Lie Down in Darkness
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Lie Down in Darkness

3.89 of 5 stars 3.89  ·  rating details  ·  1,631 ratings  ·  194 reviews
Tells the story of a tormented family submerged in infidelity and driven by a vengeful love that is blocked, hurt and perverted.
Unknown Binding
Published August 3rd 2000 by Not Avail (first published 1951)
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This is EXACTLY the kind of book I would have written in my early 20s had I not been lazy, talentless and drunk.
What a dark and strange novel this is. Told in fierce omniscient narration, Lie Down in Darkness is the story of a Southern family struck through with envy, vengeance, sorrow, and bitterness. It is a family marked, even years before it occurs, by the suicide of one of the young Loftis daughters in the humid days after the United States dropped atomic bombs. The novel opens out as it brushes against the African-American spiritual followers of a man who calls himself Daddy Faith; Jewish artists an...more
I'm going to begin this review with the thought that somewhere along the line, someone had told this guy that he had a gift for descriptive prose and he got the erroneous idea that he could write an entire book of it. Boy, did he! There were three pages of description of a character walking through a door then three more pages to describe how it felt to walk through the door with more descriptions of the memories that were triggered by walking through the door. I'm sure it's an exaggeration but...more
Apr 25, 2007 Mike rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: the tragic-oriented
William Styron's first novel (at 25) is my favorite, as much as I value what came later. Peyton Loftis is a haunting figure, lusted after by her father, hated by her mother, and thus, probably doomed from early on. But we get to see the fall. There's nothing melodramatic about any of it. Words like 'searing' and 'shattering' come to mind when I think of the overall impact of this book.
Zhi Xin Lee
...yet so archetypical is this South with is cancerous religiosity, its exhausting need to put manners before morals, to negate all ethos-- Call it a husk of a culture.

The above quote summarises what I feel towards the South, and also why I, when I do not unwittingly borrow a book without knowing what it is about, try to avoid novels set in the South as much as possible. I was mistaken: it is not racism against African Americans that I prefer not to read about, excusing myself by saying "Once yo...more
I actually read the e-book edition from Open Road Integrated Media. It includes some great supplemental material to shed some light on the life of Styron. Although this was a dark and depressing book, the writing was absolutely stunning. I really enjoyed the story and Styron's execution is brilliant, especially when you consider that he was 26 when it was published. Of course, I can't deny that I got a kick out of its Virginia setting and scenes at The University. It even ended up in New York f...more
Betsy Lewis-moreno
I think if I read this and a Richard Yates novel back to back I would throw myself off a tall building! Masterful prose and characters that draw you in and keep you reading although none are particularly sympathetic. Alcoholism, untreated mental illness - things go from bad to worse in the lives of each character and there's no hope for redemption. I read this after having read Reading My Father by Alexandra Styron. I had read Sophie's Choice years ago, but never this one, so wanted to know more...more
Oct 27, 2013 Lobstergirl rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: "Spanky" McFarland
Shelves: own, fiction

As Lie Down in Darkness opens we are near the end of the story chronologically: it's 1945, the younger Loftis daughter, Peyton, has committed suicide, and several of those close to her are awaiting the train that bears her casket south to Tidewater Virginia. From that point we travel back and forth in time to watch the disintegration of the Loftis family as told from several points of view: first Milton, the alcoholic father, then Helen, the inadequate and punishing mother, and finally Peyton, t...more
This is my 5th from Styron, the last four recent, within the last few months, or weeks, the first quite some time ago, mid-80s when I read his Sophie's Choice. This one, unless I'm mistaken, was his first.

This one has a Recollection, looks like a forward from someone who met Styron soon after he published this one. Looks like it was written by his wife? Rose? She met him, Bill, and Truman Capote, at the same time in Rome. Truman Capote told her, Lie Down in Darkness was a terrific book. Heh! Sh...more
My goodness, how good can a book be? It felt like a million years until the author wrote another novel, "Sophie's Choice" of similarly incredible proportions, but quite different (or at least the story is a lot different, but maybe the characters here were similarly lost in their lives). How wonderful to discover that the author's superb writing enabled him to comes with an essential book that is lyrical and has characters to both strongly dislike and adore, or both. What a family, and what an i...more
This 1951 novel by William Styron won several literary awards. It is the tale of the dysfunctional Loftis family...their betrayals, infidelities, and disappointed love that ultimately results in the suicide of their daughter Peyton. The story is told as the family accompanies her body to the cemetery.

