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Book Review: Light in August by William Faulkner

William Faulkner and I just aren’t going to get along. I chose to read Light in August because I had never read one of his books and knew I’d enjoy his Southern setting. Which I did.

The book starts out with a poverty-stricken pregnant girl, Lena Grove, walking across the Deep South in search of her baby’s father. It then describes Joe Christmas, a pale-skinned man with mixed blood who is hounded from place to place by his “defect.” A sad, lonely minister, Reverend Hightower also has a starring role in this book of engrossing characters.

Characterization is Faulkner’s forte. He goes into detail with even the most minor players so that the reader feels connected to them all. Each backstory was fascinating and made me want to know more and more of each character.

Faulkner also is a master of imagery. Without being too heavy-handed with it (like an author who merely wants to show off his talents), he uses similes and metaphors that caused me to pause at their perfection. Describing a brand new fire truck as arrogant and proud, he adds, “About it hatless men and youths clung with the astounding disregard of physical laws that flies possess.” Yes. Exactly.

So, you may ask, what is the problem? Wordiness. Sentences that drag on, phrase after phrase until I’ve long since lost the gist of it. I am aware (and annoyed) that my “Old Age ADD” may be at play here, but I need to stop after a thought or two and digest before adding any other points to the sentence.

Making my point, I said to my husband, “Listen to this.” I was unable to finish the sentence before he barked, “Enough!” It was just too much!

Sometimes pages and pages seemed to go on like that and I found myself drifting away from the storyline. I often actually lost the storyline altogether, becoming frustrated and confused.

I did finish the book out of stubbornness. But I won’t read another one.  

2 comments on “Book Review: Light in August by William Faulkner

  1. JaneGS says:

    It is for the very reason you give that I have shyed away from reading more Faulkner myself. I remember liking As I Lay Dying, but he is work, there is no doubt about it.

    I enjoyed your example of his great way with words, though.


  2. Mary Beth says:

    Thank you. Maybe I need to stick to film versions in Faulkner's case.


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