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Lie Down in Darkness Paperback – March 3, 1992

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14 1.5-hour cassettes --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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William Styron traces the betrayals and infidelities--the heritage of spite and endlessly disappointed love--that afflict the members of a Southern family and that culminate in the suicide of the beautiful Peyton Loftis.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Trade Paperback Edition edition (March 3, 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679735976
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679735977
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (86 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #409,278 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

William Styron (1925-2006) , a native of the Virginia Tidewater, was a graduate of Duke University and a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps. His books include Lie Down in Darkness, The Long March, Set This House on Fire, The Confessions of Nat Turner, Sophie's Choice, This Quiet Dust, Darkness Visible, and A Tidewater Morning. He was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, the Howells Medal, the American Book Award, the Legion d'Honneur, and the Witness to Justice Award from the Auschwitz Jewish Center Foundation. With his wife, the poet and activist Rose Styron, he lived for most of his adult life in Roxbury, Connecticut, and in Vineyard Haven, Massachusetts, where he is buried.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

128 of 139 people found the following review helpful By Glenn W. Wall on May 17, 2000
Format: Paperback
Lie Down In Darkness, Styron's first novel, published when he was just 22, is a masterpiece of psychological realism and storytelling in the Southern Gothic tradition of Faulkner, Eudora Welty, and Flannery O'Conner. That it was created by such a young mind is testament to the author's genius; that it has yet to be rivaled as a stirring, oftentimes painful and disturbing portrait of a doomed family, is testament to the writing. Composed with thick, purposeful prose, heavy on similie, metaphor and description, the novel charts the rise and fall of the Loftis Family, an archetypal rendering of the Soutnern Gentry. We follow the tragic downfall of Milton, the drunken patriarch, Ellen, the frigid mother, and the two Loftis daughters, one born perfect, one born crippled. It is a novel of abundant ontological truth, which will reach in and strangle the unconscious sensibilities of almost any reader, regardless of background or predispotition. The novel's beauty ranks with the prose of Lawrence, the passion of Rimbaud and Kundera, the depth and spiritual metaphysics of Doestoyevsky; It is both story and case study. And ultimately we are shepherded through tragedy after tragedy into the climax--the suicide of the immeasurably beautiful and desired Peyton Loftis--as we walk moment to moment with her, peering inside the poisoned stream of consciousness that overwhelms and eventually claims her. Lie Down In Darkness belongs in the canon of Great American Masterpieces. It's significance has only begun to be understood.
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82 of 90 people found the following review helpful By Patrick Meehan on April 15, 2002
Format: Paperback
William Styron is likely the greatest novelist no one has ever heard of. His name is even less recognizable than Faulkner's, or other great American writers: Steinbeck, Hemingway, etc. And yet, in my opinion, his works are far superior. With only four novels to choose from out of his career he has made it very difficult for himself to be regarded in those terms, but he has still achieved a wide amount of critical acclaim, with a Pulitzer Prize and an American Book Award to his credit.
His novels are not light novels. They are not coffee table books, but a rather serious discussions on moral issues written with an eloquence that is unmatched in modern writing.
Lie Down in Darkness is his first novel, and is much like what I have just said. As a first novel it is necessarily experimental, although the effect of this experimentation is at times hard to tell.
Following through flashback the trials of one Virginia family on the day of their daughter's funeral, Lie Down in Darkness leads up to the present, describing in tragic terms how the family has come apart and where it is now.
This is great writing, some of the best writing I have ever read, as realistic as any Dickens novel, and as engaging as anything by Baldwin.
It is not a happy book, but it is the best book I have read about the American family, far greater and relevant than anything I have read by Morrison.
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84 of 94 people found the following review helpful By S. DEMILLE on July 14, 2000
Format: Paperback
William Styron, in Lie Down in Darkness, tells the story of Peyton Loftis, the beautiful daughter of Helen and Milton Loftis, her ultimate suicide, and her family's contribution to her fate. Sad, yet compelling. As I read, my revulsion for the characters grew line by line, for they are wasted, empty, and they drown themselves in a swamp of despair and impotency. Helen is a vindictive, jealous mother who takes painful jabs at anyone in her path; Milton is an incestuous alcoholic who can't own up to his failures and who is stuck in a sort of paralyzed stupor; and Peyton, well, she is a genetic carryover of her parents-from her mother she learns revenge, and from her father, alcoholism.
The story is one of severe despondency, a portrait of lives that have lost their savor and are headed toward destruction. Of all the characters in the story, the Negro house servants come forth as the strongest. They have a spiritual strength that contrasts strongly with that of the Loftis.' The overwhelmingly best quality of the book, I believe, is the beauty of the prose. It's like an epic poem, lyrical and dramatic and sweepingly colorful. And, believe it or not, I actually enjoyed Peyton's stream-of-consciousness marathon just before she killed herself. Styron made it enjoyable and I will always remember the flightless birds and how they follow Peyton all over New York and also the $39.95 clock that Peyton perceives as her refuge from the evil world. Is this what mental illness is really like? This book is certainly one to be read again.
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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful By on December 30, 1997
Format: Hardcover
Never have I wanted to pound some sense into fictional characters as when I read William Styron's Lie Down in Darkness. The Loftiss family saga is sometimes hard to read because they hurt each other so easily and so often. But Styron's language is beautiful, and his understanding of the characters is deep. The account of Peyton's last day is especially heartbreaking and revealing. In short, this novel is one of my favorites simply because of its account of human frailty and the amazing way in which the story is told. Styron is one of the best.
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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Caitlin Martin VINE VOICE on November 21, 2009
Format: Paperback
I recently managed to make it all the way through Sophie's Choice, a book I had attempted to read in college and hadn't had the maturity to finish. I loved it on my recent read so I thought I should return to Lie Down in Darkness, another book I hadn't been able to complete.

This is a very good, if not great, novel. It is also very depressing. I remember it being so depressing that I just couldn't get through it the first time (and my memory was good). All the same, the writing is beautiful and the characterizations clear and sad. In a sense, this novel is a lyrical essay on Tolstoy's quote about unhappy families from Anna Karenina: "Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way."

The novel opens on Peyton Loftis' body returning to her family on the train from New York after her suicide. Styron ranges back and forth in time and point of view throughout the novel in presenting the causes of Peyton's depression and suicide.

Peyton Loftis is the template for a particular kind of doomed Southern girl - beautiful with Daddy issues and a dozen bad habits, the kind of girl certain kinds of boys fall in love with but never marry. She is in some ways a very old-fashioned character - very much of her own generation. Reading her will make you grateful that our mothers' generation fought the feminist battles and gave us options beyond attending Sweet Briar and marrying the first fraternity boy that crossed our path. I think it's a wonder more intelligent and creative women didn't cut their own throats in the public square out of sheer boredom.

I'd like to say that all the changes in the status of women in the last 50 or so years have made the Peyton Loftises of the world obsolete, but that would be untrue.
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