So, did anybody actually enjoy reading LORD OF THE FLIES?

Anybody who didn’t go on to become a high school lit teacher, I mean? Because (as I may have mentioned before) I hated it.

But I just read LOST GIRLS by Ann Kelley, which is not likely (I guess) to become the sort of classic that everyone is required to read in high school, but was quite good. After I read it, I looked up a plot summary of LORD OF THE FLIES to see just how similar the two books are. And the answer is: pretty similiar. I was sort of thinking everybody might have died at the end of LORD OF THE FLIES, but no. (You can see how much I hated it, with that half-conviction of a terrible ending in the back of my mind.)

I liked LOST GIRLS pretty well. It didn’t take me by surprise — I’d read the review at The Book Smugglers and I thought it sounded pretty good. I didn’t love it as much as Thea did, but it was good, and just what I was in the mood for. But Kelley avoides the descent into savagry, the hunting each other stuff. Whew! I did not miss those elements. Some of the characters do die, though, including one that shocked me.

I would have liked at least one of the “Glossies” — the girly-girls with their make-up and hair curlers and all that — to wind up growing as a person, becoming competent and decisive and taking responsibility for herself and the younger girls. I will spare you the slowly growing disappointment if you read this by telling you up front: No. Doesn’t happen. I thought that was a real shame and an important miss on Kelley’s part; it made those two girls boring and made the story as a whole seem more shallow. That’s my biggest criticism, though.

I liked the setting (an island off Thailand!) and I loved the narrator, who was definitely not too good to be true. I loved her anger. I would have felt exactly the same way. I did wonder just how much trouble you could possibly have with starvation on a tropical island; I kept thinking about those coconut crabs. Crabs that can break coconuts? They must be huge. They sound like a very promising source of protein to me. Maybe there was some reason the girls didn’t eat them, but I missed it.

And I liked the tiger! Hey, tigers are always good.

And of course high school teachers now have great potential for group discussions: if you MUST assign LORD OF THE FLIES, how about also assigning LOST GIRLS? Then you can have a rousing debate about whether things would really proceed so differently with girls stranded on an island as opposed to boys, and which author got closer to a likely scenario (if either).

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3 thoughts on “So, did anybody actually enjoy reading LORD OF THE FLIES?”

  1. No one wants to talk about it, I guess.

    What I’ve seen in the years since having it inflicted on me in school, is that guys REALLY don’t like it and tend to think it is stupid. I don’t recall nearly such strong reactions from females. We may not like it either, but it doesn’t get to us in the same way (or I hang out in the wrong crowd for getting that female reaction). I remember mostly thinking it was unpleasant to read, not stupid.

    Nowadays I’d want to read other forms of the story, like LOST GIRLS (which I’ll check out from the library), perhaps, or TUNNEL IN THE SKY, or Verne’s LONG VACATION (which is most like LotF, being focused on a single sex group stuck on an island). Or read historical accounts of actual small groups stuck in isolation somewhere, and discussing what (if anything) Golding got right. Or what could be behind all he got wrong.

    Honestly, considering the author is English, I’ve got to wonder about the English school system that he thought LotF was plausible. I guess, or how did he come up with it?

  2. “Honestly, considering the author is English, I’ve got to wonder about the English school system that he thought LotF was plausible.”

    I was too young when I read it to wonder about this, but now that you raise the question, yeah, what gives with that? That kind of nigh-unto-instant descent into savagery would never occur to me as a writer, and would not be on my top ten list of things to fear if *I* were stranded with a small group on an island. A group of KIDS, even, not convicts or anything.

    I think LOST GIRLS proffered the more plausible alternatives of a) denial and failure to cope, b) coping, c) death. But I do wonder why no one whapped those coconut crabs with a club and took a stab at roasting them in the coals. Can one roast crabs?

  3. I’m not a fan of shellfish, but I’m sure I’ve seen roast crab on menus. I can’t think of any reason you couldn’t whack ’em and roast ’em in coals. It might even make the shells easier to get off.

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