I started dipping into John Carey’s new biography of William Golding yesterday. Lord of the Flies – Giles Cooper’s radio dramatisation, Peter Brook’s film and the book itself, which I was given to read by an inspired English teacher when I was the same age as the boys it features – played a big part in my childhood education. I loved it, and as with Orwell’s Animal Farm, read the book several times over.
So there was a little bit of coming home when some years ago I came to live in the town where Golding grew up, and now regularly walk with my young daughter past the blue plaque put on his family’s house (left end of row in the photo above) by Marlborough town council. Carey’s book seems to be that of a literary critic (which of course he is), using the extraordinary texts to which he had access, but drawing little from the places Golding knew. So here is Golding’s house as it looks today. It doesn’t take much imagination to feel the darkness that seeped into Golding from the old graves. The house backs onto the churchyard and St Mary’s east end, as if both are thrusting themselves on through the walls, down into the ground floor – let alone the cellar – and on eastwards across the open green: like a portal whose gates fail to stem the flow of death.
And if you come here to see the house, and the school where Golding was educated and his father taught, and all the other little places that knit together the stories of his youth, you might drop into the library at the other end of town. Golding’s The Ladder & the Tree, his essay about Marlborough written for the Listener in 1960, was reprinted by the Marlborough College Press the following year. I imagine this pamphlet is sought after by certain collectors. But courtesy of our public libraries, you can sit in the town where Golding spent his “life, childhood, boyhood and more”, and enjoy it for free.