Dan Sandman

11: Fire Down Below by William Golding

In Adventure, Books, Fiction on 13/03/2015 at 12:00 pm

Fire Down Below by William GoldingIt is 1813, a ship is on its way from England to the antipodes. Onboard is Edmund Talbot, a young aristocrat set to receive a government position. As the vessel battles storms and icebergs, Edmund finds friendship and conflict with both crew and passengers. The ensuing tale is one of adventure, danger and romance; a most worhty end to this Nobel Prize winning story.

In many ways, the sea trilogy is a coming age series of novels; the journey of a young man whose charcater eventually turns against intellectual and emotional snobbery. And, as he travels, he is tutored by the people he meets and gets to know. There is Charles Summers, the seaman who helps Edmund to understand and respect the language and techniques of sailing; Mr. Prettimen, the philosopher who teaches him a new way of thinking about politics; and most imporatntly, Miss Chumley, who teaches him how to love a woman. All of these encounters, intensified by the lack of physical space and the need to maintain disipline, bring out the best in Edmund Talbot.

I read somewhere that before William Golding (1911 – 1993) wrote novels, he worked as a school teacher and a Royal Navy rocket ship commnader during World War Two. So I think it makes sense that his novels are often Bildungsroman (works of education) and usually involve some sort of seafaering element. Golding places characters in difficult circumstances–such as this year-long voyage, or being stuck on an island (Lord of the Flies), or building a faulty church (The Spire)–and is profoundly interest in human interaction. He was a wise man with much to say about the world and the meaning of our fragile lives.

Golding was knighted by the the Queen in 1988.


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