As the old year ended and the New Year of 1966 began I made the most of the last week or so of my holidays before getting my head down for studies in my home classroom.
Naturally I was enjoying the English studies, especially the literature. I have read, seen or appeared in a number of Shakespeare’s masterpieces and no longer have a clear memory of which one I studied that year.
I do remember the major work of fiction I studied, however. It was William Golding’s brilliant vision of how the thin veneer of civilisation that coats us all can be so easily stripped away: Lord of the Flies.
Young people who grew up in the 60s are sure to remember this book and the film released in 1964 which brought to life the schoolboys stranded on a Pacific island with no adults to guide them.
It was a well-made film but the book was far better because more was left to the reader’s imagination. After all it was the imagination of those boys that created real monsters from their own minds.
I was used to creating my own visions from the books I had read. Those of my childhood had been left behind and for almost five years I had been browsing my parents’ bookcases as well as the packed shelves of the municipal library.
At home I could choose from classics such as Alexander Dumas or the more recent tales of Maigret by Simenon, or fall in between with Conan Doyle’s Baker Street detective or Bronte’s Jane Eyre.
Now I had a new author to discover. If an author wrote more than one book then it was down to me to see if all the books were the same story or whether they varied.
There appeared to be one theme running through Golding’s first three books – survival; but the means of survival or lack thereof, were treated in differing ways.
If a book is written in isolation then it can only be read that way; but if there is more than one (and I don’t mean a series) then they all need to be considered when making a judgment on any.
It sounds like some form of philosophical meandering but at the time it was an early entry into literary review.
Of the three books I still think the first was the best but maybe that is because it was a plot that I was closest to in that I was a boy and could imagine what boys might do on a deserted island with no adult supervision.
I could not yet turn my imagination to existence in prehistoric terms, even when that is the direction the boys had been heading.
Harder still was to see myself as Pincher Martin, surviving alone on an island when he had already died before being washed up on the island’s shore.
Many years later I read all three again and now found myself feeling a greater affinity with Lok than with Ralph and Jack but still failing to find that empathy with Pincher Martin.
We all take something from every book we read and it helps us to grow. Not necessarily physical growth but certainly a growth in understanding.
Tomorrow: the exams loom and another decision on my future must be taken.