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Close Quarters (Sea Trilogy) [Paperback]

William Golding
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
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Book Description

7 Aug 2000 Sea Trilogy

In a wilderness of heat, stillness and sea mists, a ball is held on a ship becalmed halfway to Australia. In this surreal, fête-like atmosphere the passengers dance and flirt, while beneath them thickets of weed like green hair spread over the hull.

The sequel to Rites of Passage, Close Quarters, the second volume in Golding's acclaimed sea trilogy, is imbued with his extraordinary sense of menace. Half-mad with fear, with drink, with love and opium, everyone on this leaky, unsound hulk is 'going to pieces'. And in a nightmarish climax the very planks seem to twist themselves alive as the ship begins to come apart at the seams.


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Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber; New Ed edition (7 Aug 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571191452
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571191451
  • Product Dimensions: 12.7 x 19.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 231,328 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

William Golding was born in Cornwall in 1911 and was educated at Marlborough Grammar School and at Brasenose College, Oxford. Before he became a schoolmaster he was an actor, a lecturer, a small-boat sailor and a musician. A now rare volume, Poems, appeared in 1934. In 1940 he joined the Royal Navy and saw action against battleships, submarines and aircraft. He was present at the sinking of the Bismarck. He finished the war as a Lieutenant in command of a rocket ship, which was off the French coast for the D-day invasion, and later at the island of Welcheren. After the war he returned to Bishop Wordsworth's School in Salisbury and was there when his first novel, Lord of the Flies, was published in 1954. He gave up teaching in 1961.

Lord of the Flies was filmed by Peter Brook in 1963. Golding listed his hobbies as music, chess, sailing, archaeology and classical Greek (which he taught himself). Many of these subjects appear in his essay collections The Hot Gates and A Moving Target. He won the Booker Prize for his novel Rites of Passage in 1980, and was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1983. He was knighted in 1988. He died at his home in the summer of 1993. The Double Tongue, a novel left in draft at his death, was published in June 1995.

Product Description

About the Author

William Golding was born in Cornwall in 1911 and was educated at Marlborough Grammar School and at Brasenose College, Oxford. Before he became a schoolmaster he was an actor, a lecturer, a small-boat sailor and a musician. A now rare volume, Poems, appeared in 1934. In 1940 he joined the Royal Navy and saw action against battleships, and also took part in the pursuit of the Bismarck. He finished the war as a Lieutenant in command of a rocket ship, which was off the French coast for the D-Day invasion, and later at the island of Walcheren. After the war he returned to Bishop Wordsworth's School in Salisbury and was there when his first novel, Lord of the Flies, was published in 1954. He gave up teaching in 1961. Lord of the Flies was filmed by Peter Brook in 1963. Golding listed his hobbies as music, chess, sailing, archaeology and classical Greek (which he taught himself). Many of these subjects appear in his essay collections The Hot Gates and A Moving Target. He won the Booker Prize for his novel Rites of Passage in 1980, and was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1983. He was knighted in 1988. He died at his home in the summer of 1993. The Double Tongue, a novel left in draft at his death, was published in June 1995.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Taken Aback 25 May 2009
By Melmoth
Format:Paperback
The second book in Golding's Sea Trilogy, Close Quarters continues the story of young Edmund Talbot's journey to Australia, begun in Rites of Passage. Having witnessed peril, conspiracy and death in Rites of Passage, Edmund is not quite the cocksure, pompous and priggish creature he was at the beginning of his journey ... though many of the character traits that have led his fellow passengers to nickname him "Lord Talbot" remain.

After the darkness of the trilogy's first novel, much of the tone of Close Quarters comes as a relief, with Golding setting up all the ingredients for a swashbuckling sea story ... before carefully knocking down each in turn. There is romance, there is the peril of the French, there is the threat of a duel. All these things seem, are, very real ... yet for all the vividness of their initial apprehension, each fades away in the clear light of day. At the same time, much that is enduring becomes fantastical, with Edmund suffering the effects of a series of blows to his head (occasioned by bravery and blundering in equal measure) and of the paregoric (largely consisting of opium) administered to deal with them. Underneath all this lies the ship itself, wounded and groaning, providing a sinister drone underlying the apparent lightness of the melody.

Golding's obviously extensive research is used with great skill, both in depicting the running of the ship and the relations of those aboard it. Issues of privilege, class, hope and expectation are played out amid complex rigging and atop bucking boards. But perhaps Golding's greatest achievement in the novel is the voice of Edmund himself. In recording his journal, Edmund unwittingly reveals himself, in a way recognisable to anyone who has ever uncovered their teenage diary.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Edmund Talbot in love 14 Mar 2010
By Didier TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
This is the second part in William Golding's sea trilogy 'To the ends of the earth', and the unhappy (and unnamed) ship we were introduced to in 'Rites of passage' is still desperately trying to make its way from England to the Antipodes. All the familiar characters are still present, but after the unhappy circumstances surrounding the death of the parson Colley all are changed, most of all the protagonist and narrator Edmund Talbot. His (passive) involvement in Colley's death keeps gnawing at his conscience, and he has become a little less arrogant, a little less sure of himself and the feeling he is somehow elevated in station above all other passengers (he has even become friends with 1st lieutenant Summers, a commoner no less!).

