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on 20 March 2017
To my shame, this is the first Faulkner I’ve read. He’s another author that has been on the edge of my radar for years, but I’ve never got round to reading him, save for a few extracts given as examples when I was studying English Literature.
This is a classic that is really worthy of the name. It’s a deceptively simple tale - a woman dies and her family transport her body back to her home town to fulfil her dying wish. But Faulkner uses this journey to take his reader on a journey too, revealing bit by bit the relationships between Addie’s children and with their father - their rivalries, their jealousies, their fears, their hopes, their dreams.
The story to me though is in a way secondary to the writing. It is so, so well-crafted that it is almost awe-inspiring. That might sound over the top, but I had to keep stopping and re-reading, and reading out bits to my poor family because the sheer skill of the writing was so amazing.
That isn’t to say that the writing is complicated. It’s dense, yes, but dense with meaning. Faulkner offers a masterclass here in saying a lot with a few words and images. Every word has a point, has a place and is needed. Nothing is wasted.
Faulkner is a writer whose works are often studied, rather than simply read. And that’s a bit of a shame. It was lovely to read this simply for the pleasure of reading - and it really is an absolute pleasure to read.
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on 13 April 2017
As with most of Faulkner's novels, this can be hard work at times, but it is a hugely enjoyable book which you get more from every time you come back to it. It is heartbreaking, darkly funny and full of compelling characters.
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on 13 April 2017
I read this because it was chosen by my book club. Really hard going at times because of the dialect it's written in. It does get better towards the end but overall a really disappointing read and not recommended. Hard to see why this is rated as a 'literary masterpiece'.
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on 9 June 2016
Sad. Beautifully written and observed.
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on 31 August 2013
Some may regret the absence of a scholarly introduction; but this is, of course, a masterpiece of twentieth-century American fiction
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on 24 June 2011
This powerful and relatively brief novel, written from many different viewpoints, is about the tribulations of an American family before and following the death of the mother. (I would strongly suggest that any reader first consults notes from a literature course - I found a great online set of notes -- in order to understand as much as possible from a first reading.) I like this novel better than The Sound and the Fury. But was it an enjoyable read? No, in the sense that it was hard work. And was it worth while putting in the effort? Yes, most emphatically, and there is some wonderful writing here.
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I will admit that this is probably still my favourite Faulkner novel, and indeed what he does here is sheer genius. By writing in a multiple narrative style, using the vernacular, and stream of consciousness you probably end up with a greater feeling for all the characters than if this had been written in a more conventional style. If I remember rightly Faulkner himself was very pleased with this novel, and I believe that it was one that he wrote at night.

The story itself is quite easy to get into. At the very beginning of this Addie Bundren is lying on her deathbed, soon to pass away. Her husband says that her body has to be taken to Jefferson where she came from, as she wishes to be buried with her family. This in itself is rather telling, as normally in marriages she would have been buried locally, and then her husband would join her on his burial. It is such little things like this, as well as more major things that really make this novel work. And despite it being about the death and the burial of Addie this book isn’t all doom and gloom. Faulkner herein produced a finely crafted tragicomedy.

From the beginning of this you just know that you will be in for some laughs, albeit black comedy, as you read how Addie is on her deathbed, and her coffin in being made outside her window, comically macabre in itself. But after Addie has died the comedy increases. With the body having to be transported to her final resting place it would seem like a journey by cart of a few days, but with the after effects of a storm, it becomes something more like a long trek, akin to the Israelites leaving Egypt.

A gripping read there is so much to take in here as we find out more about all the characters in this book, and what makes them tick. Tragic and even bittersweet in places, this is also humorous and thought provoking, as well as very moving. I won’t give anything away, but the ending to this is something that most definitely is inspired. If you are deciding on a book for a book group read then this is one that perhaps should be considered, after all there is a lot to discuss here.
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on 26 April 2017
An all-time great at the peak of his powers. Difficult as is often the case with Faulkner but utterly mesmerising. No one builds pictures, families and landscapes the way he does.
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on 9 September 2014
When it was first published in 1930, As I Lay Dying formed part of the modernist movement in writing. Its focus on psychological realism, its stream of consciousness prose and its multiple first person narrative, account for it being a seminal work. As a consequence Faulkner carved a place for himself as a literary great.

The plot is a quest. The Bundren family want to respect the wishes of the matriarch of the family, Addie, by burying her in Jefferson, a town some distance away. To do so they have to overcome numerous obstacles. The family is deeply flawed and the story moves slowly through these challenges, descending at points into farce.

By today’s standards, the book is a testing read. The multiple voices are indistinct, all written in dialect with few distinguishing elements, making it hard to identify who is who. In the first half of the book the pace is slow to the point where it is hard to identify any forward momentum. In the latter half the pace picks up, but only at the expense of credibility. Although the characterisation is well established as poor, naïve and lazy, it is hard to believe that this family, that has managed to survive as dirt farmers in Mississippi, don’t have more common sense or resourcefulness. The fact that this is a poor white family, without the additional challenge of racism to contend with, further undermines its credibility.

As part of the development of fiction writing, As I Lay Dying, has an important place in literary history, and was considered a courageous piece of writing at the time. However, for a modern reader its merits may not seem that obvious.
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on 10 December 2001
This is a compelling novel, as well as a literary masterpiece.
The death of Addie Bundren in the country, and the desparately hard and bitter journey to bury her in the town of Jefferson, is told primarily through the voices of her husband and five children. The force of the novel comes through the narrative structure - by employing the different voices of his characters, Faulkner paints a vivid picture of the time, the country and, particularly powerfully, the hostilities and bonds within the family.
The plot is delicately unravelled and wholly satisfying. Any reader - with a passion for reading - will find this book gripping and profoundly affecting.
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