Cecily's book reviews

In general I've written reviews of every book I've read since I joined GoodReads (RIP) in May 08, along with one or two I read prior to that. More recent reviews tend to be longer (sometimes a tad too long?). I always carry a book, though I don't get as much time as I'd like to get engrossed - life is busy, but in a good way. Too many of my favourite authors died without writing enough! Apart from reading, and writing about reading, I enjoy Scrabble, good restaurants, woodland, and attending the theatre.
Lord of the Flies - William Golding A hard book to rate as although its well written and is very thought provoking, the content gets unpleasantly graphic and some aspects are awkwardly dated (eg the assumption the British boys should be jolly good chaps - “we’re not savages, we’re English”).

It starts off as a conventional adventure: a mixed group of boys (some know each other; many who don’t) survive a plane crash on a desert island and struggle to survive. It is somewhat confused and confusing at first – perhaps to make the reader empathise with the boys’ confusion.

From the outset there are issues of priorities (Jack’s instant gratification of hunting or Ralph’s long term need for shelter and maintaining a fire signal) and leadership and it’s inevitable that standards of “civilization” will slip.

There is also an infectious fear of “the beast”, although whether one interprets it as animal, airman, hallucination, or symbolic may vary at different points in the story. Certainly the tone of the book changes after Simon’s first encounter with Lord of the Flies.

Eventually the boys split into two groups: hunters who become ever more “savage” in appearance and behaviour, and the remainder who want to retain order, safety, common sense – and their lives. Why do the obedient and angelic choir turn to savagery - does the fact they have an identified leader, who isn't the overall leader once they're on the island, contribute? One also wonders how the story might be different if it was a mixed sex group, or even an all girl group. Very different, certainly, and I suppose it would provide a distraction to what Golding was trying to say about human (or just male?) nature.

It illustrates how petty bullying can be condoned and encouraged within groups (exacerbated by rituals, chanting, body markings etc) and how it can escalate to much worse. Nevertheless, one of the main victims, Piggy, is proud of his differences, demonstrates knowledge and intelligence and actually grows in confidence as his leader loses his.

It questions whether it is power or the environment that makes some of the boys so bad (echoes of Zimbardo’s prison experiments and Milgram’s obedience experiments - if a book can echo things which came after it was written).

The more Christian concept of original sin runs through it, which was probably Golding's intention (his editor made him make Simon less Jesus-like), along with other Christian analogies relating to snakes, devils (aka Lord of the Flies), self sacrifice, and redemption/rescue.

And then there are the conch and fire as symbols of order and god, respectively, in total contrast to the warpaint etc of the warriors.

Lots to think about, but more the stuff of nightmares than dreams.

It's interesting to compare this with The Hunger Games, which modern teens probably find much easier to relate to (my review here: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/177445520).

Currently reading

The Illustrated Gormenghast Trilogy
Sebastian Peake, China Miéville, Mervyn Peake
Mervyn Peake