And then suddenly everything changes when our ship meets another: the Alcyone under Captain Somerset is on her way to India, and when the two ships arrange for a ball before they pursue their separate courses, Edmund falls head over heels in love with Somerset's protegée Miss Chumley. But inevitably the two ships must part again and Edmund is left behind completely love-struck. At first he eagerly questions lieutenant Benét (who has left the Alcyone and joined our ship) about Miss Chumley, but he soon finds that Benét is a particular character: he seems to know the answer to every question and solution to every problem, and has a way of ingratiating himself with Captain Anderson that soon seems to threaten even 1st Lieutenant Summers' position (which puts Edmund in a quandary). And, though love is on his mind, Edmund cannot ignore that things are not going well aboard, and before we reach the end of the book there will be another death...
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4.0 out of 5 stars A Worthy Sequel 26 Feb 2013
By Keith M TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
This 1987 sequel to Rites Of Passage (and the second novel in the To The Ends Of The Earth trilogy) continues the diary (or journal) of gentleman traveller Edmund Talbot on his sea voyage to take up a post in Australia. As in the first instalment Golding's writing is never less than lyrical and engaging, but, for me, Close Quarters does not quite live up to the earlier novel in terms of its latent and affecting emotional power.

This time around, Talbot's tale kicks off with the rather dramatic development of an assumed attack on his ship, by an unknown enemy (but probably the French), which is however revealed to be 'friendly' and also confirms that the ongoing (Napoleonic) war has ended. Thereafter, Talbot's story focuses on new acquaintances from the friendly Alcyone, Sir Henry and Lady Somerset, the latter being the mentor to Miss Marion Chumley, with whom, despite being an ill-matched, poor parson's daughter, Talbot falls instantly in love. Rather disappointingly, Golding does not, however, develop significantly one of the first novel's most compelling characters, Captain Anderson, and probably focuses overmuch on some of the technical details of the physical nature of Talbot's journey.
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Amazon.com: 4.2 out of 5 stars  4 reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Riveting tale at sea 26 Nov 2006
By kellyreaderofbooks - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This is the second book in Golding's "To the Ends of the Earth" trilogy. I first got hooked on these books after watching the made-for-TV adaptation on PBS (Masterpiece Theatre). I thought it looked like it would be an interesting read, and it has been! Although the sailing details are interesting, for me the best part of the book is reading about the clashes of the levels of society back then. The narrator of the series is Edmund Talbot, who is "high society" with connections. In fact, he's partly jokingly referred to as "Lord Talbot" because of his airs. He is at times pompous, self-centered and not very likeable--which makes this book even more fun to read since everything is from his point of view.

An exciting book, and I highly recommend it!
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars 2nd part of a trilogy, and does not stand alone 17 Nov 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Wonderful prose, beautifully observed character study, as WG slips into the skin of an extremely priggish and snobbish early twenties aristocrat as he comes of age and begins to understand a little more of the virtues of the ordinary people around him. Sea journeys of that era were long, tedious, largely uneventful and extremely uncomfortable. All 3 books in the trilogy carry this perfectly: the maritime atmosphere is conveyed as perfectly as the arrogant character of the narrator. However, the tedium of the journey also comes across in the virtually non-existent plot which makes the books drag on somewhat. It is probably, though, as brilliant description of the English class system at the start of the 19th century as you will read. I believe that the books in Trilogies should be able to stand alone, if they are to be sold separately, & on that basis, this trilogy definitely fails. I'm glad I read it as a single 750 page tome.
5.0 out of 5 stars Further Rites of Passage 12 Oct 2013
By An admirer of Saul - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
The second part of Golding's sea trilogy sees the young, self important Edmund Talbot learn some harsh new lessons in life as the ship slowly carries on its journey to the antipodes. Whilst scuppered in the tropics, a ship is spotted. First thought to be an enemy vessel, it turns out to be the Alcyone headed for India. It brings the news that Napoleon is defeated, and an 'entertainment' is arranged aboard ships where Talbot falls in love with Miss Chumley. But it is a pathetic love that dissolves when the ships part and tensions rise when Lt Benet from the Alcyone swaps ships due to an indiscretion and the rotten state of the ship means they are a long way from Sydney Cove and in danger of sinking...
A trademark Golding novel (he was a seaman himself) that is erudite, humorous and viewing society through the microcosm of life aboard a ship and the pressures on the comfortable order of things on shore.
Written some years after the first novel in the series (Rites of Passage) I did find I had to re read that novel in order to re familiarise myself with everyone and everything, but it is a testimony to Golding's greatness as a writer that 'Close Quarters' carries on the tale seamlessly.
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Order confusion 9 Jan 2007
By Elisabeth B. Butler - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I returned this book as I found out later it was included in "To the Ends of the Earth".
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