Absalom Absalom (Review 2)

Labels: Great Works


Absalom, Absalom!
William Faulkner, 1936
313 pp.

Book Review by Molly Lundquist
February 2009

This is the ultimate book of memory—a family history that tries to piece together the past and come to grips with the present. But memory in this case gets filtered through various characters...so we're never ultimately sure what we get—even though we may think we have it all.

Absalomis the story of Thomas Sutpen, who in 1833 strives to create a dynasty out of a swamp, and who ultimately self-destructs. The story opens years later as old Miss Rosa Coldfield first tells the story of the Sutpen family tragedy to young Quentin Compson.

But Quentin's father tells him a different version of the same story, one he'd heard years ago from his father, who got it from Thomas Sutpen himself. Get it? We're hearing the story third-hand...so, who knows? Later that fall, Quentin tells the story to his Harvard roommate, who gets in on the act, speculating and creating his own version of what happened. Each telling reveals more and more of the story.

Ultimately, Absalom is about the South, taking on one of Faulkner's major themes: the region's destruction, or self-destruction, through human will, racism, slavery, and miscegenation.

This is a stunning work—exciting, even breath-taking—but very challenging. It is, after all Faulkner. But it's the story that Gone with the Wind never told.

Confession: I recommended this book as a LitPick two years ago. Anybody read it then? Okay, probably not.... So it's worth recommending again. It's my favorite (but one) Faulkner novel.

See LitLovers Absalom, Absalom! Reading Guide.

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