Darkness Visible, William Golding, 1979

Given the amount of original thought and feeling in the works of Nobel prize winner William Golding, it’s hard to know where to begin. Free Fall, The Inheritors, Pincher Martin – each of these is unique and dazzling, and we’re lucky to have The Spire and Lord of the Flies, too. Like the latter novel, Darkness Visible is less a book to warm to, than to admire.

Matty, orphaned and disfigured victim of the Blitz, meets with a series of icy rebuffs from his fellow pupils in a Catholic boarding school. He increasingly retreats into a visionary world as Sophie, criminal mastermind; Sim a besotted antiquarian book dealer; and Pedigree, a paedophile, form what would be, for most authors, a mere circle of grotesques. Golding obviously learned a great deal from reading Faulkner, including how to avoid Faulknerian excess.

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