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Pincher Martin: The Two Deaths of Christopher Martin
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Pincher Martin: The Two Deaths of Christopher Martin

3.62 of 5 stars 3.62  ·  rating details  ·  886 ratings  ·  79 reviews
The sole survivor of a torpedoed destroyer is miraculously cast up on a huge, barren rock in mid-Atlantic. Pitted against him are the sea, the sun, the night cold, and the terror of his isolation. At the core of this raging tale of physical and psychological violence lies Christopher Martin’s will to live as the sum total of his life.
Paperback, 216 pages
Published December 16th 2002 by Mariner Books (first published 1965)
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Lord of the Flies by William GoldingTreasure Island by Robert Louis StevensonRobinson Crusoe by Daniel DefoeLife of Pi by Yann MartelIsland of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell
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24th out of 97 books — 101 voters
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174th out of 305 books — 1,409 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,642)
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Jonathan
In my house growing up there were, I am glad to say, many books. Once I hit my early teens and began to seriously get a reading obsession, I would raid my parent's shelves for anything that might catch my eye. I was, I suspect, about 14 when this 1962 Penguin edition fell into my hands. Look at that cover. Just look at it for a second. How could I not want to read it? How could I not be already a little terrified? Reading it over the next few nights is one of the most profound early(ish) memorie ...more
Richard
This is another book, like Ragtime, that for me evokes more memories of a specific time and place than of the book itself. It was sometime around 1980, and having walked and hitched from the beginning of the Appalachian Trail to the Berkshires in Western Massachusetts, I eventually found myself on the coast outside Ipswich. Having spent one very buggy night on the beach I was headed back into town when a wonderful gentleman by the name of Diggory Venn picked me up; having heard my story he turne ...more
Carolyn
A marvellous literary supplement to any reading of Spinoza, Descartes, Liebniz, even phenomenologists such as Merleau-Ponty. While, superficially, Pincher Martin is a survival story, its primary conflict is found not as man vs. environment but rather man vs. self.

The novel is a meditation on the philosophical Theories of Substance. Golding chronicles the interactions of mind and body, iterating the enmeshment of their respective existences. The outer surface of the body (the skin) of main chara
...more
Jona
Golding is a masterful stylist - the prose in Pincher Martin is so visceral it hurts - and this novel rank among his best works, right up there with The Inheritors and Rites of Passage. Explorations of guilt, of insufficiency, of the pettiness of humankind, all written up in a language that barely leaves one room for reflection and recollection because it is so close to true, REAL experience. Golding works right at the interface between the thought and the felt; in that, he's like Cormac McCarth ...more
James
This short novel covers a lot of terrain and does so in a simple, direct, forceful, and elegant manner. The main theme, I would argue, is the distinction between subjectivity and objectivity, the insoluble division that separates one mind from a sphere of interconnected objective things.

Christopher Martin is the sole survivor of a torpedoed naval cruiser; he’s thrown overboard and washes up on a tiny island. While he’s there, and is forced to survive and deal with his isolation, he confronts th
...more
Matthew
The worst experience I've ever had with a book. I lost it on purpose after failing to pawn it off on someone who asked me why I hated it. I told them and they said 'forget it'.
If you want a book filled with descriptive material that finds you rereading paragraphs because your mind has wandered onto something more interesting, a book with the biggest anti-ending of any book I've ever read, read this book.
Jay
I know that the author was trying to capture the experience of being confused and feeling disconnected from the body, and I think he did a great job with that, but it made it hard to stay in the story. I think I'd have to read this book again to really get it. I did like how he wove the history leading to the event into the dreams and hallucinations, and I thought that the foreshadowing of the ending was subtle, but satisfying. It took me a LONG time to read this book, though, because I found it ...more
Rob
Published a year or two after LOTF. Excellent. Worth reading if you'd like to explore more of Golding's work. Be warned, it is incredibly dark. Like much of Golding's other work, it explores human nature. He has an interesting thesis in this work - that greed is an overwhelmingly powerful force that drives us, and that the ultimate expression of it is greed for your own life (self-preservation).
Judy
Jun 18, 2010 Judy rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: students of human nature
Pincher Martin is the second book from 1956 about shipwreck on a deserted island. (Boon Island by Kenneth Roberts is the first.) Pincher Martin however, is alone on his rock in the mid-Atlantic and though he thinks of himself as a rational, educated and resourceful fellow, when faced with death he goes quite mad.

