The Spire
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The Spire

3.54 of 5 stars 3.54  ·  rating details  ·  531 ratings  ·  66 reviews
Dean Jocelin has a vision: that God has chosen him to erect a great spire on his cathedral. His mason anxiously advises against it, for the old cathedral was built without foundations. Nevertheless, the spire rises octagon upon octagon, pinnacle by pinnacle, until the stone pillars shriek and the ground beneath it swims. Its shadow falls ever darker on the world below, and...more
Paperback, 223 pages
Published April 7th 2005 by Faber & Faber (first published 1964)
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This might be the finest historical fiction that I have read to date - partly because it works through atmosphere rather than detail.

The book is short and the story simple. Set in medieval England during the reign of Henry II it concerns a new Dean who seeks to have a spire built on his cathedral against advice to the contrary and what results from this.

The transformation of a cathedral into a medieval building site may not sound terribly exciting but it works through atmosphere and the confusi...more
After going to see Salisbury Cathedral and learning that Golding lived just down the street from it, near St. Anne's Gate, I was compelled to read this book in which Golding imagines the creation of the enormous spire atop the cathedral. In it, he has created is a brilliant, densely woven, intensely introspective study of obsession and faith, which pushes everyone around him to the very edge of endurance.

Golding did a brilliant job showing us as the readers how the gigantic phallic spire in the...more
Ben Winch
The English may not be the best writers in the world, but they are incomparably the best dull writers.

(Raymond Chandler)

I have a confession to make: I don't like British writers. It's a prejudice, sure, but not against a disadvantaged minority, more against an epicentre of pomp. Maybe it's not that I don't like them but I don't have patience for them, same as I don't have patience for this whole 'Great American Novel' quest that generates all these erudite bricks of social observation masqueradi...more
M.J. Johnson
I think it's possible to measure (to some extent) a great piece of writing by how large it looms in your psyche. This book and the religious hubris of its main character seemed to take up residence in my dreams from the moment I started reading it. It is a book packed with metaphor, and although written in the third person, it is fully inhabited by the main character Jocelyn's mental landscape. He is a man obsessed by a vison and a charge, which he is convinced has been placed on him by God, to...more
Hugo Emanuel
Golding's "The Spire" concerns Dean Jocelin's attempt to crown his parish's cathedral with a vast spire, despite the cathedral not having the foundations to support its weight and length. He is opposed my many, learned man and layman alike, who claim that such attempt is a folly that will only end in disaster. Jocelyn’s will remains unshaken however, for he firmly believes that he is doing God's work, resorting to coercion and manipulation to force the unwilling collaboration of others in order...more
Jul 08, 2009 Jule rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition Recommends it for: nobody
The worst! I challenge everybody out there to read it and find something to like about it!
Mar 19, 2013 Peter rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition Recommends it for: Nobody

A priest builds a spire on a cathedral according to a spiritual vision, believing it to be the calling of God and dependant upon his will and faith to bring it to completion, destroying his congregation, vocation and sanity in the process.
The prose is dense and disorientated, flashing between coherent thought, delirium, reality, reverie and nightmare. Certain themes and motifs are repeated throughout some of which hints at an understated, repressed sexuality. There is often reference in the narr...more
Rachel Lindan
3.5 stars. Typically of a Golding novel, 'The Spire' is a real uphill struggle to get through, but equally typically there is great reward to be found in and at the end of your labours. At times it shares a mad, hallucinatory quality with 'Pincher Martin', which a mind can only take so much of in one sitting. My reading of 'The Spire' had ground to almost a halt when I went to see Roger Spottiswoode's adapted play at Salisbury Playhouse, having originally intended to finish the book beforehand....more
William Golding's The Spire is another of those 'improving' books that my father bought me years ago. This edition claims to have been published in 1983, but that feels a little to early – 1989 sounds more likely. That said taking 'only' 14 years to read a gift still feels woefully inadequate. Luckily he doesn't have a Goodreads account, so he'll never know.

