Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Light in August” as Want to Read:
Light in August
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Light in August

3.93  ·  Rating details ·  55,058 ratings  ·  2,535 reviews
Light in August, a novel that contrasts stark tragedy with hopeful perseverance in the face of mortality, which features some of Faulkner’s most memorable characters: guileless, dauntless Lena Grove, in search of the father of her unborn child; Reverend Gail Hightower, a lonely outcast haunted by visions of Confederate glory; and Joe Christmas, a desperate, enigmatic drift ...more
Paperback, 507 pages
Published January 30th 1991 by Vintage (first published March 12th 1932)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Light in August, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
John Faulkner explores the question of race in a very interesting way. We never know, and Joe Christmas never knows if he is "negro" (in the parlance of th…moreFaulkner explores the question of race in a very interesting way. We never know, and Joe Christmas never knows if he is "negro" (in the parlance of the book). The supposition that he is / is not black creates very different outcomes for him. The actions and thoughts of those around him continually morph around this question. Although Joe Christmas is constant, his experience is mediated about this one binary.

I'm still piecing together the various actions and characters of the novel and their relationships and meanings to the overall whole. Its a complex, complicated and mesmerizing tale that creates an entire society before our eyes as we read it. Faulkner's descriptions and observations are unusually uncanny, even for him and it uses fairly straightforward language and sentence (unlike his other novels of the period). While he does deploy many Joycean portmanteau words, they are all clear and apt.
This book might be a good one to start with for a first-time Faulkner reader. Its intense, complex but not as difficult (no streams of consciousness, fewer time-jumps) as some of his other works.(less)

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.93  · 
Rating details
 ·  55,058 ratings  ·  2,535 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Light in August
Mar 24, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, us, 20-ce
It occurs to me on reading Light in August for the third time in twenty years, that if America were ever to try to come to terms with its legacy of slavery--unlikely now at this late date--but if it ever were to empanel some kind of Truth and Reconciliation Commission, like the one South Africa had after apartheid, and which seems especially needed now that we are mourning the shooting deaths by cops of so many unarmed black men, then William Faulkner's novels, certainly this one, should be part ...more
Dec 09, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone
Recommended to Lawyer by: Miss Maxine Lustig, Lustig's Bookstore, Tuscaloosa, Al
Light in August, William Faulkner's Portraits of Loneliness and Isolation

A Note Regarding This Review

Today marks the Anniversary of the Death of William Faulkner, July 6, 1962. In remembrance of him and in gratitude his works making me a man better capable of understanding others, I repost this review of my Favorite novel by William Faulkner, Light in August. My Mother died following a lengthy and grueling illness. I had been her caregiver as I had promised her I would. I promised that she would
I’m not going to attempt to write an erudite review of this book, because then I would simply be revealing the glaring holes in my Faulkner education. A scholarly write-up of this brilliant man’s work is best left to students of college literature classes or perhaps a well-taught AP English course or another reviewer more adept than I. Confession: I was hesitant to read this, but I was determined to make another attempt after a failed one several years ago when I picked up a copy of Absalom, Abs ...more
"Memory believes before knowing remembers. Believes longer than recollects, longer than knowing even wonders".
Are there many such novels that delve deep into our souls and that makes us suffer and weep? I believe there are many, but not many that imprison us in its tidings and with their beauty in such a way that escape is an impossibility. Yes, we cannot run away any less than its wretched characters could. Indeed, William Faulkner in Light in August wrote a tragedy set in the fictional Jef
Paul Bryant
Jun 11, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: novels
I can’t figure out if reading Faulkner – particularly THIS one – at the very time of the massive George Floyd protests is hideously inappropriate or exactly the right thing to do. All I knew when I started was that I wanted to give Faulkner another shot. Many years ago I laboured heroically through The Sound and the Fury and I seem to remember I thought it was brilliant, but maybe that was just because I survived it. Then more recently I read As I Lay Dying and that one was great, no equivocatio ...more
Words. That stew in silent torment, weep and curse, howl in pain and outrage. Words that spill from his pen and bleed on to these white sheets to taint our neat black-and-white categorizations. Universes stretch across the extremities of his fictional Jefferson, that swallow lives whole and spit back all the folly men and women are capable of. And images emerge in an unearthly chiaroscuro of mortal agony and transient joy. Colours of spiritual disquiet and alienation and uncertain footsteps towa ...more
Michael Finocchiaro
William Faulker, Light in August:"Sitting beside the road, watching the wagon mount the hill toward her, Lena thinks, 'I have come from Alabama, a fur piece.'"

