Review: James Agee’s “A Death in the Family”

by writereaderly

james agee death in the familyThe publication and prize history of this book is a little dubious – according to the assorted prologues, Mr Agee was a revered writer who died successful and relatively young with an unfinished novel on his hands. His friends and editors took the manuscript in hand, “exactly as he left it”, but also confessing they placed certain mystery sections of text as they saw fit; i.e. who knows what Agee meant to do with his own novel? However, between his manuscript, the editors’ loving care, and – one suspects – his fame and early demise, this publication won itself the 1958 Pulitzer. Well done, team.

For it is a good novel, consummately devised and framed, relating the days surrounding the death of one of the thinly veiled Holy Family (I’ll do you the courtesy to not report who died). Parents Jay and Mary, their small children Rufus and Catherine, and assorted brothers, aunts, etc. are all given perceptive narrative streams to flesh out this family’s response to the death. Good book. Recommended.

Where it came from: KAM’s bookshelf
Time and manner of reading:
Bed and armchair reads
Where it went: Home
Reminds me of/that:
Who I’d recommend it to:
Seekers of the well-crafted and insightful
Also reading: Being Alive edited by Neil Astley