11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
A difficult read but worth the effort.,
This review is from: Pincher Martin (Paperback)Golding does not shy away from the fact that his title character Christopher Martin is a louse.
Of the thousands of sailors stranded in Mid-Atlantic during World War 2 he was the one that deserved to be there.
He might even have wriggled out of conscription into the navy had any of the influential members of his circle chosen to speak up for him. The truth is that Martin had been such a pig in civilian life that most were heartily sick of him and were more than willing to wave him on his way.
All save perhaps his one true friend Nathaniel. The kind of man who would see the good in anyone, Nathaniel offers Martin warmth and friendship but is repaid by coldness and distain.
In a gesture of loyalty worthy of Beau Geste, Nathaniel also enlists in the navy and Golding contrives to have them serve aboard the same ship.
Alas this act of kindness effectively seals the ship's doom. Nathaniel has also won the heart of the girl Martin himself can only repulse. Martin's coldness for Nathaniel turns into the same kind of loathing that the rest of the world reserves for Martin.
It was Martin's watch on top that fateful day. Instead of paying attention to his watch, Martin's attention is fixed on Nathaniel. Martin has noticed Nathaniel has a habit of learning over a certain rail and he weighs up how he can cause the ship to manoeuvre to wash him overboard.
As a direct result of Martin's dereliction the Destroyer veers from its zigzag course just enough for a U boat to slam a torpedo into its side. The effect is devastating and the Destroyer sinks almost immediately taking all hands with it; although the force of the explosion casts Martin into the icy waters of the North Atlantic.
For the rest of the crew the struggle is over. For Martin it is just beginning. This Ancient Mariner, minus the Albatross and seemingly without a conscience for what he has done, immediately focuses on how he is going to get out of there.
The survival instinct kicks in as Martin struggles out of his heavy sea-boots. Aided by the buoyancy of his life jacket, Martin eventually finds himself at a remote rock island outcrop. Some believe this to be Rockall, somewhat North West of Scotland and Ireland, but I have not seen proof at that.
Struggling out of the water's reach, Martin finds sanctuary on the rock. The bulk of the book thereafter focuses on his life on the rock, initially relating his attempts to secure food, fresh water and basic shelter.
Inevitably after a period of isolation with little immediate prospect of rescue, the episode starts to have a detrimental effect on Martin's state of mind. The weather closes in for the worse and with little to do but stare out to sea and reflect upon his life, Martin's mood becomes as dark as the blackness in the sky.
Struggling to hold on to reality, as Martin's world becomes increasingly surreal and even begins to disintegrate, the reader is left wondering if Martin has lost it completely.
The final chapter is a revelation and the final sentence packs the punch of the torpedo. If the book leaves you scratching your head initially, it is meant to. Retracing your steps and perhaps even careful re-reading and the penny starts to drop.
One of the most skilfully written books I have read, this is one of the treasures of 20th century English Literature.
Unfortunately a less favourable review has leaked the ending. If you really don't want to know look away now.