Saturday, 18 February 2017

LORD OF THE FLIES by William Golding

It's great to re-read a classic and find out it's still a classic. One feels like this one in particular ought to have aged, with its nuclear anxiety and its public school boys, but I found it still as fresh as this morning's coffee.

LORD OF THE FLIES tells the story of a group of school boys whose plane crash lands on an island with no adults. It all then goes fairly wrong, fairly fast. It's high school with the brakes off.

LORD OF THE FLIES was Golding's first novel, and was written when he was working as a school teacher. It certainly shows - he understands the world of children very well, and I like the idea of him sitting at his desk in class, imaginging which of his children would be the first to be picked off, and by who, once the adults were out of the way. It's a compelling, child-eye view of the world which is rare in fiction. Here they are, off to find the monster they think hides in the mountains: "the darkness and desperate enterprise gave the night a kind of dentist's chair unreality." By the end you are truly afraid of the twelve-year-olds, and it is a real shock when an adult finally arrives on the island, and you see one of the most frightening characters suddenly reduced to "a little boy who wore the remains of an extraordinary black cap on his red hair and who carried the remains of a pair of spectacles on his waist."

It's a fantastic idea for a novel, fantastically well executed. Reading the author's biography, I see Golding continued to write for the rest of his life, but never again achieved such success. One always feels for those for whom success comes at the beginning, making all else an anti-climax; but I guess that's still way better than no success at all. Rather one classic to your name than - as with the rest of us - none.

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