Book Review: “The Inheritors,” by William Golding

In my trek across the Nobel Prize in Literature spectrum, I found The Inheritors at a Savers for next to nothing and thought, “Well now! Golding is a Nobel Prize winner. ADD.”

william-golding
The Inheritors by William Golding

I confess myself less than awestruck. I’ve already prepared myself for the barrage of hate mail and troll comments about William Golding being an amazing writer and Lord of the Flies was the best novel they ever read. I sense saying Golding isn’t all that is akin to saying The Beatles are “so so.” But there it is.

The Inheritors takes the reader back to the Before time, when Neanderthals were just beginning to be over taken by Homo sapiens, assuming that’s how it happened. We meet a group of Neanderthals who live primitively but quite like humans with feelings for each other, language (though simplistic), thought processes (though muted and simplistic as well), and religion that includes burying the dead.

Golding does a good job of making the reader care about non-human species we know little about. On it’s face it goes above that of Animal Farm in that we are feeling for non-humans for non-humans value rather than for animals AS humans. For that, the praise came in from all angles when the book was introduced back in 1955. His concept is imaginative and daunting in terms of what he has to consider and overcome to write this piece.

But I couldn’t help but feel two very strong ideas playing out.

First is the idea that Golding wrote this book in a sort of “Look what I can do” like New Age Western poetry tends to do rather than the wanted “I have a story to tell…and by the way, I did this really awesome thing with that story.” There’s a nagging sensation that this is a poem with no real guts or meaning beyond the “I have feelings for a dead species. Look how good a person I am.” God, even as I write this review, I feel like I’m just as guilty as Golding. So I see the irony here.

Second is a sensation I get often, and is fully a function of my time spent in Albuquerque and Santa Fe (regrettably). There’s a sense that Golding is trying to show how much better he is than other writers because HE can feel for a dead species. Not that he can’t, or that others can, or that he did so in an insulting way, but that he still managed to impress upon these Others (Others being the Neanderthals, not the Others from the book, which are homo sapiens) that they are “inherently” human. Which, by his storyline, they weren’t. But there is still the Western understanding of life, death, religion, hierarchy, etc playing out among his characters.

I wanted to love this book. I really did. The concept had such potential. The themes were so politically and socially charged. My mouth watered waiting for this book to come up in my virtual cue on my not-so-virtual real-life bookshelf. But my own prejudicial thoughts on privileged white “artists” (myself included) kept me from pulling it together to enjoy this rarely read novel.

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