Rites of Passage

By William Golding,

Book cover of Rites of Passage

Book description

Sailing to Australia in the early years of the nineteenth century, Edmund Talbot keeps a journal to amuse his godfather back in England. Full of wit and disdain, he records the mounting tensions on the ancient, stinking warship, where officers, sailors, soldiers and emigrants jostle in the crammed spaces below…

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Why read it?

3 authors picked Rites of Passage as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

Golding will forever be remembered for Lord of the Flies, but I think this is better (and so did he, apparently, a lot better).

It’s the story of people on a seemingly endless voyage from England to Australia in the 19th century, but for me, it’s like a spaceship on a voyage to another planet, like the spaceship in Alien with its own monsters aboard, the social mores, the injustices, the class privileges and prejudices, the sexual hangups, and the guilty secrets they carry with them. Pity poor Australia!

For me, it demonstrates that the sea can be a…

William Golding surpassed his Lord of the Flies with these novels about a sea voyage to Australia in the early 19th century on a former man-of-war crammed with passengers and crew. In it he explores his usual theme—all that is good and (mostly) bad in human nature and how savagery can so easily erupt.  

Something dark happens in the cramped confines below deck, linked to Reverend Colley, an unhappy on-ship acquaintance of the young aristocrat, Edmund Talbot, who narrates the story via his diaries. 

Talbot sorts the dark secret to his own satisfaction but that’s an unreliable narrator for…

Lord of the Flies – at sea. Golding won the Booker Prize in 1980 for this novel about a tragedy that unfolds aboard a ship sailing to Australia in the early nineteenth century. Edmund Talbot narrates the tale in lively, entertaining letters to his godfather and benefactor, an English lord. 

Talbot is a thoroughly unpleasant character – an entitled, self-serving snob, whose pursuit of a woman, portrayed as a jolly jape, would earn him an assault charge today. 

The first part describes Talbot’s impressions of his fellow passengers, including the laughable Reverend Colley; his coming to terms with the stench…

From Nikki's list on historical sea voyages.

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