May 1, 2016

Review: As I Lay Dying, by William Faulkner


Title: As I Lay Dying

Author: William Faulkner

Publisher: Vintage Books

Date of Publication: 1991 (first published in 1930)

Number of Pages: 267

Find it at : Book Depository

Summary

As I Lay Dying is Faulkner's harrowing account of the Bundren family's odyssey across the Mississippi countryside to bury Addie, their wife and mother. Told in turns by each of the family members— including Addie herself — the novel ranges in mood from dark comedy to the deepest pathos.

Review

As I Lay Dying was the novel that I had to read for the Classics Club Spin #12. I was happy that I would finally read it, as it's one of the books that had been lying on my bookshelf for quite some time. Chance had it that today, that I'm writing this review, is the Easter day in Greece and considering the tone and theme of the novel, I can't imagine a more suitable day for doing so.

Addie Bundren had wished to be buried in her hometown, Jefferson. So, after her passing away, the Bundren family set on a journey in order to grant her final wish. But this journey seemed impossible, as all kinds of problem appear for the family members. The graver ones, in particular, were caused by themselves. And this was the plot, more or less.

What was more prominent in As I Lay Dying was its writing style. Stream of consciousness and the multiple points of view were what characterized this novel. But these two elements were the ones that made it almost unbearable to me. More than once I was confused by the constant babbling of the thoughts of the characters and in some cases, I was never able to figure out if what I was reading was a real or an imaginary event. Nevertheless, having fifteen different points of view made it easier to get a glimpse of the whole picture and not just the perception of one narrator. It was interesting to read the thoughts of so many and be able to distinguish their different ways of interpreting the same events. On the other hand, some narrators, such as Vardaman, were so difficult to follow that confused me even more. For me, it was easier to follow the train of thought of Darl.

None of the characters was even the least likable, but it was evident that they were never meant to be. Anse, the father of the family, was lazy and selfish. He disrespected his late wife in more than one ways, from placing her in her coffin the wrong way and letting her rot before being buried, to finding a new wife literally two minutes after she was put in the ground. What was really bothering was the fact that there wasn't the bonding that ought to be in a family in a hard time such as this one. Darl hated Jewel, and Dewey Dell hated Darl. Anse took advantage of all of his children and especially Cash, who was traveling with his leg broken. Even Addie had a very questionable character. In her chapter, she let us know that she hated her children and only Jewel was her salvation, the only child that wasn't fathered by Anse. Lastly, although there were indications that Darl was indeed crazy, I never understood whether it was necessary for him to be taken to a mental institute.

The 1920's wasn't the best time for a woman to live. But women in As I Lay Dying were more miserable than I could ever imagine. Their sole purpose was to bear children. They were treated like tools, rather than people. Dewey Dell had an unwanted pregnancy, but she wasn't able to get any abortion medication. On the contrary, she was taken advantage of.

All in all, I can understand why As I Lay Dying is considered a great novel, but it wasn't my cup of tea. I had a hard time finishing it as I found it tiring and confusing. I liked that it was filled with irony, but most of the time it was distressing. I don't know if this was the best novel to introduce me to Faulkner's work and I don't know if I'll be easily inclined to read something else written by this author.


This counts as a novel written by a Nobel Prize recipient for the 2016 Reading Challenge

6 comments:

  1. Sorry you didn’t like this one. Faulkner is a really difficult author. I like the challenge of his books, but I usually have to read parts of them several times to really “get” them.

    Aj @ Read All The Things!

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    1. He is a difficult author to understand, and I really really wanted to enjoy this book. But I guess I prefer James Joyce, when it comes to stream of consciousness!

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  2. Hi Aeriko! I tagged you in my latest post! I hope you take some time to check it soon. Heehee. ☺

    Fiona | A Girl Between the Pages

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    1. Thank you so much! I'll check it out and post it, as soon as I get some free time :)

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  3. I think I just decided to remove this book from my Classics Club list. I hate Stream of Consciousness books and I also hate it when I have to work hard to figure out who is talking etc.

    I read Age of Innocence and enjoyed it.

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    1. Yes, stream of consciousness makes difficult to underastand who is talking, what he's refering to, etc. For example, here Darl towards the end of the novel talked in the third person and not in the first.

      I'm glad that you enjoyed Age of Innocence, it might be the next on my list :)

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