July 26, 2013

Light in August by William Faulkner (Review)

Title: Light in August
Author: William Faulkner
First published: 1932
Add it: Goodreads, The Book Depository
Rating: ★★★★☆

Last week's book for The Fiction of Relationship course was not an easy read not only because of Faulkner's stream of consciousness style, but also thanks to the abundance of violence, racism and perverse sex. Reading some scenes was very unsettling, and besides my imagination is too good for this stuff - I even saw a couple of nightmares! But I'm not saying Light in August is offensive, it is just problematic, and I guess it reflects the ruthless situation in South America of the time described in the book.

The plot of the novel unfolds backwards: the reader gets the present state of affairs first and then dives into the reflections and remembrances of the characters involved in the situation to learn their history and understand how they feel. This technique worked great for me: I really enjoyed gradually discovering the underlying motifs and meaning of the events. But as Woolf's books, this type of narrative requires a lot of concentration and ideally a rereading.

The protagonist of Light in August is a mulatto with such a little amount of supposed black blood, that nobody can tell by the looks of him. However, he is very aware of this "defect" in his ancestry, and he is trying to come to terms with himself his whole life, which is by no means easy, of course: his memories go back to an orphanage, where he was bullied as a "nigger", then through his life with an adoptive family that had very strict rules and continue with the useless years he has spent sleeping with women, working hard and being miserable and offensive. But the first thing reader knows about him is that he is actually a murderer. All the history is there only to get an understanding of how he has become one.

In my book:
Faulkner writes very well, his narration is captivating and vivid. He deals with some unpleasant psychological and sociological issues very straightforwardly, and certainly gives the reader something to consider. It would be 5 stars if not for my nightmares. I really hate having them :)


  1. I love Faulkner and this is a novel I've wanted to read. I was not aware of the perverse sex but, with Faulkner, I would assume racism and violence. Now I'm unsure . . .

    1. Well, if you are OK with Faulkner's racism and violence, than you should not be afraid :) What I called perverse is just sex based on racism and violence instead of usual things. It's just the main hero has some problem coming to terms with women's physiology and psychology, not to mention his self-identification issues, so some nasty scenes ensue.

  2. It sounds a lot like The Sound and the Fury (the only Faulkner novel I've read). I have the same issue with Faulkner...as much as I want to bask in the writing, it's just so hard to read such disturbing stuff.

    1. The Sound and the Fury is the next one I want to read by Faulkner. I guess the themes will not be so disturbing as I'm a bit used to them already.

  3. I took a course in college that featured two authors from the American South: Faulkner and Flannery O'Connor. Both had very different writing styles (I preferred Faulkner's style), but the stories and novels of both featured disturbing violence. I really need to re-read some of the books that I read. As you said, I think Faulkner's books reward re-reading.

    - Christy

  4. A very astute review Ekaterina. I found this poignant and compelling...can't really say enjoyable though. I did find it more engaging than any previous novels I've read by Faulkner. My review: http://100greatestnovelsofalltimequest.blogspot.com/2015/10/light-in-august-by-william-faulkner-60.html


Share your thoughts!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...