[a:William Golding|306|William Golding|http://d.gr-assets.com/authors/1198342496p2/306.jpg]'s [b:The Spire|1041866|The Spire|William Golding|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1180454777s/1041866.jpg|24161742]
is another of those 'improving
' books that my father bought me years ago. This edition claims to have been published in 1983, but that feels a little to early – 1989 sounds more likely. That said taking 'only' 14 years to read a gift still feels woefully inadequate. Luckily he doesn't have a Goodreads account, so he'll never know.The Spire
is the story of Dean Jocelin and his spire. He is a man who has been touched by a vision; a man who God has charged with the task to build a spire on top of his cathedral. He is driven to this despite the protestations of the master builder, Roger Mason; despite the increasing complaints of his colleagues in the cathedral chapter meetings; despite the increasing costs and lack of money; despite, most worryingly of all, the lack of substantive foundations for the cathedral and the increasing 'singing' from the building as the extra weight is laid upon it. Dean Jocelin believes he is anointed, that his spire is his (and God's) legacy, and as the spire goes up, so his own mental state takes an increasing turn for the worse. Initially he has his vision of the spire, but this is followed with hearing music and voices, repeated visits from both an angel and a demon to protect and tempt him respectively – like the angel and demon on the shoulders of a cartoon character. By any yardstick his mind is failing faster than he has the strength to force his builders to put up the spire.
The novel feels very densely written, very descriptive without it necessarily being clear what's being described. To the point that large parts of the novel are just plain confusing. Perhaps the first chapter would have been less confusing if I hadn't had the Amgen Tour of California cycling race on in the background, but the other chapters had no such excuse. Chapters heavier in dialogue are an easier read, but at times that feels like a relative comparison and several times I had to reread sections to be clearer who was saying what to whom. Even in it's ending, there is a sense of a lack of satisfaction. Too much is left unclear. It's assumed that Dean Jocelin's visions were imagined, but there's no clear narrative either way: the spire stays up against all the odds
. Further questions around the Pangalls were left unclear for me too: Why does Pangall leave? Was it the bullying by the builders? Was it that he'd discovered he was being cuckolded? Or was he murdered by Roger Mason?
. Ultimately, I found it an immensely challenging read, but a fascinating one all the same.