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Rites of Passage (To the Ends of the Earth #1)

3.62  ·  Rating Details ·  2,464 Ratings  ·  118 Reviews
In the cabin of an ancient, stinking warship bound for Australia, a man writes a journal to entertain his godfather back in England. With wit and disdain he records mounting tensions on board, as an obsequious clergyman attracts the animosity of the tyrannical captain and surly crew.
Paperback, 278 pages
Published 2001 by Faber and Faber (first published 1980)
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Booker Prize Winners
44th out of 51 books — 1,610 voters
The Stranger by Albert CamusOne Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García MárquezThe Old Man and the Sea by Ernest HemingwayLord of the Flies by William GoldingSiddhartha by Hermann Hesse
Nobel Laureates
170th out of 442 books — 399 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Sep 30, 2016 Fabian rated it liked it
These are the theatricals of people aboard a ship on way to the land down under. At page 100, after a bunch of introductions are made, the narrator's own mindset is finally set adrift like the ship herself. The plot opens, and then kinda, well, nothing unexpected happens i.e. absolute zero greatness. This was the dude who wrote "Lord of the Flies," perhaps the most horrific non-horror book of ALL time! But this one's a dud. The vessel society is not compelling whatsoever... notable stand-out ...more
Apr 13, 2014 Issicratea rated it liked it
Shelves: reviewed, 1970-1990
I kept changing my mind about this novel as I was reading it. I liked it initially; then it began losing me, to the extent that I wasn’t sure I was going to finish it; then it pulled me up short with a devastating narrative coup, and I was utterly gripped for a while. Then there was the disappointment of the explanatory-dénouement passage, which all felt a little clunky—but Golding still managed to pull off a last surprise, in the form of a memorable final line.

The unevenness of the book begins
May 24, 2013 Steve rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
William Golding's Rites of Passage is one of those books you can't say much about, since it ruins the tale. On surface, it is about Edward Talbot's voyage to Australia in 1812. Talbot is a pompous young man, and aristocrat, who happens to keep a detailed journal. As the pages go by, you see glimmerings of maturity, and a sure eye for recording details.

The book starts out in a comic vein, one that had me thinking early on of the Flashman novels. (I never thought of Golding as being funny before.
Courtney H.
Mar 03, 2012 Courtney H. rated it it was amazing
Shelves: bookers
Ugh. This will be my shortest review yet, because saying too much just ruins it. This book was absolutely brilliant, and utterly awful, and I really hated it. Which was, I'm assuming, Golding's purpose. And the plot movements that made it brilliant and awful work best when they unfold naturally, so this is where I'll stop.
Other than to say that Golding's narration is fantastic: he is excellent at writing the journal of a pompous man-child (the book is about a young, wealthy man on his way to a b
Billierosie Billierosie
William Golding’s Rites of Passage makes for a strange, haunting read. A ship bound for the New World, sometime in the 19th century. Witty observations, as the narrator weaves his journal. A self conscious narrator -- he wants to impress his reader.

But then something happens. A violation so horrible that the narrator can scarcely put it into words. Shame, is perhaps the word to sum up this crime of violating the innocent.

It's about culpability too -- we are none of us innocent, it's a question o
Mar 01, 2012 Syme rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Loved it. A very intriguing story about the social life on a voyage. Superbly written, as the story develops it becomes a real page turner. I finished the first half in a week, and the second half in a day. I can't wait to start Close Quarters, the second part in the trilogy.
Aug 10, 2012 stupidus rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: snobs
Shelves: novel-classics
It may be fancy pants, but it's still crap. Yes, sir.
Mar 26, 2010 Lisa rated it really liked it
Rites of Passage is Book One of a trilogy that was made into a BBC serial called To The Ends of The Earth, and it won the Booker in 1980. It's a comi-tragic sea journey and a coming-of-age tale about Mr William Talbot, a young aristocrat on his way to Australia to take up a government position procured for him by his wealthy godfather.

En route, this rather naive, pompous and yet good-hearted young man learns a lot about the world and himself. As in Lord of the Flies, an isolated community tests
Dec 10, 2014 Lobstergirl rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Gigi Hadid
Shelves: own, fiction

An epistolary novel that becomes comedic and then tragic, after beginning as neither. Edmund Talbot, a pompous young aristocrat, writes journal entries to his godfather narrating the events aboard a ship headed to Australia in the early 19th century. Golding's language is flowery, and the pretentiousness is compounded by the italicizing of certain words in the text, mostly marine terms. We are introduced to a variety of passengers and crew: the obsequious Reverend Colley, whom nearly everyone de
Jun 27, 2013 da-wildchildz rated it it was ok
With lack of sleep and too much understanding I grow a little crazy, I think, like all men at sea who live too close to each other and too close thereby to all that is monstrous under the sun and moon.

