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Soldiers' Pay

3.39  ·  Rating details ·  1,197 ratings  ·  113 reviews
A group of soldiers travel by train across the United States in the aftermath of the First World War. One of them is horribly scarred, blind and almost entirely mute. Moved by his condition, a few civilian fellow travellers decided to see him home to Georgia, to a family who believed him dead, and a fiancée who grew tired of waiting. Faulkner's first novel deals powerfully ...more
Paperback, 265 pages
Published October 5th 2000 by Vintage Classics (first published 1926)
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Average rating 3.39  · 
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 ·  1,197 ratings  ·  113 reviews


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Luís C.
This is Faulkner's first novel, published in 1926. The war of 14-18 hangs over the whole novel, not evoked directly but by the influence, it may have had on the fate and the inner world of the characters, whether it was those who made it or others, civilians or young people just a little too young.
At the center of the book, Donald Mahon aviator disfigured by a terrible scar, becoming blind and gradually moving towards inevitable death. Around him 3 women who somehow attached themselves to him.
...more
Teresa
Feb 25, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The most interesting thing about this book for me is that I bought it at the house (now bookstore) where Faulkner lived while he was writing it: http://faulknerhouse.net/

That mundane fact is even more interesting to me than spotting some of the elements Faulkner would use later to much greater effect: the ticking of clocks; a section of dialogue set out as if the characters are in a play; words inside parentheses to indicate thought, including that belonging to a collective society.

While some of
...more
Nicholas Hansen
Nov 19, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book and would recommend it to anyone who adores powerful and poetic imagery. The plot of the story is a little bland, it's almost soap operaish, but the characters who drive the narrative are anything but your typical soap stars. They are real and engaging individuals and you find yourself amazed at how their plights tug at your heart. The skillful way in which Faulkner uses language to tell this story will impress even the least literary individual. If you are to read only one ...more
J.M. Hushour
Dec 05, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It'd be easy to deride this, Falky's first novel, as mere prologue to later genius and dismiss it out of hand, as many seem to. Fact is, this is so much better than most first efforts or, let's face it, 90% of fiction out there today, that it hardly seems to matter that it is Falky's most juvenile work. It has all the hallmarks of his greatness (the wit, the poetics) and is actually refreshing since it doesn't feel weighted down with intense, Attican symbolism and southern woes, whether black or ...more
Michael
William Faulkner's novels have long been a serious reading gap for me, one I intended to fill as I worked my way through Time Magazine's list of the greatest 100 English-language novels published since 1923. Faulkner is represented twice on that list (The Sound and the Fury and Light in August), but of course, Faulkner comes with a reputation of being "difficult" and "intimidating." I figured it might be constructive if I just started at the beginning, with Faulkner's first novel, and work my ...more
Elena Sala
SOLDIER'S PAY (1926) is William Faulkner's first novel, generally considered his literary apprenticeship. In this book he tends to use traditional narrative forms and techniques and his characters seem like types most of the time.
The subject of the novel is post-war disillusionment. American post-war society, described in very bitter strokes of comedy, collides with the group of war veterans who are now returning home, quite unable to forget the violence of war. The plot revolves around Donald
...more
Kamil
It's always interesting to read a debut novel of such a big literary name. Someone that stood a test of time and produced at least 4 novels (The Sound and the Fury, Light in August and As I Lay Dying, Absalom, Absalom) that are considered to be among absolute best of 20 century.
However Soldier's Pay proves that Faulkner worked his way to genius, as his debut has lots of flows and the merit doesn't really strike strongly enough through melodramatic plot.
There are moments when you think, yes,
...more
Danny Taylor
Feb 08, 2014 rated it really liked it
William Faulkner's debut novel is a melodrama about World War I soldiers returning to a small town in Georgia, where the women they left behind struggle, like them, to put the pieces back together. Similar to all Faulkner's work, the structure is experimental, jumping around places and points-of-view, juxtaposing dialogue with parenthetical asides to relate unspoken thought processes, and in one chapter, attempting to sententiously capture the perspective of multiple characters at once, ...more
Judy
Aug 06, 2014 rated it really liked it
This early Faulkner novel was the first I've read by him, but I'll definitely go on to more. I was attracted to this by its subject matter, as I've been reading a lot about the First World War lately, and this is an account of a wounded, dying soldier who returns to his home in Georgia and his unfaithful sweetheart.

