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Soldiers' Pay Paperback – December 17, 1996

15 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Scientific American

A rich compound of imagination, observation, and experience. In an isolated world of Faulkner's own making, shadows having the reality of men grope through a maze complex enough to be at once pitiful and comic, passionate, tormenting, and strange.


Soldier's Pay is the first novel by American Nobel-Prize winner William Faulkner. It was during the summer of 1925, when he was working in New Orleans, that Faulkner met Sherwood Anderson and was encouraged by him to write a novel. Unlike his later books this post-war story of a wounded, helpless and dying officer returning home to his father and his fickle sweetheart is set in Georgia, but some of Faulkner's feeling for the South and many of his character-types are already foreshadowed. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Liveright; Reissue edition (December 17, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0871401665
  • ISBN-13: 978-0871401663
  • Product Dimensions: 0.6 x 0.1 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,963,656 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

26 of 26 people found the following review helpful By "kj2250" on May 20, 2002
Format: Paperback
Many people who review this book give it a bad rating because they have read Faulkner before and expect his writing to be of a certain style and intellectual caliber. Perhaps this book is not quite up to the level that people are expecting, but when you compare it with much of the other literature available dramatizing this time period (just after World War I) in a fictional manner, this book stands out as being a simply extraordinary peice of literature. While it lacks much of Faulkner's later literary intuitiveness, this book still demonstrates true Faulknerian style with its soap-opera-ish manner of storytelling and robust character development. Even this, one of Faulkner's least talked about and least admired novels, is better than the work of 99.9% of the authors writing today. What people consider "bad" as a Faulkner book is still leaps and bounds ahead of what other writers are able to produce. I found this book to be an excellent stepping-stone into Faulkner's style and literary skill from less "deep" books. I would definitely recommend reading this book first before reading other Faulkner novels. Once you finish this one, THEN try another book directly after this one - his style will be much easier to follow and understand.
Overall, a wonderful book for discussion and reflection!
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Carla Gabriel Beckman on December 30, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is one of Faulkner's best stories, but perhaps the least read. If you are a Faulkner fan, you have read it. If you are not a reader of Faulkner, this is a good one with which to start. It is the story of a World War I soldier coming home with debilitating terminal injuries which have essentially ended his life as he knows it. He is treated with human kindness by some, but others are horrified and uncomfortable, and even deny his humanity. As Hemingway wrote about "The Lost Generation," Faulkner also brings the human cost of war into stark reality. It seems the most artistic among us are the most prescient.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By on April 3, 1999
Format: Paperback
In his first novel, SOLDIERS' PAY, Faulkner deals with the aftermath of World War I to illustrate the disillusionment that war inexorably brings to combtants and non-combatants alike. Whether is is the war to end all wars, the war to save humanity, the forgotten war, or the immoral war, no one who survives escapes unscathed. The narrative is more straightforward, with fewer digressions, than that of most of Faulker's later novels; but it is still difficult to follow at times. Using the shattered life of a wounded and dying war veteran as the vehicle, Faulkner weaves the lives of his characers into a revealing tapestry. In the arras he depicts fear, despair and denial; sexuality, frustration, and fulfillment; pettiness and compassion; love and hate--a range of emotions to which all mankind is subject. While many of his descriptions seem strained and burdensome, others present a blinding insight into the foibles and failings of our neighbors and of ourselves. Likewise, to the modern reader, some of the moral values and motivations of his characters may be arcane; yet, as a whole, the universal standards of human behavior still apply. All in all, I would say that if you are a fan of Faulkner, give this book a try. It hasn't the power of THE SOUND AND THE FURY or ABSALOM, ABSALOM! nor the delightful comedy of THE REIVERS, but it does give the reader a glimpse into the evolution of Faulkner's inimitable style.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By John P. Jones III TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on February 4, 2013
Format: Paperback
This book was first published in 1925; it is the author's first novel. And it is my second reading of it; the first time was more than 40 years ago, under some unusual circumstances. As with numerous, but not all other second readings, I understood and appreciated it much more this time around. The received wisdom is that this is one of his lesser works, and might easily be given a miss. I would disagree. Although several of Faulkner works should be considered essential reads, "Soldier's Pay" is also essential, for several reasons. It is oh so rich in insights into the human condition. There is a wide-range of character types, many not very "sympathetic", whom I feel Faulkner developed quite well. And the plot development is quite sophisticated, for this being his first novel. Also there are the rich descriptions of the Georgia landscape, over a two month period, in the spring of 1919, at a time of fireflies, and the street lights going off at midnight, and yes, the smell of magnolia trees.

Donald Mahon is the central character, coming home from World War I. He had been an aviator in the British Air Force, and badly wounded. An ugly scar across his face repels most who see him, including, once he arrives home, his fiancée, the ever so flighty and shallow Cecily. Throughout the novel, he is the "object" of the other characters' attentions; he can say virtually nothing. An older soldier, Joe Gilligan, and a young war widow, Margaret Powers, help Mahon return home to Georgia, and his father, who is an Episcopalian minister. If one were to accuse Faulkner of being misogynist for his portrait of Cecily, the defense would offer an equally scathing portrait of Januarius Jones, a "scholar" of sorts, and one who clumsily fancies himself a lady's man.
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