William Golding met Ann Brookfield in 1939. Ann was an analytical chemist, and Golding was a school teacher. Both were engaged to other people when they met, but they fell in love at first sight. Just five months later they married, and their son David was born in 1940. Later that year, Golding joined the Navy to fight in the Second World War, and this was the longest separation they ever faced in their 53-year marriage. Their daughter, Judy, was born in 1945.
Ann was instrumental in the development of Golding’s writing career. He aspired to be a writer, and indeed, in 1934, his first (and only) volume of poetry was published. However, he had been unsuccessful with subsequent manuscripts; all of which had been rejected. Ann encouraged Golding to write Lord of the Flies in 1953. Golding remembered the night he came up with the idea:
‘I sat on one side of the fireplace and my wife on the other. We had just put the children to bed after reading […] some adventure story or other – Coral Island, Treasure Island, Coconut Island, Pirate Island, Magic Island. But I was tired of these islands with their paper-cutout goodies and baddies and everything for the best in the best of all possible worlds. I said to wife, “Wouldn’t it be a good idea if I wrote a story about boys on an island and let them behave the way that really would?” She replied at once, “That’s a first class idea. You write it.” So I sat down and wrote it.’
For all of Golding’s books, Ann commented on his drafts, and suggested ways he could improve his writing. She was instrumental in helping to develop the plot in Darkness Visible, and she tried to help Golding through the various drafts of The Spire. Judy Golding recalls that Ann ‘was a crucial support in his writing. He says himself that without her he would not have written the books. I believe him’.
Ann and Golding spent much of their time together. Ann accompanied him on almost all his trips abroad; first in America, where he spent a year lecturing at American colleges in 1961. As his fame as a writer grew, Golding was invited all over the world to give talks about his books, almost always with Ann. In fact, on the rare occasions when Ann didn’t go with him, Golding tended to end up rather lost. For instance, on his return to America in 1963, he suffered with flu, and found himself wandering around in New York at night. In 1976, he took a solo trip to France for a British Council event, and ending up staying in the wrong hotel. After this, John Carey writes that the British Council decided to pay for Ann to accompany Golding on these trips, ‘as he was not himself without her’.
Ann’s brother Richard described her as ‘a competent and formidable person’. She was fiercely intelligent, strong, and rebellious and never afraid to speak her mind. She worked as a part time school teacher before Golding’s career took off, and she essentially managed his career after that. Judy writes ‘it was she who answered the phone, read his contracts as well as first drafts of his writing, and chose who would come to lunch’. Golding’s oft-quoted statement: ‘I think women are foolish to pretend they are equal to men; they are far superior and always have been’, must surely have been said with Ann in mind.