The midlife crisis that followed the Lord of the Flies

The object of William Golding's five-year obsession in the swinging Sixties breaks her silence. By John McEntee

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The Independent Online

When William Golding died suddenly of a heart attack, after an evening's heavy drinking nearly 19 years ago, he left behind a treasure trove of unfinished novels and an intimate personal journal. But, on the insistence of the writer's only daughter, Judy, these yellowing manuscripts will remain in a bank vault. They will never be published.

What we know of the turbulent private life of the Lord Of The Flies author we can glean from John Carey's biography, and the disclosures in Judy's book, The Children Of Lovers, published last year. But there are yawning gaps in our understanding of the troubled Nobel Prize winner, who died aged 81 in 1993. Now, some of the previously undocumented events in Golding's fraught later life have been unearthed for a forthcoming BBC film which will shed light on the writer's self- loathing, depression and heroic drinking bouts.

It also chronicles the effects on Golding of the decades-long depression of his only son, David, who endured a breakdown as a student from which he has never fully recovered. But it is the film's focus on Golding's five-year relationship with an attractive Canadian student which looks set to garner most attention. For The Dreams Of William Golding, director Adam Low managed to track down the former student. She is the exotically named Virginia Tiger, now professor of English at Ruthven's University in New Jersey. She agreed to co-operate and talk on camera about Golding's fascination for her.

And, for the first time, Judy Golding admits that she believes her father was in love with Tiger. She says: "This was a very big thing in both my parent's lives. Virginia was a very attractive, very intelligent ,very sympathetic person who was very interested in my father's writing. She was somebody my father wanted to be friends with but it would be misleading if I didn't acknowledge he also, at some degree fell in love with her."

This had a profoundly upsetting effect on Judy's mother Anne, an analytic chemist who had been married to Golding for nearly 30 years by the time he started his relationship with Tiger in 1966. Tiger recalls: "I wrote him a letter. I got a response .He said he would see me. He told me to take a train to Salisbury and he would give me lunch in a pub. We went to the pub and had lunch and we talked. We were both very nervous . Then he took me on a tour of Stonehenge. This was a very big thing in both our lives."

Ann Golding died in 1995, two years after her husband, and is buried alongside him at Bowerchalke, Wiltshire. At the time Golding became smitten by Tiger he was in his mid-fifties, prompting suggestions of a mid-life crisis. According to Judy, Tiger came on the scene when Golding had lost his direction and was drinking heavily, causing him to physically assault Ann, "pulling her about".

Golding and Tiger corresponded often. Without Ann's approval, he invited her to the family home near Salisbury, WIltshire. Ann made no secret of her discomfiture. Professor Tiger recalls: "I was young and attractive. Ann made it clear she was very uncomfortable with me.I don't think she liked me. In fact I am sure she didn't."

Tiger, who has written a number of scholarly books, including The Unmoved Target: The Fiction Of William Golding, says: "Was he infatuated with the young Virginia Tiger? Was he smitten with the young Virginia Tiger?Was he besotted with the young Virginia Tiger? I would say yes. But we were not lovers. Ann thought there might be a point where we were lovers but we were just very good friends." It was at Ann's insistence that Golding discontinued the relationship.


'Arena: The Dreams Of William Golding', Saturday, 9.30pm BBC2