I found the story moving, but the book really exerts a grip because of its writing style and intense, overheated atmosphere. 'Soldiers' Pay' can be confusing at times, as some of it
...more
Negar Ghadimi
Jan 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
"Why, poor soldier," said his friend, tearfully, "all alone in no man's land and no matches. Ain't war hell? I ask you."
———————————
It is jealousy, I think, which makes us wish to prevent young people doing the things we had not the courage or the opportunity ourselves to accomplish once, and have not the power to do now.
———————————
"... Women Know these things. They see through us at once."
"No, I don't agree with you. If they saw through us, they would never marry us."
———————————
In war time one
...more
K.M. Weiland
Jun 20, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wow, two really good Faulkner books in a row (this and The Reivers) - I could get used to this! Here we find one of Faulkner's earliest books, one free of the pomposity and obscurity of his later works and also one that offers some genuinely noble and likable characters. Going into another WWI-themed novel, I admit was cringing a bit in fear that it would turn out to be another Fable, but not so. Here, he gives a compelling and touching look at the men and women whose lives were touched - and ...more
Michael Finocchiaro
This is an early piece from Faulkner, the first one he ever published in fact thanks to his friend and fellow Pulitzer winner Sherwood Anderson, and one of the rare one about the war and not taking place in his own southern middle earth, Yoknapatawpha County, Mississippi. For fans of Metallica, it is similar to the story of One but featuring a WWI aviator who returns to his native Georgia, mute and blind. There is, naturally, a tragic love story wrapped around this return. It is not his greatest ...more
Mike
Jul 24, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: faulkner fans, those interested in the time setting
At its best when Faulkner is just himself, but much of the time it tries too hard to resonate. The dialogue is often particularly uncomfortable. Felt more like an old movie screenplay than anything else and it’s more interesting as Faulkner’s first novel than as a novel in itself. 2.75 stars.
Don
Sep 18, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: american-novel
This was Faulkner's first book and all the issues that haunted his later work were already in place. The story of a group of returning WWI warriors who encounter each other on a train heading across the State's. One is horribly scarred, listless and ill. Together with a 'long, black woman', they resolve to take him back to his home in Georgia.
So a tableaux of characters is brought together to explore the emotions of loss and decline, with the notion that 'sex and death' are the front and back
...more
Tom
Dec 19, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Faulkner's first published novel showcases what is clearly a preternatural style of prose — essentially poetry. Every paragraph is a jewel, and I found myself rereading whole chunks of descriptive, atmospheric, scene-setting sentences ALOUD. That aside, his characters are less wonderfully drawn. A lot of didactic dialogue and stagy situations in a small southern town as soldiers return home from the first World War.
Illiterate
Feb 27, 2019 rated it it was ok
Faulkner counters the emptiness of modernity with sardonic humor, compassion of leading characters, and solid persistence of African-Americans.
Ben
Mar 17, 2009 rated it it was ok
This was Faulkner's first book. It does not appear to have been closely edited and overall it's too flashy in its style. At points it felt like the primary purpose was to showcase a broad range of adverbs and literary references. It has two or three too many characters, and it's at least a hundred pages too long.

The book also starts from a place of, let's generously call it historically-influenced under-estimation, with regard to women and minorities.

Buried under that mess is a good, sad,
...more
Adrian Alvarez
Though not as accomplished as his later novels, Soldiers' Pay still has moments of revelation, which reveal Faulkner willing to bend language to get at a feeling.

