?


The Beach which features in Alex Garland’s novel of the same name is supposedly a myth- untouched by the tourism industry which has wrecked much of mainland Thailand, the waters are clear, the sand is pure white, and drugs like marijuana are plentiful and free. English traveller Richard spends night after sleepless night in a hostel, thanks to his Scottish neighbour Daffy’s drug-fuelled nightmares. One morning, Richard wakes to find a map stuck under his bedroom door, and Daffy (who has signed in under ‘Mr Daffy Duck’) dead of suicide. Richard and French tourists Francois and Etienne examine the map and decide that they can swim the entire way to the island. Finally arriving at a cliff, the group make a brave leap and are met by the islanders, led by Bugs (as in Bunny) and Sal, or ‘Sal’-vester. The first months go by peacefully, and Richard finds a place amongst the fishermen, successfully punching a shark! However, it is not to last, as the group discover Richard gave a copy of the map to two Americans. Unaware that half the beach is ruled by a gang of Thai druglords, these new arrivals are caught and executed, breaking a fragile truce. The leaders cannot ensure Richard’s safety, and as the beach-dwellers grow hysterical he must fight to find a way out. This book contains (many) scenes of drug use, so we recommend it to older readers only. Located in the BOOK ZONE 823.91 GAR.

beach groupLeonardo DiCaprio and Tilda Swinton star in the film adaptation of The Beach.

The Wicker Man (DVD LOBBY 791.43) is a cult classic for good reason! Police Sergeant Howie is sent to a remote Scottish island to search for a young missing girl. Howie is a staunch Christian and is disturbed by the islanders’ pagan beliefs, which date back to the time of their ancestors. The child, Rowan, was chosen as last year’s May Queen, but her photo has been removed from the village pub. When Howie learns that the harvest failed, leaving the village without a source of income, he begins to think that Rowan has been sacrificed. As the villagers prepare their costumes for another ritual, Howie steals a mask and goes to confront their leader, Lord Summerisle. The scene which follows has become a benchmark for English horror, and may put you off folk music for a while… Find he Wicker Man in the DVD LOBBY 791.43

wicker man

Herland (BOOK ZONE 823.8 GIL) was written in 1915 by feminist author Charlotte Perkins Gilman. Three adventurers find a legendary female colony which values learning and teaching above all else. One of the men remains convinced that wives should serve their husbands, and his behaviour puts the group at risk. Can the men return to mixed society, now they’ve experienced life under female rule? In With Her In Ourland, the sequel to Herland, Herlander Ellador finds herself stranded in Europe at the height of World War One. Her painstaking critique of the bloody conflict leaves her adventurer husband Vandyke desperate to return to Herland to raise their son. Will the males be welcome back?


Email the Wellbeing Team at or visit the Information Store for help with drugs and alcohol, eating disorders, self-harming, bullying and stalking, domestic violence, body image, depression, anxiety or stress.


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