The Spire

15807020Title: The Spire.

Author: William Golding.

Summary: The vision that drives Dean Jocelin to construct an immense new spire above his cathedral tests the limits of all who surround him. The foundationless stone pillars shriek and the earth beneath them heaves under the structure’s weight as the Dean’s will weighs down his collapsing faith.

Rating: ★★★☆☆ 3/5

Review: I almost gave up on this book within in the first two chapters, but i’m glad i didn’t. It was a bit too much like a soap opera for my liking, with nothing to string the chapters together except Jocelin’s very slow descent into madness, and the drama (bullying, rivalries, affairs and family) between the characters.

Essentially the story is about Jocelin. The spire—Jocelin’s folly, as it is known throughout—is something Jocelin believes he was destined to build. It is also not-so-subtly symbolic of Jocelin’s manhood and his increasing physical attraction to Goody, a female character who soon starts up an affair with Roger, the master builder. Roger then (it is alluded to) murders Goody’s husband before she herself dies giving birth to Roger’s child (see what i mean about a soap opera?).

All that was entertaining enough, but Jocelin was the focus. He sees all this drama going on around him, within his church and around the building of the spire, but he pays no mind to it. All he cares about is that his spire is built.

Throughout the book i entertained myself with theories regarding Jocelin, never taking any of them too seriously. They included possession, mental illness and a brain tumour. Mental illness was spot on, and a brain tumour turned out to be tuberculosis, but i was in the ball park. In his obsessive behaviour towards the spire, and his determination to ignore everything else (the lives of the people around him, his own feelings and even his own illness), made me view Jocelin as quite one dimensional. That may be unfair, but it is how he viewed his limited world, so it is how i chose to view him.

I was disappointed that we didn’t get to see the spire fall. I was hoping Jocelin would be crushed under it; his folly truly accomplished. But i can live with the idea that Jocelin didn’t get to see it fall. By the end he had begun to regret his actions, and acknowledge the pain he had brought to so many people. He accepts his attraction to Goody, and begins to doubt his faith because of it:

“And what is heaven to me unless I go in holding him by one hand and her by the other?”

I enjoyed this book. Golding has such a way with words that can make almost any line, taken out of context, into an interesting quote. My favourite from this book being:

“I am here; and here is nowhere in particular.”

But my favourite part of this book, the part that had me smiling each and every time Jocelin referenced it, was Father Anonymous:

“Father Adam!”
But the little man said nothing, did nothing. He stood still holding the letter, and there was not even a change of expression in his face; and this might be, thought Jocelin, because he has no face at all. He is the same all round like the top of a clothespeg. He spoke, laughing down at the baldness with its fringe of nondescript hair.
“I ask your pardon, Father Adam. One forgets you are there so easily!” And then, laughing aloud in joy and love— “I shall call you Father Anonymous!”


About Wendleberry
I'm odd.

2 Responses to The Spire

  1. Oh, dear – only three out five stars for The Spire! I am gutted – surely one of the greatest modern books in the English language by an author considered to be so good he got the Nobel prize for literature. Can I suggest that The Spire needs to be read as a story about man’s relationship with god, and with his own spiritual awareness – that it it is about how religion and spiritual beliefs can become distorted by ego and desire – or put it another way by the problem of being human. Or to put it even another way – Jocelyn’s spire is a prayer made out of stone in worship of his god but as it is also a huge phallic symbol, he can’t separate the prayer from his own human (animal) frailty. The Spire is really like a long poem or a symphony musing on what it means to be human. (yeah, OK, on the other hand I suppose most soap operas do that too..!)
    Finally think about it as film – Golding wrote pictures in words – isn’t there something about the solid light at the beginning of the book – which is like every cinematographer’s wet-dream! The Spire has a lot of levels to it and like an onion it unravels to reveal more and more… Come on – that’s got to be worth a five star rating… Hasn’t it?

    • Wendleberry says:

      To be honest, the examination of religion and beliefs is not something i am hugely interested in, and for that to be the entire focus of a book, will not appeal to me.
      I definitely got a visual cinematic sense from the start of the book, but it needs more than that. It needs substance that actually interests and entertain me, which this book, unfortunately, didn’t have enough of.
      I loved Lord of the Flies and The Inheritors, and will continue to read Golding, but this one didn’t quite do it for me.

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