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100 Greatest Novels: A Handful of Dust, As I Lay Dying, & All the King’s Men

11 Sep

There’s no time. Let’s get right to it. Three more of the 100 greatest novels:

Dust300A Handful of Dust by Evelyn Waugh

Having never heard of this author and not being familiar with the story, I didn’t know what to expect. The novel started out very similar to numerous novels on this list: wealthy British couple, London parties, and infidelity. A lot of novels written around the turn of the century have all of these elements. There’s usually at least one American character, a few unruly servants, and lots of gossip.

And yet the farther I got into the story, the more unexpected turns I came across. Just small things at first but by the last few chapters of the novel, I had no clue what was going to happen. All expectations based off previous novels were out the window and we were in new territory (figuratively and literally). And the result was a very enjoyable novel.

175px-AsILayDyingAs I Lay Dying by William Faulkner

Wow, what a depressing read. As I Lay Dying is a story of a backwoods family from Mississippi fulfilling the dying mother’s last wish, to be buried with her family in her hometown of Jefferson. Seems like an easy task, right? When you have the luck of the Bundrens, no task is easy. Barn fires, washed away bridges, accidents, injuries, and everything else comes in between this family and their destination.

Narrated by over a dozen different characters, each chapter has a different point of view. Some chapters are as short as one sentence: “My mother is a fish.” Some chapters have the viewpoint of minor characters we never fully meet. The narration of each chapter changes depending on the character. Some chapters are full of streams of conscious writing and others are very heavy on the person’s vernacular. The narration never becomes difficult to read because of this but some events aren’t completely understood until a chapter or two later depending on who first experiences the event. Even though this book was thoroughly depressing, I still really enjoyed the journey and look forward to reading it again.

200px-AllTheKingsMenAll the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren

The first political novel in this list, I thought this was a great read. Published in 1946, the novel follows Jack Burden, the right hand man of a southern politician, and the rise of the politician, Willie Stark. Jack starts as a political reporter following the story of Stark, a farmer running for governor, and over time works his way into the inner circle of Stark’s political machine. His story and the story of the governor are intertwined as political successes, personal tragedies, and historical events push the narration forward.

Written from Jack’s point of view, and as a student of history, Jack takes multiple tangents into stories that aren’t obviously connected to the story. Sometimes, I forgot about the governor and his campaigns while I was lost in some story Jack was telling. Ultimately, all of Jack’s ramblings and storytellings pay off as everything comes together in the end.

_________

Alright, we’re still heading forward. The next novel, The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder, doesn’t have a Kindle edition. I think I do have the physical book at my parent’s house somewhere. I’ll be there this weekend so I’ll have to look for it.

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2 Comments

Posted by on September 11, 2013 in 100 Greatest Novels, Book Review, Literature

 

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2 responses to “100 Greatest Novels: A Handful of Dust, As I Lay Dying, & All the King’s Men

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