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As I Lay Dying

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As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner is the story of a very poor white (I thought that they were black!) farming family and their journey to bury their mother/wife.


It's the third in the Sin and Salvation series and it's the companion book to The Sound and the Fury. 


It is written in stream of consciousness so isn't an easy read (it IS absolutely fascinating!) but is very much worth the effort.  It's a towering work.


The book is divided up into sections of varying lengths, each one being narrated by a different character. That way the reader gets to know each character as the book progresses and the reader does get to see each incident from a different point of view.  The timeline - and by that I mean the order in which the events take place - is mostly linear i.e. most of the time the action moves forward in time so not too much jumping backwards and forwards in time which makes it easier to follow. 


In a nutshell, the book opens with Addie Bundren (mother and wife) very close to death and continues with her family's attempt to take her body to a town 40 miles away in order to bury her and the reason for same. Like The Sound and the Fury, As I Lay Dying is a description of the degeneration of a family, this time a very poor one.


It's set in Faulkner's favourite and fictional Yoknapatawpha County, Mississippi and does feature some characters that have been described in previous books and will be used in future books.  This was one of Faulkner's techniques.


Faulkner was always keen to deal with difficult subjects and there are many of those in this book.  Some are positively tragic, others are just sad but there are occasions where it's not too dire.  The gradual unfolding of the the story and the characters is masterful and makes the reader think (which I enjoy).  The narration of the characters makes it feel like the author is not involved at all but Faulkner's voice is loud and clear - contradictory although that sounds.  Even if the reader has no idea what the story is about (and I like that too) s/he can hear Faulkner's voice throughout from what feels like a very long way off and the overall message of the book is clear.


I absolutely adored reading this book and will read it again.  I found it a lot more sad than The Sound and the Fury even although it's the story of someone who is close to death and of their funereal journey to another town.  The characters resonated with me and the whole situation just felt as if it could actually be true. 


Highly recommended, it's worth the effort - really it is.

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  • 2 months later...

Just finished this, and there isn't a whole lot to add to Luna's excellent review, although I wasn't quite as enamored with it as she was. But mostly because I really didn't enjoy Dewey Dell's and Vardaman's chapters. Fortunately I could still hear Faulkners voice over their simpleminded and rather ignorant stream-of-consciousness . But just barely.

The story was amazing though, and Faulkner's portrait of Anse was a tour-de-force. What a completely worthless excuse for a man! I don't think I've ever disliked a fictional character that much who wasn't actually evil. And the river crossing was so gripping!

There was a surprising amount of humor also, although almost all of it was black or at least very bleak.


Still not really understanding Darl setting fire to the barn. I liked Darl a lot, and especially enjoyed his narration. Wish he'd narrated the barn burning.


Certainly a great book and well worth the effort, the close and careful and thoughtful reading involved. Masterful job of delineating a time, a place, and a people. 4.5stars

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