William Faulkner referred to Sanctuary as “the most horrific tale [he] could imagine,” so it’s pretty safe to say this isn’t a novel for everyone.
I was assigned Sanctuary for my forthcoming Southern lit class, so since I try to be proactive, I’ve made it a goal to complete a few of the many reading assignments for the class before the semester begins. I’ve actually been interested in reading Sanctuary for a while; after taking a Hemingway and Faulkner class in 2012, I’ve tried to branch into the works of these authors we didn’t get to.
I read almost half of Sanctuary in the summer of 2013, but in favor of finishing my thesis project and an online class, it returned to my bookshelf unfinished (an act that is both rare and frustrating for me). A year-and-a-half later, I think I was more prepared to read the novel this time, and I breezed through it in four days.
As is characteristic of Faulkner, the story takes place in Mississippi, though Memphis is almost equally present in this novel. The plot revolves an ensemble of characters led by Temple Drake, an eighteen-year-old promiscuous Ole Miss student, who unintentionally falls into the hands of bootleggers who essentially hold her prisoner. The story involved rape, murder, lynching, prostitution, and really any scandalous subject matter you can think of.
This is fairly easy reading compared with other Faulkner works, but this makes sense: Faulkner himself said he wrote the story to make money, and nothing increases readership better than a racy story. Though this wasn’t my favorite Faulkner novel (because nothing can beat The Sound and the Fury), it was certainly entertaining, and I’m happy to have closure with a book I started so long ago.