5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
This review is from: A Death in the Family (Paperback)
James Agee died in 1955, leaving A Death in the Family, barely finished, as his sole full-length novel. Agee was known for his poetry and non-fiction work, alongside movie reviews and screenplays. This was hailed as his masterpiece, and it obtained the Pulitzer Prize. But one wonders to what extent Agee's trajectory influenced the novel's reception.
A Death in the Family is one of these slow pieces where the action is in the impressions formed by the characters from a single event, in this case the death of a family member. Set in Knoxville, Tennessee, 1915, the novel does include a few moving scenes in between soft canvases of Southern life. But it is also filled with much dull and monotonous dialogue. It skids slowly in between high points. Indeed, the best chapters concern the children's reaction to their father's death, their incomplete understanding of what has happened, and their struggle with adult grief and embarrassment. But these chapters are a small part of the novel. The rest deals with the numerous and sometimes interchangeable members of the storyline's extensive family. The effect is uneven and, I found, not as stirring as the hype promises.