"Pincher" is British slang meaning a nautical person, one who serves on ships, etc. This pincher's Christian name was Christopher and as we enter his mind, we learn that he has been a g
...more
Riannon
This book is a bizarre, and often dreary read. I picked it up because I loved Golding's Lord of the Flies, but it didn't meet the same standard.

That isn't to say, however, that there was nothing good about the book. The ever-increasing psychoses of Martin were interesting to follow, although he was a somewhat irritating and depressing character to read about. The far-and-away best part of this book, though, was the ending. It was well-done, interesting, and thought provoking. It's a shame the r
...more
Amanda Bellino
I thought that this book was extremely difficult to comprehend. I would not recommend this book to a friend. William Golding lacks excitement and anticipation which made me lose focus as well as interest. Pincher Martin is about the death of a man named Christopher Martin. He is dead throughout the entire book but the audience doesn't find out until the very end. The whole story is essentially flashbacks throughout Martin's life leading up to him loosing his sanity. This book really empathizes G ...more
Stephan
I found an old paperback edition of this from '56. It's cover design features the words "Pincher Martin" surrounded by flatly colored red lobster claws. I picked it up because I recognized Golding's name. Then I read through it because of it's title. And I went home with it because of its cover. "Pincher Martin" is a quick, psychological story of the sole survivor in a destroyer wreck. He's stranded on a large rock in the Atlantic. He tries "greedily" to stay alive. And nature greedily takes him ...more
Kevin
A few months back I had found out that William Golding had won the Nobel Prize in Literature. I was something of a nice surprise for me, having been exposed to his Lord of the Flies in high school like most students in the American Post Secondary Education System. Unlike many of these students I had actually read and enjoyed it.

It seemed unjust to me that this Freshman effort of a recognized writer should be my only experience and callow to call it his magnum opus. Golding had obviously written
...more
Christian Schwoerke
I’d read this years ago, when I was a young teen, shortly after having read The Inheritors, which haunted me for decades and even now chills me when I recall the literally unspeakable horrors the Neanderthal observed from his perch in the trees. I came to this reading of Pincher Martin with a single vague impression: he never makes it to the rock, it’s all in his head.

This recent reading fully confirmed that vaguest of 45-year-old recollections, and I’ve spent time since wondering just how this
...more
Paul Taylor
Impenetrable on first reading. I have read much of Golding's work (he taught diffidently at my local grammar school) and am baffled as to why he enjoys such popularity. Literally succinct his stories range from the grotesque of Lord of the Flies, the recondite of Rites of Passage and the implausible of Pincher Martin. I hope the Inheritors enables me better to understand his "genius". I will let you know in due course but please, don't hold your breath.
Billy
It's tough to be an author with an iconic work like "Lord of the Flies" to your credit. Everyone expects wonders of you. With that in mind Golding returns to the Man v. Nature theme in this story about a British naval officer whose destroyer is torpedoed in the mid-Atlantic.

