08 April 2015

Review of Light in August by William Faulkner

Title:  Light in August

Author:  William Faulkner

Publication Information:  1932

How I Got This Book:  I bought it way back in the day in the Oprah's Book Club boxed set.

Goodreads Synopsis:  Light in August, a novel about hopeful perseverance in the face of mortality, features some of Faulkner’s most memorable characters: guileless, dauntless Lena Grove, in search of the father of her unborn child; Reverend Gail Hightower, who is plagued by visions of Confederate horsemen; and Joe Christmas, a desperate, enigmatic drifter consumed by his mixed ancestry.

My Thoughts:  I cannot freaking believe that it took me so long to read this novel!

Admittedly, it starts off (like many Faulkner novels) kind of slowly and erratically.  You are introduced to these characters and you learn about them bit by bit, but you don't know why you're learning about them.  Then it clicks.  And speeds up.  Though in true Faulknerian style, there is a lot of description and using of ten words to say one.  (Sidenote--Does anyone else love the classic Hemingway-Faulkner exchange of barbs as much as I do? [see number 8 on the list])  But that's OK.  It's what I love about Faulkner, just as I love Hemingway's sparseness.

There were times I felt the need to read the Sparknotes to confirm what I had just read and make sure I hadn't missed anything important.  And that was fine.  As the novel progressed, I did that less and less.

This was another novel about human connection and interaction and how alone we can all sometimes be, which made it an interesting read coming on the heels of The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter.  I'm really glad that I read those two so closely, to be honest.  It was interesting to see how both authors dealt with the topic.

Three of your main characters--Lena, Hightower, and Christmas--are all following, hunting something and are also being chased or haunted by something.  And it's interesting to see the way they all deal with that.  My favorite way, of course, is that the journey is the journey and that's part of life.

Byron Bunch is an important character in the lives of the other three characters, but he's not mentioned in the synopsis, which is a shame.

Faulkner has some lovely and powerful passages in here.  I particularly loved "Memory believes before knowing remembers. Believes longer than recollects, longer than knowing even wonders."

And I love how he switches to an unknown narrator to tell the last chapter.  I think that distance, that inclusion of a stranger's perception of the character this chapter deals with, makes the novel.  If he had used a close narrator, I think a lot of the point and power of the novel as a whole would have been lost.

This is a fantastic novel.  It covers all of the topics that are still important today--race, sexuality, religion, class, and others.  We all make decisions and sometimes there are good consequences, bad consequences, and unforeseen consequences--but that is life.  And that is what this novel is ultimately about.

I still think As I Lay Dying might be my favorite Faulkner, but this is so far a close second.  Fortunately, I have tons more Faulkner to read to see how that may or may not change.

Lastly, I am very proud of myself and Lisa for finally finishing a buddy read.  Go us!

3 comments:

  1. Christmas was such a great character - I'd start feeling sorry for him and then he'd turn around and do something abominable. I love, love that Hemingway never let us know if he committed that murder or not. What did you end up thinking?

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    1. I really like unlikeable or vague characters. I thought he did it, but I have my doubts about the fire. What about you?

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  2. Nice review. I clearly didn't like it as much as you, but I am impressed with your comparison to The Heart is a Lonely Hunter (I loved that one). My review: http://100greatestnovelsofalltimequest.blogspot.com/2015/10/light-in-august-by-william-faulkner-60.html

    And I'll throw in McCullers as well: http://100greatestnovelsofalltimequest.blogspot.com/2014/11/the-heart-is-lonely-hunter-by-carson.html

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