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Light in August Paperback – International Edition, January 30, 1991

4.4 out of 5 stars 208 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“No man ever put more of his heart and soul into the written word than did William Faulkner. If you want to know all you can about that heart and soul, the fiction where he put it is still right there.” —Eudora Welty
 
“Faulkner’s greatness resided primarily in his power to transpose the American scene as it exists in the Southern states, filter it through his sensibilities and finally define it with words.” —Richard Wright

From the Inside Flap

Joe Christmas does not know whether he is black or white. Faulkner makes of Joe's tragedy a powerful indictment of racism; at the same time Joe's life is a study of the divided self and becomes a symbol of 20th century man.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage International/Random House; 1st Vintage International edition (October 1, 1990)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679732268
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679732266
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.9 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (208 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #11,297 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Luis M. Luque on April 1, 2006
Format: Paperback
After reading Faulkner's four major masterpieces -- The Sound and the Fury; Absalom, Absalom!; As I Lay Dying; and Light in August -- I've come to the conclusion that Light in August is far and away the easiest to read, has the most dramatic plot, the most intriguing primary characters in Joe Christmas, Gail Hightower and Joanna Burden, and even some of his most intriguing minor characters in Uncle Doc Hines and Mr. McEachern. Overall, it is his most readable and likeable masterpiece. And it leaves you wanting so much more.

The complex and ambiguous character of Joe Christmas alone could have been the source of three or four novels detailing different times in his life. While Christmas is hardly a likeable person, he is fascinating, hypnotic, a train wreck; you can't keep your eyes off him. His actions are morally ambiguous and inconsistent and yet fully understandable within his nature. As a creation he deserves to rank with Huck Finn, Tom Sawyer, Captain Ahab and Jay Gatsby in the pantheon of American literary characters.

Faulkner has a big mission here. The novel exposes the evils of racism both in the South and among white, northern abolitionists. It traffics in religious symbolism while savaging religious fanatacism. And it leaves one with a great deal of memorable violent and sexual imagery. And that's just for starters. This book is deep, and while its storytelling is largely non-linear, it is far more palatable than the other three, which tend to be confusing and obscure. Enjoy this one. If you've never read Faulkner, it's a great starter.
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Format: Paperback
"Light in August" may well be my favorite Faulkner novel. With its three interwoven plots, its use of flashback, and its family secrets, the book reads like a multi-generational saga--even though the main storyline occurs over a mere nine days. It deals unflinchingly and unsettlingly with such complex themes as isolation and bigotry in small-town life, race relationships (and, particularly, the meaning of race itself), the constrictions of a strict religious upbringing, and the terror of sexual pathology. And, like Faulkner's other work, it paints an often unsettling, occasionally gloomy, and even comic portrait of the American South.

The lives of several initially far-flung characters overlap in the novel's complex plot. First, the naïve Lena Grove arrives in Jefferson, searching for Lucas Burch, the man who abandoned her after getting her pregnant; she meets instead Byron Bunch, a quiet man who believes working on Saturdays will keep him out of trouble. Unrelated to Lena's personal calamity is Bunch's friend Reverend Gail Hightower, who lost his ministry and became a reclusive outcast when his wife openly cheated on him and eventually killed herself.

But the most powerful and memorable character is the mysterious Joe Christmas, a brooding wanderer whose ancestry is unknown and who finds work (and more) from Joanna Burden, a descendant of abolitionists who continues alone her family's historical advocacy for civil rights. Bringing the stories full-circle is Christmas's relationship with the elusive Lucas Burch; the two drifters operate a moonshine business while they live on Burden's property.

In the character of Joe Christmas, Faulkner has invested all his own conflicted feelings and insecurities about race and religion.
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Format: Paperback
I always recommend Light in August to people who say that Faulkner is impenetrable. Here the pages flow effortlessly by and the story line is easy to follow. There's none of the interior monologues that so confuse and derail those picking up the southern master for the first time. This plot is more traditional and will be readily appreciated by the average person.
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Format: Paperback
Although Light In August originally begins with the story of Lena Grove in search for the father of her unborn child, William Faulkner presents one of literature's most tragic yet memorable depictions of racial injustice in his biracial character, Joe Christmas. The novel depicts Christmas's struggle for acceptance not only from the 1920's southern United States, but also from himself. Faulkner's use of picturesque diction and his accurate use of both white and black dialect in Alabama heighten his dramatization of Christmas's strife.
Faulkner brilliantly presents four of the novel's main characters and their relationship to the community and human beings within the first four chapters. Oddly enough, all four of the characters are isolated from society in one way or another. Society isolates Lena Grove due to her illegitimate child; however, Grove also isolates herself because of her constant travel in search of the child's father. Reverend Gail Hightower is isolated from Jefferson, the small Alabama town in which most of the novel takes place, because of his wife's adulterous affairs. Byron Bunch, whose only friend is Hightower, isolates himself by choice in order to keep himself out of mischief. Finally, Joe Christmas isolates himself from the rest of the workers in the planing mill because of his mixed racial heritage. Christmas haughtily wears his city clothes in the midst of the other workers' overalls, and is therefore an easy target for ridicule and resentment. Throughout the novel, Faulkner utilizes the simple, irrational, and slightly ignorant white members of the community to contrast the respectability and hardship of the local blacks.
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