Last line from Rites of Passage by William Golding. After the excellence of Lord of the Flies, I was expecting more of the same from Golding. Unfortunately, it was not to be. Don’t get me wrong, Golding writes with flair but the characters and plot just didn’t engage me in the same way as Lord of t
Apr 04, 2013 Mo rated it it was amazing
Golding is - as usual (I might even take a leap and say always)- astonishing, this time in a short piece of storytelling which somehow leaves us not knowing what to think while aware of exactly where the author wants us to be. And boy, are we there.

There is less of darkness and pessimism in the general feel of the book than in Lord of the Flies, which in a way gives it all the more punch, but although this book is similar in message, this is not just a new way of saying what has already been sai
Jun 30, 2013 Anne rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
If you rate a novel on Goodreads, you indicate how much you liked it and not how good you thought it was. Rites of Passage is one of those novels that I think is good, but I can't exactly say I liked it very much. The story simply didn't grip me, and I couldn't even keep some characters apart because so little was said about them. I felt there was much more in it than I got out of it; so two stars because it was "ok" in terms of my enjoyment, but in a more general way, it would deserve three, I ...more
Dave Belleville
Sep 22, 2011 Dave Belleville rated it it was ok
I should have known, since this is William Golding, that it would be about bullying. If I had realized what this book was going in, I might have given it a higher review. However, I was led to believe that I had bought a rousing, swashbuckling sea novel and so, of course, was pretty disappointed. That being said, for what it is, it's very well done, and is an especially good read in light of how much press bullying is getting. Just wasn't what I was looking for.
Aug 25, 2012 Nick rated it really liked it
I found Lord of the flies a bit better and easier to read - perhaps because the language employed in Rites of Passage is hardly the usage of modern English (or is it because I am no sailor myself?)

In any case, another remarkable book by Golding ..... I'll retain the last reflections:

"Men can die of shame .... Like all men at sea, who live too close to each other and too close thereby to all that is monstruous under the sun and moon".
Rosiemae Burton
I love the focus on relationships, friendships, religion, cabin-fever and morals. I found it brilliant that Golding introduced the moral debate about a man of religion having a drinking problem and that introducing some animosity. However, not a lot happened in the novel and was quite slow-burning. A good premise and whilst it had its moments, overall, I found this quite disappointing.
Paul McMeekin
Oct 22, 2010 Paul McMeekin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literary-fiction
This is one worth perservering with. Initially the olde English language put me off slightly but after a while it soon becomes familiar. Ultimately it's a tragic story and tackles issues like bullying, lonliness, remorse, shame and living with the consequences of ones actions or, in some cases, inactions.
Derek Bridge
Aug 12, 2011 Derek Bridge rated it it was amazing
In this book a man dies of shame. Few writers could make this credible. But William Golding does. Through the eyes of callow, supercilious snob Mr Talbot, we observe the passengers of an unnamed vessel, emigrating to Australia, and the humiliation that leads to the demise of the Reverend Colley. Brilliant!
Gareth Evans
Dec 31, 2011 Gareth Evans rated it it was amazing
Vivid descriptions of the claustrophobic life on an early nineteenth century sailing ship coupled with a brilliant description of status, class and inhumanity. All told in wonderful prose. A great short novel, which feels much larger than its relatively small word count.
Alex Hogan
Jul 30, 2011 Alex Hogan rated it it was amazing
Shelves: gay, historical, classic
For an Australian this book resonates even more, since the story is about an immigrant ship to Australia.

This book is just amazing. Awesome.
Kevin Darbyshire
Mar 28, 2016 Kevin Darbyshire rated it it was amazing
Difficult to understand the story from the start up once you get there Golding creates a wonderfully claustrophobic atmosphere of life below deck. The first book in the trilogy I am hooked.
Nov 03, 2010 Phil rated it did not like it
Shelves: classic
Not that great of book. It dragged on from the first page. Wordy and not good, boring English stuff. Would not recommend it.
Nov 19, 2016 Ian rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Back at school, I read Golding’s Lord of the Flies – at least I’m pretty sure I did; I can distinctly remember the class reading Cider with Rosie and The Cruel Sea, but my memories of reading Lord of the Flies are somewhat vague – but that was all I knew of Golding. And then a couple of months ago, a local charity shop had four of his paperbacks in stock – I’m not sure who donated them, since they were in excellent condition and had even been protected by sticky-back transparent plastic. I ...more
Alex Rendall
William Golding won the Booker Prize for the novel that is the first in his To The Ends of the Earth trilogy. The trio of novels focuses on a ship bound for Australia in the early nineteenth century and the cast of characters aboard. Rites of Passage relates the tale of the aristocratic Talbot, his shame for failing to prevent the public humiliation of a parson and the event's consequences. It's a fairly simple story but Golding relates it powerfully and he uses the novel to explore the notions ...more
Jim Leckband
Aug 27, 2016 Jim Leckband rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I am glad I read Joseph Conrad's novels before I read this - so I can appreciate what Golding is doing in being both Conradian and anti-Conradian. Conrad set many works on the sea so it is no great thing to have a sea voyage novel being influenced by him - I bet it is pretty impossible to escape the influence of Lord Jim. However it seems that Conrad is the white whale Golding is hunting (how's that for an amateur mixed metaphor!).