Here Faulker presents Lena who has a passive role in Light in August as this phrase (sitting, watching, thinking) points out - she is not actually doing an action here other than a purely mental one. There is a lonely, languid feeling imparted by "watching the wagon mount the hill" that is shared with the wonderful title of the book. The s
Colin McKay Miller
A couple of thoughts I’ll tie together: 1) I read a BBC article that suggests a large percentage of people keep books on their shelf to impress others rather than to read them. 2) As young students, teachers take us to the library and allow us to pick out whatever book we like (as long as we’re not just trying to avoid reading by picking out a pamphlet), but by the time we reach high school and college, it’s assigned. Though I believe an educator’s recommendation to be valuable, I believe taking ...more
Sep 30, 2015 rated it it was amazing
You’re an American author, dead almost half a century, and there’s this thing called television and a host(ess?) talking about books with half the population of a country you once inhabited, you’re on the list and why? Race.

I really hate the term Great American Novel, how we capitalize it in the middle of sentences (GAN, anyone?) and talk about examples of it with reverence. It’s a questing beast for authors that strive for it and an oddity for those who write something that receives the tag .
Steven Godin
A dark and compelling slice of Southern Gothic with a prose which is easily recognisable as 'Faulkneresque' that showcases his ability to write about the awful deep south at a time of serious racial prejudice, misogyny and the preaching of religion through the eyes of both men of the cloth and those who are deluded and fanatical. Featuring some of Faulkner's most memorable characters including the dauntless Lena Grove searching for the father of her unborn child, Reverend Hightower who is dealin ...more
Aug 30, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

This novel is my first experience of William Faulkner’s writing. I was drawn to it partly because one of my favourite novelists, John Steinbeck, was a great admirer of Faulkner’s work and partly because I felt it was time to fill the gap in my literary education caused by my unfamiliarity with one of the great novelists of the 20th century.

My research into which of Faulkner’s novels to start with indicated that Light in August is one of his more accessible works. This proved to be so, or at lea
After some 45+ years, I have finally read Light in August again. What amazes me is how little beyond the basic character details I remembered. I also increasingly believe that I read Faulkner better with more life experience than I did when younger. I have been finding that true with many classics.

As for the novel itself, I don’t plan a lengthy review. I have noted many sections I like using status updates (such a great way to sneak in a lot of quotations). Essentially this novel is many lives c
Feb 01, 2012 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: it's written all over my face
Recommended to Mariel by: I started reading it without meaning to
Don't pray over no body. I knew that I would figure it out. It was something I already knew. That's how you don't feel bad about wanting to know anyone. Don't expect anything. It doesn't get rid of the falling feeling when you think about them, though. Light in August is an ultimate societal kangaroo's pouch of claustrophobic guilt for me. Where does anyone belong?

William Faulkner writes to me in my favorite way of being talked to in stories (anything). If I could have this in every book I read
Jason Koivu
Nov 29, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
I've read a few Faulkners now and this one left the least impression upon me, and yet it was still miles ahead of other novels!

William Faulkner flogs words, he teases them, he primps and preens them pretty like. You'd be hard-pressed to find a wordsmith with more range.

However, compared with his other works, specifically The Sound and The Fury and Absalom, Absalom, this one read like a plain old pedestrian story. It wasn't bad, it just didn't burn with the same fire as others. Still, he had the
Cathrine ☯️
It happened earlier this week. I lost my Faulkner virginity (a short story not counting).
Since there is no dearth of personal or professional opinions about his oeuvre, what can I add? Nothing really except a check off on my reading bucket list.
I give this one all the stars because at different times

★I didn’t like it
★★ It was okay
★★★ I liked it
★★★★ I really liked it
★★★★★ It was awesome

My overall enthusiasm settled between 3 and 4—round up or down?
If you’ve never read him this is considered a mos
The sins of the father, the sins of the mother, the sins of the deep and the golden dark.

