The death and burial of Addie Bundren is told by members of her family, as they cart the coffin to Jefferson, Mississippi, to bury her among her people. And as the intense desires, fears and rivalries of the family are revealed in the vernacular of the Deep South, Faulkner presents a portrait of extraordinary power – as epic as the Old Testament, as American as Huckleberry Finn.
I read this book as part of the David Bowie Reading Challenge.
To my shame, this is the first Faulkner I’ve read. He’s another author that has been on the edge of my radar for years, but I’ve never got round to reading him, save for a few extracts given as examples when I was studying English Literature.
This is a classic that is really worthy of the name. It’s a deceptively simple tale – a woman dies and her family transport her body back to her home town to fulfil her dying wish. But Faulkner uses this journey to take his reader on a journey too, revealing bit by bit the relationships between Addie’s children and with their father – their rivalries, their jealousies, their fears, their hopes, their dreams.
The story to me though is in a way secondary to the writing. It is so, so well-crafted that it is almost awe-inspiring. That might sound over the top, but I had to keep stopping and re-reading, and reading out bits to my poor family because the sheer skill of the writing was so amazing.
That isn’t to say that the writing is complicated. It’s dense, yes, but dense with meaning. Faulkner offers a masterclass here in saying a lot with a few words and images. Every word has a point, has a place and is needed. Nothing is wasted.
Faulkner is a writer whose works are often studied, rather than simply read. And that’s a bit of a shame. It was lovely to read this simply for the pleasure of reading – and it really is an absolute pleasure to read. Five very big stars!