Author: William Golding
Publisher: Faber and Faber
Published: 1954 (this edition has been published since 1958)
William Golding’s Lord of the Flies is a classic I’ve been meaning to read for quite some time. It tells the story of a group of schoolboys who find themselves marooned on a remote island as the result of a plane crash. As the only people on the entire island, they soon establish their own kind of hierarchical system of law and order. The novel takes its name from the hideous monster the boys soon begin to believe is visiting them in the middle of the night. I’d been looking forward to reading this book because, despite being rather ‘dark’, I thought this premise sounded rather interesting- especially the idea of such young children being tasked with establishing their own democracy. My problem with the novel, however, was that it manages to be just a little too bleak. It’s a slow, monotonous start that never really improves since the characters never manage to encounter any kind of good fortune. In my opinion, Lord of the Flies is just one of those novels one can’t imagine anyone actively enjoying or staying up late to finish.
I had several issues with this book, but one of the most prominent was definitely its dislikeable characters and lack of character development. There are so many different children that readers don’t really get to know, and consequently like, any of them. Even the darkly humorous idea of the children trying to establish some kind of democracy on the island grows weary after a while. After the children light a fire (what else?) in the vague hope of attracting the attention of potential rescuers, the storyline reaches an all time low as we are treated to pages and pages describing the children in the continuous routine of failing to hunt, tending to the fire for a while and then waiting on the beach in hope of spotting a ship. Spending so much time together inevitably leads to the boys squabbling- yet another thing readers will tire of after a short while. The only time readers will be vaguely entertained by the characters is when they are in the midst of their humorous attempts to establish some kind of order or punish wrong-doers. This ultimately fails, with some admittedly rather amusing consequences. As a Brit and self-confessed herbal tea addict, the only time I laughed or cracked a vague smile for the duration of the book was when the boys moaned about the lack of tea available on desert islands!
Another thing I found when in the midst of this book was that, unusually for an avid reader like myself, I just didn’t feel like sitting down and picking it up. No matter how bad a book is I almost always want to see how the story concludes, yet in this instance I simply found I felt a complete disregard for both the plot and the characters. Moreover, I fell into the habit of skim-reading large swathes of the text in this book- another thing I never normally do- which resulted in me missing some details. I realised this at the time, however I simply couldn’t get lost in this book the way I normally do. I will concede that this book is well-written (the only thing saving it from being awarded just one star), but this is lost on a book with such a monotonous pace and poor character development.
Finally, despite sounding appealing, I found I didn’t even like the plot of this novel when I actually began to read it. In fact, I soon became unnerved by the way Golding appears to take some kind of sadistic pleasure in torturing his young characters with the monster. One simply feels uncomfortable reading about young children being put in such a situation, eevnthough we eventually discover the monster is simply an imaginary product of the children’s mounting paranoia about their situation. I further felt uncomfortable with the idea of children murdering eachother, which I’m sure most readers of this book will understand! Unfortunately, feeling uncomfortable with this meant feeling uncomfortable with the book’s entire plot since this is basically all it constitutes. Unless you’re a huge horror fan or someone who delights in the slowest of ‘alow-burners’ then its lack of any redeeming qulaities means I really wouldn’t recommend Lord of the Flies!