I've heard mentions of Light in August being one of Faulkner's most accessible works. Fitting, then, that it be the second of my readings, the first having been The Sound and the Fury. For I thought I found something in the first worth searching for in the rest, but as you and many an English Literature student know, TSatF isn't the place for certainty. Here, I found that Faulkner knew what he was doing.

I ca
Mark Porton
Not sure where to start with this review. I can’t lie, I found Light in August by William Faulkner to be a gruelling experience. I oscillated between a 1-star to a 5-star experience at various times, depending on the chapter. My only other Faulkner read As I Lay Dying I found to be a lot more enjoyable. I found As I Lay Dying a little more understandable and predictable than Light in August – I could get into a rhythm.

I achieved no such rhythm with this book.

There were times I enjoyed this stor
Jenny (Reading Envy)
This is my fifth Faulkner ever, also of this year. I found this one to be pretty readable and I liked the focus on fewer characters. For me it ended 50-75 pages before the end and it was excruciating to keep reading after that point. There is a lot of disturbing race rhetoric throughout all centering around a man of questionable character, and how he is seen seems to lie entirely around whether or not he is perceived as black (although the word used is another word.) I do get the sense that Faul ...more
‘What A Long Strange Trip It’s Been’
~ Grateful Dead, circa 1977

I’ve just spent ten “scarcebreathing” days, a mere two months plotwise, hanging out in 1920’s Jefferson, Mississippi with Mr. William Faulkner and his buddies Joe Christmas, Rev. Gail Hightower, Lena Grove, Byron Bunch, the McEacherns, Lucas Burch (aka Joe Brown), Uncle Doc Hines and his missus, and Joanna Burden, to name a few. And what a whirlwind trip it’s been. I met people damned from birth and a few that left me hopeful; witne
Paul Nelson
May 15, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone
'He just stared at her, at the face which he had never seen before, saying quietly (whether aloud our not, he could not have said) in a slow amazement: Why, I committed murder for her. I even stole for her as if he had just heard of it, thought of it, been told that he had done it.'

Light in August by William Faulkner is quite simply a superlative piece of fiction, it surpasses pretty much anything else I've read in 30 years. If you want to read an author who literally dances with words in a styl
So I'm back in school now, and for the first time in ages am being made to read books. Now I don't have any personal experience with desperately trying to get pregnant, but reading novels for school reminds me of that: there's this activity that I'm used to doing purely for fun when I feel like it, that I'm now grimly pushing through on an inflexibly dictated schedule, whether I'm in the mood or not, with this intense sense of purpose that seems to poison the whole event. The result is that I'm ...more
Sharon Metcalf
Apr 11, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2020, owned
It was May 2019 and a few of my GoodReads friends had just read Light In August by William Faulkner. Each of them rated the book well providing glowing words about the writing but equally they commented on the difficulty of the book. Not having read any Faulkner myself but being aware of his Nobel prize for Literature I was intrigued, slightly intimidated, but decided I was up for the challenge.

As it turns out I didn't read the book but listened to it and I think there were definite pro's and c
Joy D
Published in 1932, this classic American southern gothic novel, set during Prohibition, follows the intersecting lives of five people not following a traditional path in life. They are viewed as outsiders because they do not adhere to social norms. Joe Christmas is an orphan who is abused as a child and believes he is of mixed racial ancestry but has no proof. He is searching for his place in the world. Lena Grove is in an unwed pregnant young woman looking for the father of her unborn child. Ga ...more
K. Elizabeth
2.75 / 5

First piece of writing I actually somewhat enjoyed by Faulkner! This day ought to be marked down.

