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

3.62 of 5 stars 3.62  ·  rating details  ·  2,092 ratings  ·  87 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
43rd out of 49 books — 1,483 voters
The Stranger by Albert CamusOne Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcí­a MárquezThe Old Man and the Sea by Ernest HemingwayOf Mice and Men by John SteinbeckLord of the Flies by William Golding
Nobel Laureates
178th out of 399 books — 353 voters

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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.
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
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
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
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 1 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: snobs
Shelves: novel-classics
It may be fancy pants, but it's still crap. Yes, sir.
Dec 10, 2014 Lobstergirl rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  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
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
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
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
Christian Schwoerke
More a 3.5.

I worried myself in the reading of this novel and the other two that compose the trilogy "To the Ends of the Earth," but even at the end, it seemed that Golding was right in his assessment, that the novels are more diverting than profound, full of little pleasures and nice resonances, but not in the same class as his deeper excursions into man's soul (a la Lord of the Flies, The Spire, Pincher Martin, The Inheritors, Darkness Visible). Golding contrives a winning voice for all three o
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
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
Dave Belleville
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.
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".
I've begun to read the trilogy because I just viewed the BBC production of 2005, which stayed quite close to the book. I'm not sure why this volume won the Man Booker prize, but then I don't know what books were competing with it. What I liked is that the main character, Edmund Talbot, is interesting, somewhat insensitive because of his social rank (typical of many of that period--and of people today, too--human character does not change), naive, reluctant to get involved (also typical of human ...more
Ronan Mcdonnell
A post-Napoleonic War-era ocean voyage from England to Australia. The assembled bodies onboard are divided by acts which occur amidst the doldrom and opiate haze of sea-sickness and living in close proximity.
The ship is a crucible to examine the authorities and passions that control us, and the sea it passes through a measure of time and display of our bonds to this life. The church meets the post-enlightenment state, the aristocracy is surrounded by greater numbers of lower social rank.
As ever
Derek Bridge
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!
Paul McMeekin
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.
Gareth Evans
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.
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
I love Golding. His novels never fail to spotlight the darkness that lurks in us, cloaked in socially acceptable behaviour. The man was an astonishing parable teller, writing about the unsightly to evoke compassion and humanity, to make us strive to become better than we are and, eventually, make the world a place worth living in.

"Lord of the Flies", which by the way, Golding himself didn't consider to be his best novel, is easily the most scaring book I've ever read. "Rites of Passage" may seem
Alex Hogan
For an Australian this book resonates even more, since the story is about an immigrant ship to Australia.

This book is just amazing. Awesome.
Not that great of book. It dragged on from the first page. Wordy and not good, boring English stuff. Would not recommend it.
Jack Sakalauskas
"Rites of Passage," a book by William Golding, is a narrative, written in a journal, by a snobbish passenger. It takes place on an outdated warship on the way to Australia around 1812. The story deals with the behavior of the Officers and upper crust passengers, as well as some of the crew.
There are good references to the condition of the ship and the behavior of the characters.
Written in old English, I found it sometimes hard to read and found myself skipping paragraphs. Still, it was an inte
Written 150 years after the voyage it describes, Golding writes in the style of the mid 1800s - an achievement of great skill.

The story has a pompous young aristocrat narrating his experiences and observations during the first part of his voyage from England to Sydney Cove. We have the stern Captain, drunken sailors (and passengers), the divided class system, boredom, a bit of flirting and a bullied pastor who's experiences and death form the basis of the novel.

A great literary piece of work bu
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 expected happens i.e. 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 characters? Non ...more
D.A. Cairns
Rites of Passage is my cup of tea as far as books go. Set in the 18th century, the action takes place aboard an English ship bound for Australia, and is narrated in first person by a young bureaucrat named Talbot. Talbot writes journal entries about his experiences on the ship. At first I didn't know if I was going to like that, but before I finished the first chapter I was totally sold. The characters are so well drawn that I felt like I had been personally travelling with the crew and the pass ...more
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
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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 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)
Lord of the Flies The Inheritors Pincher Martin The Spire Darkness Visible

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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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