"They greeted him with the effusiveness of people who are brought together by invitation yet are not quite certain of themselves and of the spirit of the invitation; in this case the eternal country boys of one national mental state, lost in the comparative metropolitan atmosphere of one diametrically opposed to it. To feel provincial:
...more
Paula
Aug 21, 2007 rated it it was ok
I read this because I was compelled by my passion for Faulkner's work to begin at the beginning-- I'm as curious about an author's personal history as I am about his books. Faulkner claimed to be a fighter pilot in WWI, although historical records make it seem as if he never saw action. I think his fighter pilot fantasy was enfleshed in the Sartoris epics, while this story illuminates a war and homecoming still very fresh in young Faulkner's consciousness. His description of Donald's ...more
Sookie
This is one of those books that oscillates between two and four stars with every chapter change. While Faulkner is redundant while describing nature, his description of Donald's health's decay is fascinating and quite chilling. World War 1 was confusing enough for many as the war changed perception of many people about the world and the political aspects of it. Faulkner lets these things simmer in the background while he draws attention to lives of people who are directly affected by it. Some of ...more
Calvin
Feb 03, 2012 added it
Shelves: novels
Not a bad novel, although there is that very odd situation where the main character in the first 3rd of the novel just sort of leaves and never returns and two other characters become the leads in the last 2/3rds of the book.
The themes that dominated Faulkner's are clearly visible here and really do get a bit of a run through, so although his first novel and not up to the classics that shortly followed it is well worth a read.
But the real reason I love this book is after I read it, I
...more
William Ramsay
This was William Faulkner's first novel. It's about a dying soldier from the First World War going home to end his days. It tells of the girl he left behind, who has now had second thoughts about him, and a woman who wants to marry him. It has echoes of the greatest of Faulkner, but it seems to me he was searching for a voice in the book and didn't quite find it. He was very much influenced by the stream of consciousness people, who were working about the time he wrote it and that takes away ...more
Christopher Sutch
Nov 27, 2011 rated it really liked it
Faulkner's first novel is surprisingly good. It's obviously a first novel, and it has some problems (notably, some pronoun issues in the first chapter, and some unsubtle artiness), but does contain a compelling plot and some extraordinarily beautiful writing in some parts. He was obviously influenced by Pound and Eliot, and his early roots in painting show up to good effect here. Chapter Five, with its caustic response to Fitzgerald's early work is terrific. The racial element is a tad ...more
Vivian
Mar 17, 2010 rated it really liked it
Ah, Faulkner! It's been a while since I read a book by Faulkner just for enjoyment. What a master! This is not one of his most well known books--it reads more like popular fiction, with characters not quite as well drawn as some of his other works. But there's the drama of the wounded hero, but beautiful woman who can't make up her mind, the loyal friends. Though this isn't strictly a "war novel," there are glimpses of war scenes and some about the effects of the war both on soldiers and on ...more
Jenny
Jan 29, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2014
I might be a bit too harsh toward this, but it feels all the more frustrating to me because there's plenty to like about it, but all that is buried underneath a lot of melodramatic and overwrought crap. The central story of a disabled, dying war veteran that no one knows what to do with is compelling. But here, Faulkner can't seem to actually tell that story, because he gets bogged down with what feel like a million uninteresting side stories. It's interesting as his first novel but that's about ...more
Travis
Jul 08, 2008 rated it really liked it
It's Faulkner, what more needs to be said? Ok, its soldiers returning from war on a train.

"What can equal a mother’s love? Except a good drink of whiskey"

Thats bourbon, by the way not scotch or irish whisky.

"The saddest thing about love too is that not only the love cannot last for ever, but even the heartbreak is soon forgotten."
JD
Jan 31, 2013 rated it really liked it
Hell, just gonna give this book a 5. The language was insane. I felt immersed in deep Southern tradition right? Id quote some of it but I'm on a phone right now.

I have decided that this book is not a 5 on further review.
Cody
Oct 26, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: foxy-faulkner
The opening sequence on the train is proof enough alone that Faulkner didn't really ever hit a bum note until he went all 'electro' on our asses.
Greg
Oct 31, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I love the way Faulkner doesn't pander to readers. He expects you to figure things out on your own (as in, what's actually going on, a lot of the time). It's not for everyone, but it's pretty rewarding when you stick with him.

This isn't one of his better known novels--it's an early one--but it's got all the post-modernisms he's known for: it's told with shifting perspectives, has descriptions that overwhelm and obscure the plot, letters from secondary characters, people's disjointed thoughts in
...more
Lloyd Hughes
Oct 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
‘Soldier’s Pay’ is Faulkner’s first published work. It was copyrighted in the year he turned 28. He seems very aware and insightful for one so young. Bring your dictionary because his vocabulary is on full display.

This is a story with lots of themes: some obvious, some not. But make no mistake: sex, race, death, discovery, and God all jostle the reader’s psyche.

WWI is over, the men are returning home — some in better shape than others. It’s a big adjustment for them as well as their mothers,
...more
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6,662 followers
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
...more
“Women know more about words than men ever will. And they know how little they can ever possibly mean.” 7 likes
“You are suffering from disappointment. But this will pass away. The saddest thing about love, Joe, is that not only the love cannot last forever, but even the heartbreak is soon forgotten.” 5 likes
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