Faber & Faber, £16.99, 251pp. £15.29 from the Independent Bookshop: 08430 600 030

The Children of Lovers, By Judy Golding

There is renewed critical interest in novelist William Golding (1911-1993). Following the acclaim for John Carey's definitive biography in 2009, Faber have produced centenary editions of Lord of the Flies (1954) and The Inheritors (1955), featuring new introductions by Stephen King and Carey. Later this year, the Bodleian Library will display manuscripts (Golding was an Oxford graduate). In Cornwall, the county where he was born and died, the William Golding Centenary Conference will be held in September at the University of Exeter campus, Penryn. Faber has also published his daughter Judy's memoir, The Children of Lovers.

Golding was that rare creature, a bestselling novelist who was critically acclaimed and rewarded in his lifetime – receiving the Nobel Prize in Literature and a knighthood, as well as the Booker for Rites of Passage, and being pursued by the great, good and glittering. Lord Snowdon photographed him, though praised him for writing The Lord of the Rings.

The early years were unpromising. While working as a schoolteacher, Golding had his first three novels rejected, and Lord of the Flies was thrown on the slush pile. It got into print only by the intervention of a percipient Faber newcomer, Charles Monteith, who edited it rigorously and enabled it to become the huge success that made Golding's fame and fortune. This novel – adopted as a school set text and made into Peter Brook's 1963 film – transformed the way childhood was represented. As Peter Conrad argued, it warped RM Ballantyne's naïve The Coral Island into an allegory of the wickedness of our species, and showed the devil flourishing in English public schools.

In 1983, Ursula Owen compiled a collection, Fathers: reflections by daughters. She commented on how little had been published on that subject and how the topic is generally understood through Freudian psychoanalysis or writings about patriarchy and the father's institutionalised power. "In our culture, mothering is a job and fathering is a hobby," she claims, and yet for many intellectual women the father's attention as mentor is crucial.

To date, Judy Golding's memoir is one of a mere handful of autobiographical accounts by writers' and artists' daughters, often describing troubled, violent or sexually predatory figures – such as Daphne du Maurier's Gerald du Maurier: A Portrait, Susan Cheever's Home Before Dark, Angelica Garnett's Deceived With Kindness, and Julia Blackburn's The Three of Us.

Judy Golding is a sophisticated and self-conscious memoirist, flagging delicate evasions and yet having the courage to explore the cruelties, inconsistencies and conflicts within her father as they impacted on family life and her own psyche. Golding called himself a "monster", and there is plenty of evidence in his own journal and papers of sexual violence, fascist tendencies (the Second World War obsessed him), and alcoholic destructiveness and self-loathing. But he is also a wonderful guide to his own passions of music, Greek literature and adventurous holidays (despite his hair-raising driving and sailing).

The title quotes a proverb, "The children of lovers are orphans", and the author claims that her father's marriage was the central focus of his life. However, we see her own intense and passionate relationship with "Bill" as being at least as central (and the fiction reflects a considerable preoccupation with incest). He can be devastating – calling her "a political slot machine. You put your penny in... and out came a cliché" – but also devoted.

Just before his sudden death, in the Cornwall house full of his children and grandchildren, he pledges "love... Just love" to his beloved daughter, who describes this as a "perfect ending" – for her, though not for her brother David. King Lear is invoked a couple of times, and one cannot but think of Judy as brave, dignified Cordelia standing up against, and constantly forgiving, her father's insatiable demands, contempt and pig-headedness.

The two children experience breakdowns: David through a series of psychotic episodes, Judy herself in a nervous collapse and suicide attempt. Separation from their parents clearly cost both children dearly, and Golding seems to have drawn them back into a web of dependency that threatened both of their lives and adult relationships. For Judy, as for many favoured daughters of brilliant men, this intimacy produced a distanced and jealous maternal bond, and confused her own burgeoning sexual identity. She contrasts the girly dresses of "lollipop suggestiveness" that her mother made her with the "warm, exciting world of tweed jackets and tobacco" of a masculine world she found seductive. She also describes with great subtlety an evolving perception of her father from frightening, omnipotent and omniscient companion to drunken depressive of flawed and brittle vulnerability: in one instance, recalling William's quietly devastated reaction to a radio critic describing his novel The Spire as "wuthering depths". Golding was a large figure – physically, intellectually and emotionally – and he emerges from this memoir with clarity and complexity. It is of great credit to Judy Golding that the reader concludes by being just as interested in his daughter.

Helen Taylor will be discussing the memoir with Judy Golding at the Daphne du Maurier Festival, Fowey, Cornwall, on Saturday 14 May. For details of the Centenary Conference see http://golding2011.blogspot.com

Arts and Entertainment
Ellie Levenson’s The Election book demystifies politics for children
bookNew children's book primes the next generation for politics
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams' “Happy” was the most searched-for song lyric of 2014
musicThe power of song never greater, according to our internet searches
Arts and Entertainment
Roffey says: 'All of us carry shame and taboo around about our sexuality. But I was determined not to let shame stop me writing my memoir.'
Arts and Entertainment
Call The Midwife: Miranda Hart as Chummy

tv Review: Miranda Hart and co deliver the festive goods

Arts and Entertainment
The cast of Downton Abbey in the 2014 Christmas special

tvReview: Older generation get hot under the collar this Christmas

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Transformers: Age of Extinction was the most searched for movie in the UK in 2014

Arts and Entertainment
Mark Ronson has had two UK number two singles but never a number one...yet

Arts and Entertainment
Clara Amfo will take over from Jameela Jamil on 25 January

Arts and Entertainment
This is New England: Ken Cheeseman, Ann Dowd, Frances McDormand and Richard Jenkins in Olive Kitteridge

The most magnificently miserable show on television in a long timeTV
Arts and Entertainment
Andrea Faustini looks triumphant after hearing he has not made it through to Sunday's live final

Arts and Entertainment
Rhys says: 'I'm not playing it for laughs, but I have learnt that if you fall over on stage, people can enjoy that as much as an amazing guitar solo'
musicGruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence
Arts and Entertainment
Krysia and Daniel (Hand out press photograph provided by Sally Richardson)
How do today's composers answer the challenge of the classical giant?
Shenaz Treasurywala
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Watkins as Christopher Jefferies
Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars Director JJ Abrams: key character's names have been revealed
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams won two BBC Music Awards for Best Song and International Artist
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

    The West needs more than a White Knight

    Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
    Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

    'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

    Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
    Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

    Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

    Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
    The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

    The stories that defined 2014

    From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
    Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

    Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

    Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?
    Finally, a diet that works: Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced

    Finally, a diet that works

    Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced
    Say it with... lyrics: The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches

    Say it with... lyrics

    The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches
    Professor Danielle George: On a mission to bring back the art of 'thinkering'

    The joys of 'thinkering'

    Professor Danielle George on why we have to nurture tomorrow's scientists today
    Monique Roffey: The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections

    Monique Roffey interview

    The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections
    Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

    Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

    Their outrageousness and originality makes the world a bit more interesting, says Ellen E Jones
    DJ Taylor: Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

    Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

    It has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
    Olivia Jacobs & Ben Caplan: 'Ben thought the play was called 'Christian Love'. It was 'Christie in Love' - about a necrophiliac serial killer'

    How we met

    Olivia Jacobs and Ben Caplan
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's breakfasts will revitalise you in time for the New Year

    Bill Granger's healthy breakfasts

    Our chef's healthy recipes are perfect if you've overindulged during the festive season
    Transfer guide: From Arsenal to West Ham - what does your club need in the January transfer window?

    Who does your club need in the transfer window?

    Most Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
    The Last Word: From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015