The Spire is the story of Dean Jocelin and his spire. He is a man who has been touched by a vision; a man who God has charged with the task...more
Colin Powell
As I read this story I once again felt as though the author was reaching inside of me and tearing out something that is flawed or blinded by what I want to believe. William Golding unsettles me yet this, for me, is his most compelling story I have read so far. Brilliant!
I first read Golding’s *The Spire when I was about 15. I was completely astonished by it, and read it twice without stopping. It was the first time I realised that (and perhaps something of how) a contemporary writer can represent a cultural worldview which is, of necessity, very different from my own in a way which enabled me to not merely appreciate the differences in conceptualisation but in some way to understand the differences. It brought about a paradigm shift in the way I thought about l...more
I almost gave up on this book within in the first two chapters, but i’m glad i didn’t. It was a bit too much like a soap opera for my liking, with nothing to string the chapters together except Jocelin’s very slow descent into madness, and the drama (bullying, rivalries, affairs and family) between the characters.

In his obsessive behaviour towards the spire, and his determination to ignore everything else (the lives of the people around him, his own feelings and even his own illness), made me vi...more
Justin Evans
This takes a *long* time to get going. My wife started it and didn't finish it, she described it as 'inaccessible.' That's pretty much right. It's not difficult like Pynchon; it's not all that intellectually or aesthetically sophisticated like V. Woolf. It's just... well, it's about a Dean who wants to build a really tall spire for his church, the community that coalesces around its building and the destruction of that community. Only the first hundred pages are really, really slow. The second h...more
Really enjoyed this book - it's not quite like anything I've read before.
The Abbot of a medieval monastry has a vision which he believes is an instruction from God to add a massive Spire to the building.
He is determined to carry out Gods will, whatever the cost to the community and the bulding itself. The story is told almost entirely from his viewpoint and we see him gradually lose touch with reality as he becomes increasingly obsessed with the angels and demons that seem to haunt him.
Kevin Fanning
Read this in college and then a few times since, although I totally forgot about it until Steve added it to his shelf. I remember really liking it and being wowed by Golding's language, but it's very dense in places, to the point where I wasn't 100% sure what exactly was happening. But the central idea, about a man so consumed with the idea of doing something for the glory of god, that it maybe takes him all the way back around in the other direction, is great and 100% up my alley.
a chilling book. golding deals in suggestions and euphemisms; nothing is spelled out but the message is clear. among my top five favorites.
I never really got into Golding. I was forced to read Lord of the Flies at school which probably did him in for me, and he always looked old and shaggy on his photos which also put me off. But I picked this up yesterday from a shelf in the house expecting to while away a half hour or so but I couldn’t stop reading it. I read Ken Follett’s Pillars of the Earth a few years ago, a mega-volume like a Michener, and it was good and also about the building of a cathedral, but this although a slim book...more
Ed Mestre
After returning from a tour of Great Britain & seeing the great cathedrals there I had to read this book of a priest's obsession to build a great spire on a cathedral. An obsession he has the blind faith to build despite the master mason's warnings, the aching bending support arches singing with every wind gust, & the term folly everyone else seems to apply to it. The cathedral is so dusty, noisy, & dangerous services are no longer held there. No longer fulfilling its raison d'etre.

The Spire is the story of one man's obsession to the point of insanity. Jocelin, Dean of Salisbury Cathedral, has a God-sent vision and undertakes an ambitious building project, to build the tallest spire in England, which will sketch a prayer in the sky 400 feet above the earth. The existing cathedral lacks adequate foundations, the earth shifts and crumbles, the pillars sing under the strain, and the master builder is sure that it cannot be done. The work is eventually completed, but those inv...more
A dark, claustrophobic story told from the single perspective of a dean who becomes increasingly obsessed with building a spire on top his church. The book progressively heightens in dark mood and symbolism leaving you feeling uneasy by the end.

