I had a really hard time with this book at the beginning because the writing was really flowery and it took me a long time to plow through each individual passage. In the end I had a hard time with the book because it brought out really raw feelings in me. In fact, it was such a difficult book that combined with a couple of other things that happened at a the same time I was reading it I ended up having a mini break down, followed by an epiphany. So...in the end I LOVED the book, rather than hated it.
Absalom, Absalom marks the first book that I read 100% on my e-reader which back when I started this project was the original point of it. I started the project hoping to use Project Gutenberg to get the majority of the books for free digitally. However, to date I have mostly purchased the books at used book stores, bought a few new ones, and borrowed some from the library.
I loved the idea of this book from the second I read what Daniel S. Burt had to say about it. Basically it is a mystery that you have to piece together from eye witness accounts, and stories that have passed down through the generations of the Sutpen family. The story is quite dark, as it is a history of how one man bent on a quest for vengence ends up bringing his family to ruin. The novel is peopled by a virgin spinster sister, a maniacal father who destroys his family, a daughter who is a widow before she is a bride, the brother who kills his sister's husband to be and a wife who lives vicariously through her children.
My mini break down happened because of one of the character's Rose who was the spinister who never married. I identified heavily with her character who was hard and strong, and hated men (but you saw wanted love all the same). If I am to become twisted because of bitterness like the main character it will be in this way. My epiphany came because of the theme of the story which is basically about what happens when one person tries to create their own destiny no matter what the cost is. It reminded me of a the book East of Eden by John Steinbeck and seemed to resonate with me because of that. East of Eden is one of my favorite books. The epiphany I had was about the point of East of Eden being about free will, and the fact that we were given choices and that is what makes us human and great. (This epiphany was aided by the song Timshel by Mumford and sons and googling what the word meant). The dark side of the ability to make choices is that we can choose to make good ones or bad ones. In Thomas Sutpen's case, his bitterness and anger at an injustice that happened when he was a child twisted him to make really horrible ones. The book also is an interesting picture of the south at the time of the civil war. It follows a nations choices and shows some of their eventual results.
There is a lot of flowery passages in this book that border on poetry. Here are a few examples:
"beneath the branch shredded vist of flat black fiercely and heavily starred sky"
"masculine hipless tapering peg which fits light and glib to move where catridge-chambered hips of women hold them fast" ~A rather poetic sexual reference!
" He was a barracks filled with stubborn back-looking ghosts"
"Ellen died, the butterfly of a forgotten garden"
And one needlessly complicated statement that I can only catch glimpses of the full meaning:
"where through no fault nor willing of your own you must and will be, not through any fault or willing of our own who would not what we cannot, just as we will and wait for what must be"
Here are a few quotes that point to the meaning of the story:
"something would have to be done about it, he would have to do something about it order to live with himself for the rest of his life" ~This quote talks about the original insult which leads Thomas Sutpen on the vengeful quest that destroys his family
"perhaps a man builds for his future in more ways than one, build not only towards the body which will be his tomorrow or next year, but towards actions and the subsequent irrevocable courses of resultant action"
~This quote talks about how some actions have irrevocable consequences that shape our futures
"It would be like God had got Jesus born and saw that He had the carpenter tools and never gave Him anything to build with them"
~This talks about the God given desire to create things around us with our hands, and also to bear children that will live after us. This quote particularly reminds me of East of Eden.
"Abraham would say 'Praise the Lord, I have raised about me sons to bear the burden of mine ininquities"
~This quote talks about Thomas Sutpens resolution to his dilemma from childhood. His belief was if he became like the person who snubbed him, but never turned someone away from him he would have won. Having his children and and a nice house to him, was a symbol that he had made it in the world.
All in all I loved this book, not so much for the actual layout of the story itself, but for what it ended up doing in me. I will cherish the epiphany I had through the telling of the story, even though I actually hated the process (and found the book difficult to read)!