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A grim tale in the Deep South,
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This review is from: Sanctuary (Vintage International) (Paperback)
The Penguin Classic cover states, 'no perceptive reader..will mistake it for a lurid narrative of violence'. Well, this review is being written by a non-perceptive reader.
A small gang of moonshiners live in the backwoods of Tennessee led by world weary Goodwin and his unnamed moll. A drunken young couple foolishly stray out of town to get more alcohol and despite warnings stay the night. For Temple, the teenage girl who is a wild-child way out of her depth, it becomes a nightmare culminating in rape and abduction by the emotionally disturbed gangster Popeye.
Temple is transferred to a brothel in Memphis run by the outrageous Miss Reba while Popeye acts as pimp and indulges in some disturbing sexual deviance. Quite how this got past the censors in 1931 is baffling. Goodwin discovers that another one of his gang has been killed when Popeye left and having reported the crime is wrongly arrested.
The core story then interlinks the search by small town lawyer Horace Benbow for Temple, as the only witness who can save Goodwin from the Chair, with Benbow's own covetous feelings for the gangster's wife. Benbow is central to the novel as he does what is 'right' in the face of prejudice but there are countless more convincing candidates for this role in American literature.
Faulkner's style can sometimes be difficult and he has an obsession with the words 'whirling' and 'whirled'. There are a couple of amusing scenes both revolving around the brothel but this is a dark unremitting tale.
This is not Nobel Prize-winning stuff. There is a 'rumour' that Faulkner deliberately courted publicity with this racy, violent pot-boiler for his later better-known works. Whether the 'rumour' is true or not, on this evidence I could well believe it.