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.