Book Review: Lord Of The Flies by William Golding

Lord Of The Flies - Header

I think it is fair to say that every school child in the UK, within living memory, has almost certainly read Lord of the Flies by William Golding. And it’s probably fair to say, that the majority have probably not picked it up and re-read it since! I know I certainly hadn’t, but it’s funny how a chance encounter, a brief mention, can unlocked a closed thought and draw you back.

Spend any time on my site and it’ll become apparent that I’m battling with anorexia, and as part of that fight, I am currently seeing a clinical psychologist. And it was in one of our sessions, were for reasons I can’t really remember, Lord of the Flies came into conversation, only fleetingly, used as a way of exampling a definition. Nothing more. Gone as quickly as it arrived. Yet, that mere mention was enough to make me want to go back and read it again. To relive the story and the imagery that William Golding brought to life.

Lord O The Flies - Book

And so, it has been my “meal time” reading over Christmas, and having just finished it, I can safely say that I will now slink back into not going to pick that up again any time soon camp in which I used to reside. I hate to say it, but I really didn’t enjoy it. And am quite thankful, that it’s as short as it is.

Firstly, written by Golding in the 1950s, the language is very much of era and the turn of phrase and specific constructs, I hate to admit, but I found hard to read. It didn’t really flow in my head and quite often I found myself having to re-read sentences and sections to take it all in. It’s not hard, long or complicated in the words it uses, but rather, it just orders then in a way that is no longer current. It’s the Queen’s English, and I live in the age of Twitter.

And this difficulty with the language spilled over into the world Golding was creating. I found the book very hard to picture in my head. While I created a mental image of the island, the boys and the events that unfold, they were never that clear. And certainly, a long way off from the world Golding accounts with detail as the book progresses. So far removed from the descriptions in the book I found myself, I almost think it would be interesting to roughly sketch out my map of the island, it’s shape and proportions and see how it correlates to more learned minds take on the tale.

Lord Of The Flies - Island

Where I really did enjoy the book though is in its look at society, structure, hierarchy and anarchy. The psychology themes that run through it are very clearly laid out and easy to follow. You can quickly see why this book is often taught and examined on the school curriculum. And while, the staggering nature of the events unfolding spiral out of control in the book, and almost start to verge on the ridiculously outrageous, they also feel totally correct. The structure, timeline and path that causes the chain reaction taps into that inner caveman we all have that says, when the rules are removed, this is what will happen whether we like the idea or not.

Coming back to reread the book after such a long break produced another unexpected problem for me as well, one of ignorant foresight. While I knew and/or could remember the rough outline of the book, many years of storage had blurred the lines. So, I kept thinking ahead, waiting for things I thought happened to do so, only to find they never did as I planned, or even at all. And it became a frustrating annoyance.

Lord Of The Flies - William Golding

Sadly though, for all my problems with memories of old and incomprehensible language, the reason I didn’t enjoy this book anywhere near as much as I was expecting to, was simply because for me it focuses so heavily on its major themes that it never stops to tie up loose ends, or answer any ongoing questions. It marches forward, fairly rapidly and with enough emotional turns to get the heart racing, or the angst flowing, but leaves every door seemingly open. There are major questions that deserved a better explanation than Golding affords them. And the ending feels more like a simple “cop out” rather than a satisfactory conclusion. It’s almost as if Golding felt he cornered himself in the path he trod and taking such an overly simplistic and unlikely way out was his only option left before pushing acceptability too far.

I’m glad I read the book, it’s certainly made my morning porridge and lunchtime soup more interesting, but ultimately, now I’m an adult, I think it’s a book best left in the class rooms of schools.

Posted on by 5WC in Book First Edition

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