Book Reviews

How I went from abhorring to absolutely loving The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner.

After weeks of struggling with it, I’ve finally finished reading The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner. I’ve been reading this book for so long, I have no idea what I should do with life now that I’ve finished it.

I once read a Paris Review interview of Faulkner’s and fell totally in love with him. It was that interview that made me want to get started on his books right away. A lot of my readers suggested starting with The Sound and the Fury. When I found this book in a quaint vintage bookstore in Atlanta, I immediately bought it.

Though I bought it in December 2017, I cracked the book open only in June. Every time I tried reading it, some other ARC or 9 to 5 task would interrupt. And when I finally sat down and started reading it, here’s what happened.

I didn’t understand a single word. I didn’t understand what was going on. I would read entire pages grasping at straws, trying to find a semblance of understanding. Just when I thought I understood the story, there would be a dramatic shift, leaving me stranded in the dark again.

I also might have had a meltdown about this book on Twitter.

I labored on anyway. The book is split into four sections. I finished the first and it was only with the second that I started understanding a little bit of the storyline. But I was annoyed with the book nonetheless. My thoughts about the book were cemented–this isn’t America’s greatest novel. This is just the kind of book people don’t read, but put on their dating profiles anyway to sound cool and well-read.

And yet, the thought that there might be more to the story than what I was understanding kept niggling at my mind.

“This isn’t America’s greatest novel. This is just the kind of book people don’t read, but put on their dating profiles anyway to sound cool and well-read.”

I asked for help on my blog and Twitter. Several people offered to help. But I obviously couldn’t ask them to explain the story to me para by para, because every single line was difficult to read, especially in the first section of the book.

Last weekend, I decided to sit down and finish this book. I looked up suggestions on how to read this book. This Reddit thread was a lot of help. The Redditors recommend keeping a close eye on who’s minding Benjy (the character whose POV is chapter 1) throughout.

Benjy is a mentally challenged character and the stream of consciousness style of writing makes it difficult for readers to understand exactly what he’s talking about. There are three distinct years Benjy’s mind keeps jumping between in the first section–1898, 1910-13, and 1928, the latter being the present day in the novel.

And I noticed only two of these three time periods when I read the section the first time.

Though I had already finished the first one and a half sections of the novel, I started over.

I read the entire book again, from the beginning. This time, I was armed with CliffNotes. For Benjy’s section of the book, I compared every paragraph with the CliffNotes explanation. From the next section of the book, I’d read the entire chapter and then read the CliffNotes analysis to see if I’d missed interpreting anything.

Another thing to note is that this book gets easier to read as you turn each page. By Jason’s section (the third chapter), I was not consulting with CliffNotes much. It is just the first two sections that are difficult to read. The novel becomes progressively easier and the story clearer as you near the end.

The Sound and the Fury is not a novel you’ll understand immediately. But don’t give up. It requires a lot of patience and willingness to go back to pages you’ve already read to piece the story together. But once you do, you’ll really appreciate this great novel.

It truly is one of the best pieces of literature I’ve ever read.


In the coming weeks, I’ll be writing more about how you can read this novel, symbolism in it, and more. Hit me up if you want to co-author a blog post with me or would like to guest post about Faulkner!

~ Shruti

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37 thoughts on “How I went from abhorring to absolutely loving The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner.

  1. It’s so cool that you decided to take the time to really try understanding this novel instead of giving up (like I have many a time with A Tale of Two Cities). It is very inspirational and I look forward to your future posts about all this!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much, Tiana! A Tale of Two Cities and I have been through a very strange journey. I’ve read the first two pages of the book alone multiple times in my life. I always give up after the first couple pages. The last time I did this was in 2012. I should probably try again now.

      Do you want to buddy read it so we can push each other to finally finish it? 😁

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Gosh that is the exact same thing that I’ve went through with that book. The first few pages alone. I would love to buddy read t with you, but I can’t do it for a few months, because I backed up with my Netgalley reads, but after that I am home free!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Throughout my undergraduate studies I was very fortunate to have avoided reading this Sound and Fury book. My opinion is that if a novel exacts so much pain, it’s not worth it. That effort should be saved for subjects like Biology or French, subjects that are actually going to teach you something useful.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I haven’t read this one by Faulkner, but I loved Absolom, Absolom. I remember I immediately fell in love with his stream of consciousness style (I was very into that kind of writing at the time as well). But this was a while ago, maybe in like 2013 or 2014. Now you’re making me curious about this book 🙂 I don’t know why I didn’t start with this one though. Maybe I found that one at grandma’s or something. These kinds of books are hard to read for a book blogger though, because we just have such a fast reading lifestyle. I don’t know if I’d be able to give it due attention with the way I am used to reading books right now. But I know I am going to read it one day, cause the only other novel of Faulkner’s that I’ve read left me with very positive emotions.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I totally get what you mean. I see people reading 100-200 books per year and I can’t do that. I can’t get with the fast reading style other book bloggers seem to have. I’d rather spend two whole months reading what could possibly be my next favorite book than reading 20 different review copies.

