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The Spire [Paperback]

William Golding
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)

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Book Description

7 April 2005

Dean Jocelin has a vision: that God has chosen him to erect a great spire on his cathedral. His mason anxiously advises against it, for the old cathedral was built without foundations. Nevertheless, the spire rises octagon upon octagon, pinnacle by pinnacle, until the stone pillars shriek and the ground beneath it swims. Its shadow falls ever darker on the world below, and on Dean Jocelin in particular.

From the author of Lord of the Flies, The Spire is a dark and powerful portrait of one man's will, and the folly that he creates.

'A superb tragedy . . . the book should become a classic.' Sunday Telegraph

'A marvel.' Frank Kermode



Product details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber; New Ed edition (7 April 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571225462
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571225460
  • Product Dimensions: 1.5 x 12.6 x 19.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 255,710 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Book Description

With an introduction by John Mullan --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
28 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Writing in pictures 3 Dec 2004
Format:Paperback
This book has, in my opinion, a surreal quality. I can't speak about it in the artistic terms used by some of your other reviewers. I didn't consider what it had to say about man's condition. I only know it was fascinating to read, a story which you felt was written in pictures, and I don't mean that it is a graphic novel! (if you like graphic novels you probably will NOT like William Golding).
The dean, Jocelin, is a man with such religious faith that he ignores sense and the warnings of his master builder and others. He goes ahead and adds a spire to a cathedral whch had never been built to support a spire. The result throughout the book is not a dry, technical account of the construction process, although there are plenty of references to real-life engineering to keep you happy if you are interested. It is not about religion, either. Mainly this book is about obsession and blind faith and above all, about people. The tension builds throughout as you will Jocelin on to further indiscretion for the sake of the drama.Your nerves tighten like the overloaded "screaming stones". It doesn't spell out every action in a he-did-this-and-then-she-did-that fashion. Golding does't write in that way. But if you like to have your brain stirred up a bit, to have to think a bit when you read, then this is for you.
I don't think that you have to read Golding's other books to appreciate this one, as someone suggested. You either love Golding or you don't get along with him. My wife can't read most of his books. I believe that The Spire may be his best book.
Actually, I've read it several times. I don't mind admitting that I am still not sure if the spire collapses or not. It just doesn't matter. Perhaps Mr Golding was having a laugh at our expense.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good Read 4 Aug 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is a beauifully written atmospheric book which takes you into the heart of a medieval cathederal in the middle of a crisis. The author creates a tension which keeps you reading without guns sex police and all the other crap we have to put up with these days.....sorry , couldn't help that.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars I can't say I enjoyed this. 4 Mar 2013
By isisjem
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book was chosen by my book group after several members had heard rave reviews. It's also (at least in the past) been an A Level set text and I have to say I did find it heavy going. It's written as a stream of consciousness and pays little concession to the reader. That said it was a useful book group choice as we had plenty to talk about as we made sense of what we'd read. Definitely a good book to ignite discussion.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Spire 9 Dec 2013
Format:Paperback
The Spire is an atmospheric, troubling tale of obsession and hubris. Dean Jocelin believes that he has a divine mission, that God has chosen him to oversee the building of an enormous spire on his cathedral. The rest of the monks consider Jocelin's project to be a work of folly and disruption to their prayer and quiet contemplation, while his chief mason argues that the cathedral's lack of foundations will lead to disaster if the spire is built to Jocelin's exacting specifications. Despite all this, Jocelin will not be dissuaded from his grand project and, as the spire rises, a shadow falls upon his sanity and upon the lives of all those associated with the build. The Spire is the dark and compelling portrait of Jocelin's will and of the folly of pursuing glory above good sense. It's a moody, troubling read that lacks in heroics and hope but it's an absolutely engrossing book and yet another classic work of literature from William Golding.
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29 of 35 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
Golding achieves something masterful with The Spire. That a book of such incredible complexity can be made so simple is testament to his skill.
It tells the tale of Jocelin, a Mediaeval priest who believes God has asked him to add a spire to the cathedral of which he is dean. This is the only plot line, but as the narrative progresses we see how such a simple beginnings can have such terrible and far-reaching consequences. Golding uses narrative techniques in an incredibly unique way, creating drama and tension, and promoting in the reader a whole range of emotional responses. Please read this book.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An important, vivid and thrilling book 5 Mar 2011
By Melmoth
Format:Paperback
From the very first sentence of William Golding's `The Spire' you know you are in the presence of a master. Golding takes the classic story of a man bent on fulfilling an impossible dream - in this case, the dream of Dean Jocelin to crown his cathedral, a cathedral built with no foundation, with a vast spire - and turns it into both a thrilling tale of a project as doomed as the Towering Inferno or the Titanic and a deep exploration of the nature of good and evil and the power of man to delude himself.
Every character is strong, every sentence powerful. With every moment seen from within Jocelin's own mind, a mind which his great endeavour has imperilled just as it has imperilled the cathedral itself, every moment is given vivid colour and meaning.