Golding is clearly a skilled writer, but there is little to recommend this work. Unlike LOF or Robinson Crusoe, this novel does not function on multiple levels. It cannot be read as an adventure, and the chaotic nature of the
...more
Frankie
a dark work with many of golding's motifs concerning the savage man and the absence of god. only one character, stream-of-consciousness, stranded on a rock in the uncharted sea. man versus nature at its cruelest. despite the limitations of the plot, the character moves through revelations and developments that make this a good read.
Caroline Herbert
I found this book to be much more interesting than I had anticipated--the story of one man's struggle to survive after his warship was torpedoed in the Atlantic (during WWII). Apparently the sole survivor of the attack, he ends up on a rock formation in the middle of the ocean, and Golding describes, in compelling detail, his fight to stay alive and keep madness at bay. The story is a fascinating look at the progression from fear, to industriousness (surveying his surroundings, finding potable w ...more
Joel
Incredibly compelling. Golding's virtuoso prose pushes the limits. The sheer physicality of his descriptions, the sense of exhaustion and pain, is almost overwhelming. Occasionally, the narrative breaks down - on purpose - into terrifying abstractions. It's a punishing read.
Mark
A brutally pessimistic look at human nature. While reading the novel, I found it helpful to read Golding's Nobel acceptance speech to serve as a reminder that he didn't completely despise humanity. As in his other works, he handles the symbols here brilliantly.
Anu Narayan
Thickly William Golding-esque, but not an easy read. Often inexplicable, but certainly ends in style! At a little over 200 pages, it doesn't take long to devour, so don't give up on this one if you've begun.
Alik
This was surprisingly horrible.
It mirrors a short story by Ambrose Bierce, maybe in a deliberately skewed way. I do not know. Sheer terror makes it worth reading.
Rachel Lindan
A three-star rating seems an insult to the bewilderingly accomplished novel I just read, and is, for it reflects my lack of focus and capacity rather than Golding's achievement - which is certainly five-star.

Plenty of readers before me have found 'Pincher Martin' hard work, as did I, but that does not mean it is tedious or uninteresting - the very opposite. Only William Golding could describe a man climbing onto a rock for 32 pages and have you enraptured by and immersed in every intensely-flesh
...more
John Park
A dark, difficult book, but one that had an immense influence me in my youth. Christopher Martin is blown from the bridge of his torpedoed destroyer and, faced with drowning, finds a barren rock in the Atlantic where he struggles to survive.

We share Martin's purgatory in the rock; we see the shape of his life and how it brought him here and we begin to understand with him that what is at stake is not primarily physical survival. As Golding did in his previous two novels (Lord of the Flies and Th
...more
Michael Critelli
Pincher Martin (1956)

Death, is it the end of the human body, the mind, or the spirit? Do we change from one being to
another, reincarnation, living different lives until we get a chance to get it right. Then maybe we , the
billions of people, have a chance to walk on clouds and hang with the angels and the main man
himself, Jesus H. Christ? Or do we just end ? Blown from an exploding sinking battleship, the death of
Christopher Martin started when he splashed into the Atlantic Ocean, swimming to
...more
AC
(This review does not reveal any of the climax and does not contain spoilers)
There are some stories based on which you can make movies, they are easy to picturize. This story is not one of those, not even close. Such a dreamlike and tough book from Golding, that not only would it be impossible to picturize it using the latest animation graphics, but its also tough for the reader to grasp it and make an image in mind.
Perhaps, that's the only reason why this book has been getting negative reviews.
...more
Eleanore
One gets the sense that Golding must have thought Ambrose Bierce guilty of sentimentality in his "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge." Golding casts his own soldier (a sailor), surviving the destruction of a WWII U-boat attack, upon the austere mercies of a barren rock in the midst of the Atlantic. Equipped with sufficient material for short-term physical survival, Christopher "Pincher" Martin sets out to endure the deeper battle with the elements, with nature, and with his own disintegrating san ...more
Christopher Kanas
I tried. I really did. But nope. Completely lacked any compelling interest for me. I know Golding is a big name among the classics but I could only make it about a 1/3 of the way before sheer boredom and the incoherent writing style made me want to use it for kindling.
Ian
It's hard to provide any kind on complete statement on this book without giving away too much, but the narrative is engrossing and confounding. The grip of the story, like Martin's experience, increases as the story progresses. It's intense and unique and worth the read.
Jeremy
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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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
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More about William Golding...
Lord of the Flies Rites of Passage (To the Ends of the Earth, #1) The Inheritors Darkness Visible The Spire

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“Worse than madness. Sanity.” 19 likes
“I spit upon your God!” 1 likes
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