      I hope you do read this novel! It’s really good and it lives up to all the hype. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Whew! Talk about a determined reader! I really think it’s absolutely amazing that you put so much effort into trying to read this and not give up on the first go. I haven’t read this, but I doubt that I would have had the patience you had to continue on with it in the way that you did. I very much enjoyed reading your post! Thanks for entering it into the Jon’s Creator Showcase 😊😊

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much! I wanted to see exactly why this book is deemed one of the greatest pieces of American fiction. That’s what kept me going! 🙂

      Also, I had to Google what the Creator Showcase was. I didn’t enter it..? It sounds like a really cool idea, though. I’d love to enter some day! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Haha…don’t worry. I think you are now the fourth person who said this! The original tag is pretty much so far away, that people don’t even realise what they were tagged for. You were tagged though! And it was a great post to enter as well 😊😊 I have received almost 50 entries now, and the month isn’t even over yet, so it will be very difficult to determine who will get featured eventually 😊😊

        Liked by 1 person

  5. I am currently reading this novel. I read Sanctuary first and fell for Faulkner immediately. I’ve been on this book for about a month and a half and I have struggled. Still, I keep pushing. I’m so concerned about Quentin, I have so many questions about Caddy, I hate the mother, and I am repulsed at how Benji is treated. I’m only on the second section. I have a long way to go. Thank you for this post!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, I’ve been there! And ugh, their mother is the worst fictional mothers! I hate her with all my heart. It’s actually brilliant to see how having a hypochondriac mother and a nihilistic, alcoholic father might have affected each of the four kids in this book. 🙂

      I really hope you see this book to its end! It only gets easier to read from Quentin’s section! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I haven’t read anything by Faulkner yet. Lol I loved this line:
    “this isn’t America’s greatest novel. This is just the kind of book people don’t read, but put on their dating profiles anyway to sound cool and well-read.” 😀

    It is really applaudable how you finished the book in the end and actually loved it too. I don’t know if I would have such determination for finishing a book which I am not getting at all. But I really hope I do read it someday 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much, Sim! ❤️ I mostly wanted to finish it because I loved this Paris Review interview Faulkner gave. And I knew that this book was more than what I initially thought of it.

      If you do eventually read it, let me know? I’ll be cheering you on from the sidelines haha 😆

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Hi- Some months ago, I replaced the in-car talk radio of my commute to and from work with cd audio books. I’ve been enjoying Steinbeck, Hemingway, James Baldwin, Flannery O’Connor… Then I got into some Faulkner. I started with “Light in August” and moved on to “As I Lay Dying”. Admittedly, I was a bit confused at times during the novels, but generally understood what was going on and developed a genuine appreciation and admiration for Faulkner’s style (and for the “Southern Gothic” genre as a whole… On to “The Sound and the Fury”… To coin a phrase that the younger generation uses more often then I do, “WTF?!?” I’m not the sharpest tool in the shed, but not exactly an “idiot” either (I actually have a BA in English, but never applied it to anything). I had absolutely NO IDEA what was going on in the first section. I was tempted to hurl disc 1 out of the car window and into oncoming traffic on the Long Island Expressway. But like you, I tightened my bootstraps and began consulting Cliff’s Notes, SparkNotes, wikipedia, etc. I found that reading “ahead” in the notes and guides helped my comprehension, and really didn’t “ruin” the storyline or foil any surprises. When I stumbled upon your guide on how to read TSATF, I was so pleased that I wasn’t alone in my plight, and that whisky had “not yet” killed all of my brain cells, I had to reach out. I’m still on disc 7- I should finish in the next day or two. My plan is to go back and listen to Benjy’s section again before returning the discs to the library, for some serious epiphanies! I do have another Steinbeck in the on-deck position, but I may just have to replace it with “Absalom, Absalom!”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I can relate so hard to your comment! I legit wanted to hurl the book out of the train I was commuting to work on. I mostly just persevered because Faulkner seemed like the kind of author I’d love and I was right.

      Reading ahead definitely helps! And the best part in the reading experience is going back and piecing everything together. In fact, it’s only after reading Quentin’s section that I understood around half of Benjy‘ section!

      I really hope you finish reading the book and end up having your opinion changed! Happy reading!


      1. I did finish. And I re-read Benjy’s section, and said many times, “ah-hah!” And then I re-read Quentin’s section not once, but twice! Yes, I’m really in the “appreciation” club for this novel, but I wonder where I’d be for not outside resources. Gonna put it down for a while, and start “Absalom, Absalom!” Thanks for your reply! 😊

        Liked by 1 person

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