In Conrad, in my opinion, there was always a platonic "good" that
Sep 01, 2013 Arun rated it really liked it
The author justifies his conclusion: "a man can die of shame."

Edmund Talbot, the protagonist, (narrator), who is bound to Australia to rule, a new colony of the British; Wheeler, his helper; Mr Taylor and Mr Willis, two other helper boys; Captain Anderson, the atheistic, moronic captain of the vessel; Mr Summers, the first lieutenant; Mr Prettiman, one of the lieutenants; two more lieutenants; Billy, a young, handsome seaman whom the parson much admired.
Notable fellow passengers inclu
This novel is a seafaring story that is told through a journal written by a young man, Edmund Talbott, off to serve in government in Australia. It also contains a letter written by the Parson Coffey, also a passenger to Australia.
Talbott, a privileged youth is remarkable for his extreme naivety and he is “filled” with himself. Talbott thinks he is going to be a seaman but suffers sea sickness, he thinks he is going to learn the “tarpaulin language” and understand the life of a sailor. Coffey wa
Geoff Wooldridge
Dec 12, 2015 Geoff Wooldridge rated it really liked it
Perhaps best known for his 1964 novel, Lord of the Flies, William Golding wrote several other novels, of which Rites of Passage won him a Booker Prize in 1980.

It is written in 19th century language to be consistent with the period it covers, using quite formal English language to record entries in a journal during a voyage from England to Australia.

The author of the journal is Edmund Talbot, a gentleman who has the sponsorship of a person of some eminence, and to whom the journal is addressed. T
Feb 05, 2015 McNatty rated it really liked it
I'm learning a lot from this book. I've learnt about a sextant, the origins of "tough wood" from the days when priests would grip the wooden cross and pray. The nautical tern Falconer, not a trained Falcon handler but a skilled sailor dating back to William Falconer who wrote the maritime dictionary in the 18th century that these sailors read. Don't forgot Nelson, every man strives to live in his shadow. The famous Blunderbuss rifle ignites imagery of old movies I've seen. Its funny too the old ...more
Jan 27, 2016 Kate rated it it was amazing
Потрясающий роман! Сначала это какая-то юмореска про то, как корабль с поселенцами отправляется в длительное плавание - забавна сценка, когда Талбот близко знакомится с мисс Зенобией. Длинное плавание, расслабленная атмосфера, комичные персонажи: нигилист Преттимен, угрюмый капитан Андерсон, семейство Брокльбанк с прелестницей-дочкой (ха!) и абсолютно смешной ничтожный человечек священник Колли. Читатель расслабляется и говорится к "Троим в лодке". Как вдруг автор безжалостно обрушивает на него ...more
Apr 08, 2016 Bill rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Not unlike Golding's own "Lord of the Flies", this novel describes how people in isolation can turn petty, cruel, and manipulative. Here, though, the setting is an English ship headed for Australia in the 1800's. The passengers run the gamut of social levels, up to the elitist and naive aristocrat who narrates the story, in the form of a journal to his patron. The clash between social classes and the ship's own hierarchy leads to conflict, and, not unlike "Lord of the Flies", one of the ...more
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  • Saville
  • Something to Answer For
  • Holiday
  • The Elected Member
  • The Old Devils
  • G.
  • In a Free State
  • The Conservationist
  • How Late It Was, How Late
  • Staying On
  • The Siege of Krishnapur
  • Offshore
  • Sacred Hunger
  • Heat and Dust
  • Moon Tiger
  • Last Orders
  • The Ghost Road (Regeneration, #3)
  • Life and Times of Michael K
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 in 1988.

In 2008, The Times ranked Golding third on their list of
More about William Golding...

Other Books in the Series

To the Ends of the Earth (3 books)
  • Close Quarters (To the Ends of the Earth, #2)
  • Fire Down Below (To the Ends of the Earth, #3)

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“In our country for all her greatness there is one thing she cannot do and that is translate a person wholly out of one class into another. Perfect translation from one language into another is impossible. Class is the British language.” 8 likes
“Allow me to tell you, Mr Taylor", said I, but quietly as the occassion demanded, "that one gentleman does not rejoice at the misfortune of another in public".” 2 likes
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