William Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury tells the story of the Compsons - a family that once held power, money, and influence in Jefferson, Mississippi. The Compsons have fallen on hard times. One son was born mentally handicapped; another suffered from depression and committed suicide; a third son grew up to be a cynical, greedy, dishonest racist and the family has disowned their promiscuous daughter after the birth of her illegitimate child. An alcoholic father and a hypochondriac mother complete the picture of a family in despair. From southern aristocracy, the Compsons have deteriorated in wealth, social position, and morality.
The book tells the story of the family's fall from grace, but it does so in such a roundabout way that the reader is forced to work hard to understand their fate.
I almost did not finish this novel. There are four chapters and I had to read the first two at least twice before it made any sense to me. The narrative jumps rapidly between time periods - often with no warning other than a change in font, and often with no indication of which time is addressed. It is made more difficult by the fact it is narrated by the childlike Benji. Much of the book is written in first person and the stream of consciousness style makes for challenging reading.
Eventually, a story emerges. Faulkner tells the same events from different points of view and we get a vision of characters as they see themselves and as others see them.
If one can get past the obtuse first half of this novel, this is a satisfyingly dark story of people dealing with loss.