As many fellow goodreads reviewers have already pointed out, the book is not very accessible, at least not the first third or so of it. I was mostly lost amongst the descriptions of the church under construction and the vocabulary used to describe what t...more
Laura J
I wanted to read this book, having visited Salisbury, seen the play there (Nov. 2012) and climbed the tower to the base of the spire. I'm glad I've read it, but Golding isn't a favourite author of mine, and I'm not a fan of "psychological" stories. However, I find it interesting that William Golding lived and worked within sight of Salisbury Cathedral and spire. No wonder it *inspired* him.

Back in the 1300s when the spire was added to a building with only 4 feet of foundations, it was indeed a...more
The novel has been described as "A dark and powerful portrait of one man's will", as it deals with the construction of the 404-foot high spire of Salisbury Cathedral; the vision of the fictional Dean Jocelin. Throughout there exists a mix of pagan and religious imagery. For example, near the end of the novel Jocelin declares "it's like the apple-tree!", making a reference to the Garden of Eden and Humanity's first sin of temptation but also perhaps the pagan ideas that have been constantly threa...more
Kristine Morris
This was a very hard book to get through. Thanks to the wiki entry about it, I figured out mostly what was happening outside of Dean Jocelin's stream of consciousness. I wanted to read the book because I thought it would be a good accompaniment to the book I just finished about the building of gothic churches during the 11th and 12th centuries. In that book the author explains that we only know of the churches that have remained standing and there were those that did fall. I find it intriguing t...more
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Andy Chadwick
I've just finished this and am still processing it as a whole, but what I am sure of is that The Spire is a brilliant piece of work. Written entirely from the perspective of Dean Jocelyn, a man wildly intent on building a colossal spire that his cathedral is not built to hold, the novel is a tale of the obsession of one man and the ruinous consequences his insanity brings about. Golding's stream of consciousness prose perfectly captures Jocelin's descent into madness as his life, and those of th...more
This novel brilliantly illustrates the follies of pride and obsession and the clash of blind faith with rationalism. Dean Jocelyn's vision is to complete his 'ultimate prayer' which is the construction of a new spire for his cathedral. So single-minde4d is he in pursuit of this obsession, that he fails to defend his flock and fulfil his clerical duties. His pride will have disastrous repercussions for those with whom he comes into contact and to whom he fails to offer his protection. Golding's p...more
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Lynne Chandler
Very interesting read... though wordy at parts... clearly the author of "Lord of the Flies". Loved the character study and old cathedral setting.
This is the first time I've read anything of Golding's other than Lord of the Flies, and for the most part I enjoyed it — Jocelin's desire to build a spire just the sort of driving obsession I find compelling in a story. There are, however, points at which the prose became too interior and impenetrable, and I felt like I'd missed something important because I couldn't parse a detail from the style. That interior density reminded me of Iris Murdoch, and maybe Muriel Spark, both of whom I also enj...more
DJ Dycus
I was mostly disappointed with this. I love historical fiction, stories set in the Middle Ages, and stories about architecture, so I had pretty high expectations. My main complaint is that we pretty much know the ending from the very beginning. We're shown very clearly that the main character is flawed and is going to fail...and sure enough that's what happens. Golding does redeem the story, somewhat, at the end, but it's not a great novel.

This is an interesting depiction of single-minded determ...more
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Sir William Gerald Golding was a British novelist, poet, and playwright best known for his 1954 novel Lord of the Flies. He was awarded the Booker Prize for literature in 1980 for his novel Rites of Passage, the first book of the trilogy To the Ends of the Earth. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1983 and was knighted by the Queen of England in 1988.

In 2008, The Times ranked Golding...more
More about William Golding...
Lord of the Flies Rites of Passage (To the Ends of the Earth, #1) The Inheritors Pincher Martin: The Two Deaths of Christopher Martin Darkness Visible

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“I am here; and here is nowhere in particular.” 14 likes
“At the moment of vision, the eyes see nothing.” 8 likes
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