Wednesday, 27 April 2011

The Reivers by William Faulkner

This is my first William Faulkner book. I know very little about him, in fact looking at the list of his published work the only title I recognised was The Sound and the Fury. I do know that he is a giant of American literature so when I saw this in a library sale I decided to give it a try.

The story is told by a grandfather, Lucius Priest, to his grandchild about an adventure he had in 1905 when he was eleven years old. Lucius and a man named Boon Hogganbeck stole Lucius' grandfather's car. They drove out of Mississippi to Memphis along with another man, Ned, who has stowed away with them. They are going to meet Miss Corrie, a prostitute who Boon is in love with. They stay at a brothel run by a woman named Miss Reba.

In Memphis Ned swaps the car for a horse (Lightening), much to the horror of Boon and Lucius. The only way to get the car back (and to have it home before Grandfather returns from his trip) is to win it back in a horse race. Lightening has to beat a horse it has already lost to twice. Ned is sure it can do it, the others are more sceptical.

There was plenty I liked about this book. I enjoyed the style which was very much that of an old person telling a story, getting lost in his memories, going off a tangents and trying to teach his grandchild something in the process. It was also interesting about the early days of cars. There was one set piece that I particularly liked. In the early days of cars the country roads were not really equipped to handle them. On the way to Memphis, Boon, Lucius and Ned meet a very entrepreneurial man who has stationed himself by a boggy piece of road. He uses his mules and plough to make the road impassable and then charges drivers to pull their cars out when they inevitably get stuck.

I think what stopped me from wholeheartedly enjoying this book was that Ned's swapping the car for the horse was so inexplicable that I couldn't really take the story seriously after that. The real reason for the swap is revealed near the end of the book, but it was too late for me by then. I would've preferred to know earlier. I will definitely read more Faulkner, and I will re-read this one at some time in the future.

1 comment:

  1. I have to admit to never having read any Faulkner either and I'm not sure he is going to be on the top of my list because there are so many American authors I haven't explored that I think I'll stick with the women until I'm a little better versed. It's only a thought but would the swapping of the car for the horse have been more understandable in the American society of the book's day? They seem to have been dependent on it for so many reasons that we were not in the UK.