This book provided me with the most intense reading experience of my life. I know it is very famous, and most people are introduced to it in school, but when I read it I had never heard of it. I will never forget how I came across it.
I was about ten years old, and I was wandering around the house looking for something to read. Our house was packed with books, with floor to ceiling shelves in almost every room. I was the very definition of a voracious reader, consuming books like candy, and I had just finished reading something. I don’t remember what it was.
I went into my parents’ room, where my mother was making the bed. Scanning the titles on the shelves, I came across this one. Thinking it sounded just disgusting, I said aloud in my best tween sneer, “Lord of the Flies? Yuck!” My mother had the best possible reaction. She did not scold me or mock me. She simply said, completely calmly, “Actually, that’s a very good book,” and continued making the bed.
That made me curious enough to pull it from the shelf and read the back cover, and when I learned it wasn’t really about flies, but about children running wild on an island, I became interested enough to read the first page, and then I was hooked. I could not put it down. I did my chores with one hand, reading the whole time. My mother forced me to put it down long enough to eat dinner, but then I went right back to it.
I lay in bed reading long past my bedtime, but I absolutely couldn’t stop. Finally, at some point in the middle of the night, I finished the last page. I realized I had been holding my breath, so I let it out, and as I closed the book I couldn’t refrain from saying, “Wow!”
I already knew I wanted to be a writer, although I kept it more or less a secret, because somehow I didn’t think writing novels was a proper profession, but that book sealed the deal. I thought to myself, if I could write something that had the impact on other people that this book just had on me, if I could make people feel things that strongly just by putting the right words together, I would be completely happy. I would know I had accomplished something great, and I would need nothing else from life.
I suppose I was an odd, intense child, and I know I am an odd, intense adult, but for me the alchemy of writing and reading holds a kind of magic. I still dream of writing something that powerful, and maybe someday I will. William Golding certainly did.
If you don’t already have the book, you can buy it here.