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Pincher Martin

3.61  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,169 Ratings  ·  103 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 1956)
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Lord of the Flies by William GoldingRobinson Crusoe by Daniel DefoeTreasure Island by Robert Louis StevensonLife of Pi by Yann MartelIsland of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell
Desert Islands
27th out of 114 books — 118 voters
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19th out of 49 books — 17 voters

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Community Reviews

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Nov 12, 2013 Jonathan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jean-Paul Walshaw-Sauter

Nathaniel: “We are connected in the elements. We are men for water.
Christopher: “Water. Water.”

William Golding’s novel «Pincher Martin» is set on Rockall, a storm-battered Atlantic rock between Ireland and Iceland. A Naval officer is the sole survivor of a torpedoed ship. Miraculously, he is washed up on Rockall and spends his days trying to hang on in this new and hostile environment; the sea, the sun and the night cold. Christopher “Pincher” Martin embarks on a journey of survival, drinking ra
Sep 25, 2012 James rated it it was amazing
Shelves: literature
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
Feb 25, 2012 Richard rated it really liked it
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
Mar 05, 2009 Matthew rated it did not like it
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.
Oct 07, 2014 Carolyn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 11, 2012 Jona rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 18, 2010 Judy rated it liked it
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
Paul Taylor
Apr 05, 2014 Paul Taylor rated it it was ok
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.
Nov 27, 2010 Jay rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Amanda Bellino
Dec 05, 2013 Amanda Bellino rated it it was ok
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
Oct 20, 2010 Rob rated it really liked it
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).
Aug 22, 2008 Riannon rated it it was ok
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
Description: 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.

Opening: He was struggling in every direction, he was the centre of the writhing and kicking knot of his own body. There was no up or down, no light an
Dec 25, 2007 Stephan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 04, 2014 Kevin rated it it was amazing
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
Christian Schwoerke
Mar 27, 2014 Christian Schwoerke rated it really liked it
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
Johan Haneveld
May 17, 2015 Johan Haneveld rated it really liked it
So visceral it hurts, are the words another review on this page used to describe this novel. Especially the first chapters I was in awe at the way Golding described a man clinging to life after being thrown overboard and being washed up on an island that is nothing more than a big rock. Golding really inhabits the character, grounds us, the readers, in his subjective experience, and makes us wish with him to be able to survive his ordeal. But with the main character, Christopher Martin, we also ...more
Jun 27, 2015 Evan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well-written, fascinating, and profound—but mercifully short: I read this book out of frustration at the lack of survival narrative in The Martian rather than out of any proactive interest in the material itself. So it never captured my attention. Still, it's good. But perhaps not enjoyable.

What follows is my favorite passage.
He hutched himself back against a rock with his legs sprawled apart. The music rose, the sea played and the sun. The universe held its breath. Grunting and groaning he bega
Scott Cox
What a strange survivalist story from the lord of survival authors! This novel was William Golding's (Lord of the Flies) third novel, and I can see why it caused such a stir. Ostensibly it is a story of British naval lieutenant Christopher Hadley Martin (Martins are called "Pincher" in the British Royal Navy?), who finds himself stranded on a rocky Atlantic island after his ship is torpedoed. The ensuing battle for survival is both physical and mental - he must fight for food, water, shelter and ...more
Dec 24, 2015 Mariele rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
It must have been about 20 years since I read "The Lord of the Flies". I was still a teenager, and it was one of my first books that I read in English. Even though I had to look up a lot of words, I remember how taken I was with that book. When I finished it, I thought "wow". Much later, I read "The Inheritors", which bored me to death. I didn't know what Golding was talking about. It was a book about cave men, written from a cave man's perspective, including the (presumably) respective language ...more
Aug 04, 2014 Billy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 27, 2008 Frankie rated it really liked it
Shelves: russian
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
Mar 15, 2014 Caroline Herbert rated it liked it
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
Ian Russell
Apr 22, 2015 Ian Russell rated it really liked it
Shelves: e-books
What an extraordinary novel! Once more it's confirmed that I've neglected Golding for too long. I must have discovered him at a rate of one work every ten years. That's way too slow.

Pincher Martin is set in World War 2. He is a young theatre actor who signs up for service in the Royal Navy. He is a junior officer on board a destroyer, escorting convoys in the Antlantic. The novel wastes no time with these details, the opening chapter finds Martin alone and on the point of drowning after his vess
Jan 17, 2013 Joel rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Oct 25, 2010 Mark rated it liked it
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.
J.M. Hushour
Aug 25, 2015 J.M. Hushour rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Often hailed as a minimalist masterpiece, I'd argue that it's anything but. Sure,the setting is sparse--sailor survives the torpedoing of his destroyer during WWII and finds solace on a barren rock in the middle of the North Atlantic--but we must not confuse setting with the actual psychological context. This novel is about the disintegration of an individual's personality in an extreme, life-threatening situation. If you watched the film '127 Hours' and you thought it was too cheery, then you'l ...more
Anu Narayan
Apr 16, 2008 Anu Narayan rated it liked it
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.
Oct 16, 2015 Swarthout rated it really liked it
Shelves: england, 2010
Read this at a rough time. The book is concerned about morality primarily, with theological undertones, but could very much apply to disenchanted mental terrains as well.
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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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“Worse than madness. Sanity.” 23 likes
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