Book Review: Lord of the Flies by William Golding

First of all, I loved this book, regardless of what I say about it, because I had more than a few issues with it. But to be clear, loved it.

If you haven’t heard of it, this is the book from the 50’s about a group of English school children who become stranded on some tropical island, and end up becoming pretty feral by the end of it. At first they elect a leader, try to build some kind of society, but of course it all collapses into madness. Who would have thought.

I like Golding’s writing. I love that there’s no elaborate backstory in either end. We don’t know who these kids were before they ended up on the island, or where they come from, other than that they are English. There are no flashback, and very few ‘reminiscing about home’ scenarios. I like that. It’s a concise story, about what happened to them.

But what the hell happened to dialogue tags?

If you’re like any of the other thousands of authors on Twitter who worry about dialogue tags, read this. There are hardly any, at all. It’s the most confusing thing I’ve read in ages. At the same time, a lot of dialogue from the same character is separated between multiples lines (for God knows what reason), so I struggled a lot with knowing who said what. It would be formatted like this:

Ralph said.
“It can be confusing without tags!”

And this is one of the less confusing examples. Often there would be multiple lines of dialogue by different characters following each other, with very few action beats as well. This is clearly done to emulate people shouting and talking over each other, which I understood, but still, it made for very confusing reading at times.

And with fast paced dialogue, between two characters, it was difficult to keep track of who said what when there weren’t a single dialogue tag until the end of the conversation. I’d much prefer it if one was thrown in here and there, giving me a heads up as to who was talking. That’s kind of the two things you need, and this book illustrates why: 1. You need a tag/action to let readers know who starts the conversation, & 2. You need to indicate when dialogue changes between people (with proper formatting). My edition is from the 60’s so maybe this one is particularly weird.

I might be making it out to be worse than it actually is, but as soon as it becomes even a tiny bit confusing (even though it might make perfect sense if you take a second glance at it), it slows down the reader and pulls them out of the story.

Moving on

The book just isn’t what I thought. I’ve heard a lot about this book, it’s been hyped to be some kind of horrible, devolving spiral of madness, and in my opinion it just isn’t that at all. It’s grotesque and awful, sure, but not nearly as much as I thought. I don’t know why I had this idea of it, I’ve just always known The Lord of the Flies to be this terrible, terrible book, and I was kind of disappointed.

For a book of a relatively short length, I’m surprised at how repetitive it is. A lot of the dialogue between characters feels like it’s churning the same stuff over and over, and I kept wanting people to get on with what they were talking about.

But like I said to begin with, I like the book, it’s really good, and well worth a read. I’m guessing it might have made more of an impact if you read it while you were young, but it’s aged really well. Recommended.

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