Wednesday, 10 November 2010

31. The Lord of the Flies

When I had heard that American had banned this book in many of its schools I was a little surprised. I remember several classes in school reading this, pupils who were 14/15. I knew the general plot of this book; a group of boys crash land on a desert island. What I was not aware of was just how dark this book would become, and how quickly; so it was not long before I had an idea as to why the US banned this book. Golding moves quickly from fun and games for a bunch of young boys to murder and savagery.

Golding tells the story through Ralph, the main protagonist of the book who takes it upon himself to lead the group. Ralph isn’t a smart boy but with the help of Piggy- a myopic fat youngster with a quick mind-, he is able to establish some order within the group. The reader however, soon finds out that things aren’t going quite the way that Ralph hoped and it all goes awry within the group quite quickly.

The title of the book refers to a pig’s head on a stick teeming with flies, which the boys have hunted. The ‘Lord of the Flies’ sends one of the boys into a manic episode and ultimately many of the other islanders complete uncivilized savagery.

While Ralph tries his best to keep order on the island with the help of Piggy, Jack, Ralph’s rival for chief quickly removes many of the other boys from Ralph’s civilized world including Roger whose transformation from choirboy to reckless savage is terrifying.

As Ralph and Piggy try their hardest not to fall, there is glimpses of them almost turning before guilt drives them back. The ending of the book finds Ralph remorseful of his actions on the island; will the others join him?

I must admit I didn’t enjoy this book at first, and it was only the story that gripped me until the end. I found Golding’s writing style a bit heavy and wordy at times. However, it did give me a lot to think about and I enjoyed thinking about a lot of the symbolic and allegoric nature of the book.


Wednesday, 3 November 2010

30. What A Carve Up!

I pick up a lot of my books at charity shops. Obviously I can’t recall all 1001 books off the top of my head-although sometimes I wish I could! - So I keep a short list of books that look interesting in my handbag. ‘What a Carve Up!’ was one of those random books that I picked up for about £1 and has sat in my bookcase for about 2 years…I wish I’d picked it up sooner.

Coe borrows the title and the structure of the book from a 1960’s camp horror film. I needn’t have worried about watching the movie; the book is more than accessible and stands alone from the film.

The book chronicles the life of the Winshaws, a bunch of philandering, insane, unscrupulous, greedy…the list could go on lets just say they’re a bunch of ‘rich ne’er do wells’!

Michael Owen- a writer with plenty of this own problems- is commissioned by elderly spinster and asylum resident Tabitha Winshaw to chronicle the life of her family. The book is wonderfully split between Michael and his depressing life, which crumbles as he becomes desperately obsessed with the life of the Winshaws, and that of the 6 Winshaw grandchildren. Michael discovers that each of the six is immersed in some shady dealings; there’s a banker, an arms dealer, a politician, a farmer, an art dealer and a journalist. Each one is more dastardly than the last, and each is willing to do anything to be Top Dog in an 80’s world of Thatcherite’s and yuppies.

As Michael delves deeper into the dynasty he discovers that his life is more than slightly intertwined with the Winshaws. The more he tries to move away from them the more they keep cropping up, ending with a bringing together of the Winshaw clan that ends on an oddly ironic note for each of the group.

Coe’s style of writing is wonderful. The satire so sharp you can feel it coming through the page; who cares if the Winshaws are such caricatures’ it doesn’t matter the whole story is so shocking and the Winshaws so blunt you don’t care. There’s comedy that makes you laugh out loud, sadness that tears at your heart, gore that makes you cringe, and mystery that really surprises you.

The writing is accessible, the genres distinct, and the 80’s made to look like a wasteland of ‘Thatcherite Wankers’- and I loved it!