I really do not know where to begin with this book. I read this book fairly quickly and am glad that I was able to do so. This was a difficult book to read and I do not relish dwelling on it here. This book was challenging for me to read currently as I am currently engulfed in much stress in my personal life and I did not really appreciate introducing such a work as this during this time, nevertheless I finished the book this evening and find myself really unable to grapple with its difficulty.
The Confessions of Nat Turner is based on a real event which makes this book all the more disturbing and possibly to the uninitiated to such an endeavor I would never ever advise someone to read. There are portions of this book that I am not glad to say that I have read. There is one scene in particular that I found was the most visceral and convincing moment I have ever read in literature but it was as close to unnecessary as possible and painful to read. That is much of what I surmised from this book.
Styron’s writing is brilliant. It is some of the best prose I have ever read unfortunately this is the ugliest story I have ever read written the most beautifully and the juxtaposition of that I am not entirely certain I am grateful for. What I am grateful for is that this book is over.
Styron’s command of the research he had to conduct for this story is staggering. The geography he had to work with, the timeline of events, the dialect, the courage to write this sensitive story so honestly. Styron seems to have an immense knowledge of complex Christian ideas and Biblical knowledge. Styron had to get way down deep into the mind of this character which I found amazing and terrifying in the same breath. Styron’s writing to me is encapsulated in one word – convincing even when his subject matter is based on facts but conceived in such a way that he had to fabricate much of his story and so walks a fine line between inhabiting the mind of a madman in an unusually convincing way. This work reminds me of Crime and Punishment which I believe is intentional but Styron one-ups Dostoyevsky in that there is very little redemption and yet you may find yourself seeing things more askew than you are comfortable with. With Crime and Punishment you find yourself rooting for Raskolnikov, not so with Nat Turner, but in some very remote ways almost. This was a strange, difficult, ugly, beautiful book that I can say with almost complete certain that I would never read again but one that will set with me a long time.