I really wanted to like this fact I really wanted to LOVE this book. But I didn't. This book was recommended to me by my Uncle Steve. He LOVES it. So do lots of other people I know. I was...more
This was my first experience with Styron. Sort of like Faulker meets Paul Theroux meets something softer. The novel is one continuous decent into death, and so aptly titled. Tragic and depressing and well-written; full of sincerity and yearning. And I don't think you can ask much more from a novel or story. I don't want to give away a significant event in the book, but I have not found anywhere a more effective use of a symbol in a book. Just a simple insignia at a certain moment, that made me s...more
I read this first novel of William Styron about 30 years ago when I was in my 20's. I would have given it five stars back then. Now I give it four stars. The book is about an extremely dysfunctional Tidewater Virginia family with pretensions to "FFV" ("first families of Virginia"....the aristocracy of that state), and the tragic relationship between the alcoholic father, his very neurotic wife and their lovely, sensitive daughter, Peyton. When I first read it, I loved the highly dramatic and emo...more
Robert Jacoby
I'm continuing to rate and review my favorite books. I have to give this 5 stars. It's an American classic. It's Styron's first book, and it's the only book of his I've read, but I get the feeling that he was really letting himself as an artist hang out there, giving it his all. Before he might've actually "learned" anything. Just a hunch. There is beautiful prose here. Sure, the story is a bit wandering and large and open. It didn't bother me. I just soaked up this writer's gift. And that's wha...more
This was my first time reading Styron and I fell in love. The story of the Loftis family consumes you... I had a hard time putting this novel down. I enjoyed delving into the minds of the different characters, trying to identify with and understand their troubles and experiences. I look forward to reading more of Styron's novels. I would definitely recommend this book to a specific crowd - although I can't quite put my finger on it - but it isn't meant for everyone.
Leonard Makin

William Styron was awarded the Prix de Rome of the American Academy of Arts and Letters for
this his first novel, written when he was twenty-six - and compared to Updike's
Rabbit Run (written when he was much the same age)it appears a much better work.

But, it wasn't a novel I enjoyed.

The echoes of Scott Fitzgerald - William Burroughs called it GETS (good enough to steal)
- diminished the book for me.

Example: About half-way between West and New York the motor road hastily joins the railroad
This is one of the most unique writing styles I've encountered. I know that it probably isn't for everyone...I've seen people use the phrase 'continuous stream of consciousness' to describe it, the thing is that you jump from one person's stream to another sometimes within the same paragraph. I think it's genius.

The story is heartbreaking. But it's a common enough situation in 2012, just as it was in the 1940's when the story is based. The selfishness shown in these people, narcissism, sadistic...more
Collin Dysart
Mr Styron is in a class of excellence that could make finger nail clippings interesting. Independent of whether you enjoyed this novel, you must concede, this is some damned good prose. Styron is not a writer to hold your hand, point of view shifts on a whim, thus, I was a third completed when I finally felt comfortable in the milieu of Port Warwick with the Loftis family. Much praise of the book is contingent on the young age of Styron when he composed the novel. I would argue that lyrically an...more
I recently managed to make it all the way through Sophie's Choice, a book I had attempted to read in college and hadn't had the maturity to finish. I loved it on my recent read so I thought I should return to Lie Down in Darkness, another book I hadn't been able to complete.

This is a very good, if not great, novel. It is also very depressing. I remember it being so depressing that I just couldn't get through it the first time (and my memory was good). All the same, the writing is beautiful and t...more
This is a very rare thing: an over-the-top melodrama that rises to the status of art. It's not really Southern Gothic in the manner of Faulkner and Flannery O'Connor--it's closer in style to Douglas Sirk's film Written on the Wind, another classic American melodrama from the 1950s. If it weren't for Styron's dated racial stereotypes, I think this would rank among my all-time favorite American novels.
Bob Peru
bleak, but great. hard to tell why the characters are so fucked up (and "fucked up" is puttin' it mildly), but if styron explained that it would be an infinite regression. i think it was philip larkin who said in one of his poems, that it's family "they fuck you up." it's also hard to believe that styron was 26 or so when he wrote this.