Perhaps the most remarkable achievement of what is a remarkable novel is the way in which the cathedral and spire wear their role as metaphor so elegantly. While their state echoes and informs both the state of Jocelin's mind and the state of the society around him, at no time does the reader resent them for it or feel moved to accuse them of obviousness. This ability to fuse meaning and location so absolutely is perhaps Golding's greatest gift, one he demonstrates again and again in novels from `The Lord of the Flies' to `Fire Down Below'.

An important and vivid novel, `The Spire' is a must read.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Novel
This is not book for the faint hearted. Gruesome in parts but a great poetic red. Wonderful sense of middle ages.
Published 8 months ago by F. Brown
4.0 out of 5 stars salisbury cathedral history?
If you want to have an idea how they built the wonderful Salisbury cathedral, this is probably how they did it; it is a very 1950s style book so not an easy read today.
Published 11 months ago by Mr. John P. Clandillon
5.0 out of 5 stars William Golding: The Spire
Like a previous reviewer, I studied William Golding's The Spire for A-level English Literature. That was 30 years ago and so to mark the occasion, I decided to read once again (not... Read more
Published 12 months ago by Neil Frost
5.0 out of 5 stars A Marvel
A book which transcends the level of mere story or even an allegory, this novel reflects and represents the tangled and contradictory nature of human consciousness and faith. Read more
Published 12 months ago by Max Lee
4.0 out of 5 stars 14th century thriller - peculiar, but meant to be
One might not think that the construction of a church spire in the 14th century in Wiltshire is the stuff of a thriller - but somehow Golding pulls it off in The Spire. Read more
Published 13 months ago by Tom Doyle
5.0 out of 5 stars Just what I wanted
Item as described. I would buy from this seller again and I would recommend this seller to others. Thank you.
Published 16 months ago by LOOBY
4.0 out of 5 stars The Spire
An interesting read. First read it 40 years ago - worth a second read especially as I now live near Salisbury.
Published 18 months ago by Mrs. Janet Margot Smith
5.0 out of 5 stars Jocelin's Folly
Golding's "The Spire" concerns Dean Jocelin's attempt to crown his parish's cathedral with a vast spire, despite the cathedral not having the foundations to support its weight and... Read more
Published 21 months ago by Hugo Melo
4.0 out of 5 stars Another Golding Masterpiece
I didn't entirely understand this book, as it was written through the eyes of an incoherent madman, yet I shall excuse the incomprehensibleness due to the fact that this is... Read more
Published on 30 April 2012 by Nim
5.0 out of 5 stars The Spire rises ...
This was the fifth of William Golding's novels: "Lord of the Flies" (1954),"The Inheritors" (1955),"Pincher Martin" (1956), "Free Fall" (1959) and "The Spire" (1964) by which time... Read more
Published on 24 Nov 2011 by RR Waller
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