Light in August was assigned by my senior seminar professor, and while I wasn’t entirely fond of the whole story there were certainly chapters I enjoyed; specifically the first few chapters. The books started to slow down around the midway point when we were back to the house being burned down. Basically, after we found out about Christmas and his backstory, the story fell to a dull point.

Sep 20, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: status-borrowed
Lena Grove travels, on foot and with the aid of strangers, through the South in search of the father of her unborn child. Her journey introduces the reader to a variety of characters, including the child's father, a man who falls in love with Lena, and a biracial man named Christmas. Like Lena, all of these characters have stories to tell, and Faulkner interweaves a number of back stories and histories in the body of this book. One of his more accessable texts, Light in August is easy to get in ...more
Oct 10, 2011 rated it it was ok
While Faulkner is a beautiful writer he is very depressing. I lost interest after 100 plus pages, so I really can't even say that I read the book. What did me in was his flashbacks. It was okay for one chapter, but chapter after chapter revealed flashbacks, and this during the time when I found the book so interesting. My thought was to skip them and get on with the book, but so many chapters were on it. I will keep the book and keep trying.

P.S. I gave in and finished the book. It never got bey
3.5 stars rounded up. This is a heavyweight story with big themes and fascinating characters. However, for me it was not an easy story to read, so I was happy to be reading it with a GR’s group, ‘On the Southern Literary Trail.’ Some in the group say this is one of the easier of Faulkner’s stories. Not sure I'd want to read a harder one. Maybe. It feels like multiple stories twisted into a braid; it’s not a loose braid either, it’s dense, packed tight. There is some stream of consciousness that ...more
Vit Babenco
Apr 10, 2013 rated it it was amazing
A man is a mystery…
“He thought that it was loneliness which he was trying to escape and not himself. But the street ran on: catlike, one place was the same as another to him. But in none of them could he be quiet. But the street ran on in its moods and phases, always empty: he might have seen himself as in numberless avatars, in silence, doomed with motion, driven by the courage of flagged and spurred despair; by the despair of courage whose opportunities had to be flagged and spurred. He was th
Sep 06, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Like some bemused god looking down on his creations with a trace of empathy, but also with a hint of disdain at their hopeless bigotry, indolence, and willful ignorance, Faulkner's keen, cool eye for the way humans can be chilly in its precision. But there is no denying that Faulkner knows his characters and, by extension, his readers. This is a somewhat grim novel, with little evidence of hope for any of the characters who manage to walk away, but you will be hard pressed to find a more honest ...more
Sep 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
No matter the story, Faulkner can write! This man knows how to tell a story.

The characters, with the exception of Lena, are all mired in the past somehow. They are stuck in ways that don't let them reach potentials.

Joe Christmas is the saddest of them all as he doesn't know his past and yet it still holds him back. How does one move forward when one doesn't know what one is moving forward from? Where does he belong? How can he fit in?

Byron Bunch....stuck in a rut of a life. But then he's jolte
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »

Readers also enjoyed

  • A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
  • Wise Blood
  • Invisible Man
  • A Farewell to Arms
  • Schwüle Tage
  • Blood Meridian, or the Evening Redness in the West
  • Dubliners
  • The Crying of Lot 49
  • Cities of the Plain (The Border Trilogy, #3)
  • All the King's Men
  • Outer Dark
  • The Adventures of Augie March
  • Under the Volcano
  • The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter
  • All the Pretty Horses (The Border Trilogy, #1)
  • The Sun Also Rises
  • To the Lighthouse
See similar books…
William Cuthbert Faulkner was a Nobel Prize-winning American novelist and short story writer. One of the most influential writers of the twentieth century, his reputation is based mostly on his novels, novellas, and short stories. He was also a published poet and an occasional screenwriter.

The majority of his works are set in his native state of Mississippi. Though his work was published as early

Related Articles

Emma Straub was all set to spend May on tour promoting her new novel, All Adults Here. Instead, due to the global pandemic, the Brooklyn-based...
14 likes · 5 comments
“Memory believes before knowing remembers. Believes longer than recollects, longer than knowing even wonders.” 545 likes
“Memory believes before knowing remembers.

[Light in August]”
More quotes…