the dude should buy faulkner a drink in heaven for the last part.
M. Ritchey
I'm over it. I'm over the dysfunctional Southern alcoholic family morbidly grieving the death of a beloved secondary character. I'm over the anguish of losing the Civil War. It is a tedious bore and I'm sick of it. Write something else, William Styron! Oh, you did? Oh, it's about a lady who has to choose which one of her kids the Nazis will kill? GOOD ONE.
i've NEVER read anything by anyone so excruciatingly insightful and daring in the depiction of psychic pain. read slowly to savor...exquisite.
Clark Maddux
It is still easy to see why this book won such quick critical acclaim when it was first published. Styron's first novel, written when he was only 26, is dense and eloquent. Though it has occasional marks of a writer learning his craft, and can feel dated in places, the lyrical prose and the unflinching character studies of this story of a southern family spinning apart are not only in the best tradition of southern gothic, they are startling in their own right. If you know Styron from his more f...more
I still can't believe Styron was 25 when he wrote this...
Lucinda K
It is hard to imagine that Styron was 26 when this novel was published, that it was his first. I think most writers would—or at least should—be content if they could produce but one work like this one by the ends of their careers. A major work in the Southern heritage, this novel tells the tragic story of the Loftis family and of the turbulences and tensions that culminate in younger daughter Peyton’s suicide. The characters are deliciously unlikeable, seeming more and more repugnant as Styron d...more
Diana Welsch
This was a strangely-written book about drama plaguing a southern family, an alcoholic, philandering husband and a small-minded, selfish wife. They also have a crippled daughter, Maudie, doted on by the wife, and a beautiful daughter, Peyton, adored by the husband and hated by her mother. Most of the plot takes place on the day of Peyton's funeral, interspersed with flashbacks about the sort of lives these people lead that ultimately ended in Peyton's self-destruction.

Most of the book tells the...more
Karen Celano
Four stars only because I know what heights Styron reached in Sophie's Choice and The Confessions of Nat Turner. This first novel is still a masterpiece, but not the apex of Styron's career. Like Flannery O'Connor Styron masterfully explores the moral hypocrisy and self-righteousness masking a haunting guilt that lurks deep in the heart of the white South. In Styron's world, place is destiny, and none of his characters can escape the destiny of the South, crippled by blood and guilt, a legacy as...more
No summaries here. Just thoughts: This book is brilliantly depressing. Does that make sense? The author has a way with descriptions, where sometimes you might think he's gone overboard. But I didn't have trouble imagining the important scenes and even scents and sounds in the background. Admittedly, the writing was a little hard to follow at first as the point of view of the book changes (from one person to another and also at the same time from present to past). But after awhile, I begin to app...more
Kim Fay
Though I struggled and struggled to make my way through this book (for that it deserves two stars), I must acknowledge that it is well-conceived and well-written. It just has a ponderousness that is common to certain Southern novels, and for that I found myself often setting it down and drifting off to another book. Then, as I reached the final fifty or so pages, the investment paid off, and I couldn't put it down. Beginning with the death of young socialite Peyton Loftis (this is not a spoiler)...more
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Review, Lie Down in Darkness by William Styron 3 13 Jul 08, 2014 10:38AM  
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William Styron (1925–2006), born in Newport News, Virginia, was one of the greatest American writers of his generation. Styron published his first book, Lie Down in Darkness, at age twenty-six and went on to write such influential works as the controversial and Pulitzer Prize–winning The Confessions of Nat Turner and the international bestseller Sophie’s Choice.
More about William Styron...
Sophie's Choice Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness The Confessions of Nat Turner A Tidewater Morning Set This House on Fire

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“I thought there's something to be said for honor in this world where there doesn't seem to be any honor left. I thought that maybe happiness wasn't really anything more than the knowledge of a life well spent, in spite of whatever immediate discomfort you had to undergo, and that if a life well spent meant compromises and conciliations and reconciliations, and suffering at the hands of the person you love, well then better that than live without honor.” 20 likes
“Which is worse, past or future? Neither. I will fold up my mind like a leaf and drift on this stream over the brink. Which will be soon, and then the dark, and then be done with this ugliness...” 5 likes
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