Book Review: As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner

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The Bundren family treks across the river to bury Addie, wife and mother of the group. The book jumps between the family, including Addie, and the neighbors in a story told in streams of consciousness.

I (again) am reviewing this book really late after I finished it, so it won’t be the most thorough review in the world.

I also am very confused about my feelings toward this book, so here goes a pretty circular review.

I enjoyed reading it, but I didn’t understand it.

First of all, there are a ton of characters and they get called different things by different people, so that was a little confusing. Then it’s written in streams of consciousness. And he writes in a very ambiguous tone and expects the reader to work to understand his scenes. So stir all that together and you have As I Lay Dying.

I kind of enjoyed the ambiguity in some cases. I thought Faulkner’s writing was beautiful, and while some criticize all his paradoxes, I thought they made the book sound more real because not everything can be in black and white. But I admittedly Sparknoted chapters after I read them. And I think that some scenes need to be concrete. If a person is thinking, then sure, make the writing mystical and complicated, because that is similar to a person’s conscious. If a concrete event is happening, just explain what’s going on or I will be sorely turning to Sparknotes. At some points I didn’t understand what was happening and what was being thought.

The different perspectives are confusing, but they are necessary to make it such an renowned book. But at the same time, it’s impossible to really get into so many people’s heads at once. If it focuses on three people, then the reader could practically become someone else with their thoughts and everything because of the stream of consciousness style. Since Faulkner wrote so many characters into his book, the reader has to trudge through the thoughts of different people and still be confused on their streams by the end of the novel.

My favorite part of the book was Addie’s perspective, and I think it’s partly because of the novelty of reading a dead person’s perspective. She bitterly talked about love and her coffin and her unfulfilling lifestyle, which I thought was all very interesting. I was able to relate to her better than anyone else.

If you can focus completely on the book– as in block out all thoughts other than the characters’– the book is almost soothing. I blew through some pages and chapters because the writing style flowed with the way I thought, and I loved the beauty of everything and the descriptions. Other things I read a couple times and still didn’t understand but moved on anyway.

It’s hard to give a comprehensive review since I liked some parts and hated some parts and remained mildly to extremely confused throughout the whole novel. I think it’s a good read, and maybe a good intro to Faulkner, but I don’t think anyone is missing anything earth-shattering if they decide stream of consciousness is not their cup of tea. I know all the blurbs and raving reviews call it emotional and brooding and the likes, but I think my confusion cut out all the emotion and just left a couple beautiful passages and thoughts and a couple nonsensical scenes.

3 Stars

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One thought on “Book Review: As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner

  1. Pingback: Monthly Wrap Ups: April | Stealing Pages

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