Angle of Repose

Angle of Repose

Book - 1971
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Wallace Stegner's Pultizer Prize-winning novel is a story of discovery—personal, historical, and geographical. Confined to a wheelchair, retired historian Lyman Ward sets out to write his grandparents' remarkable story, chronicling their days spent carving civilization into the surface of America's western frontier. But his research reveals even more about his own life than he's willing to admit. What emerges is an enthralling portrait of four generations in the life of an American family.
Publisher: Garden City, N.Y. : Doubleday, c1971.
ISBN: 9780140169300
014016930X
9780449209882
0449209881
Characteristics: 569 p. ;,22cm.

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j
jontalk
Feb 28, 2019

As with most Pulitzer winners this story is complex yet far from typical as an 'Old West' tale. It's a study in contrast and the human condition. Reconstructing his grandparents life for a book, Lyman Ward's journey is immersive due to letters written between his grandmother and her best friend. There's even hints of lesbianism in their friendship, which given the Victorian nature of his grandmother is striking. Her ability to adapt, support her husband's goals and live in rugged places, the polar opposite of her origin is stunning. Fascinating in many respects, it's well crafted, engaging and definitely worth adding to your list; highly recommended

b
blue_41
Jan 25, 2019

"Angle of Repose" is Wallace Stegner's big novel of a family building and adapting to the development of the West in the latter part of the 19th century. The main characters are mining engineer Oliver Ward, his wife Susan B. Ward, who is a writer and illustrator, and their descendant, Lyman Ward, who narrates the story as a retired historian living in the California gold country. The novel builds and moves slowly, but contains insight into the complicated lives of the characters, into the trials of living in newly settled arid lands, and the nature of trust and responsibility.

The novel received great critical praise, and Wallace Stegner won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. It is controversial in that much of the material he used was adapted from writings by Mary H. Foote, on whom the character of Susan Burling Ward is based.

l
lukasevansherman
Aug 10, 2017

I like Wallace Stegner, but found this book hard to get into and, frankly, long and a bit tedious (well over 500 pages). It did win the Pulitzer, so clearly I'm in the minority. I prefer "The Big Rock Candy Mountain." Aside from fiction, Stegner wrote extensively about the West.

d
DorisWaggoner
Jan 19, 2016

I suppose it's unfair to withhold half a star because I often wanted to, as another reviewer put it, shake both Oliver and Susan Ward. And their grandson Lyman Ward, the narrator of the framing sections of the book. Still, I began by reading the book slowly, savoring it for its many perfections and felicities of language. Then I got impatient and wanted to know "how it all turns out" and stayed up way too late one night to finish it. Fortunately, I soon found a used copy to buy. I plan to reread it, slowly, savoring the whole thing, to see if I can figure out how Stegner pulls off this magic. Susan, Oliver, Lyman, and the other main characters and so many walk-ons are so clearly drawn. He has a way of making complex, imperfect people compelling. He also shows how they change. Susan, for instance, writes letters to her friend Augusta in NYC, whom she doesn't see for years. To her she pours out her heart about her joys and sorrows. While she tells Augusta how much she hates the West, how much she holds her self above it, she is changing slowly into a Westerner. She's not the same kind of Westerner as her husband Oliver, and that's part of their tragedy. But she's become a true Westerner. Lyman, who knew them both when he was a child, is aware of that, and sees it in her writing. A truly beautiful book.

c
crstcampbell
May 15, 2015

Stegner has totally annotated my life with his books. I go back through them and re-read my favorite quotes because he can sum up complex feelings beautifully - feelings I couldn't bumble out in any kind of coherent way. This is my fav book of his. His portraits of life are masterful. An american author that doesn't get his due.

s
st126
May 13, 2014

One of those books to be read slowly and savored. Stegner is a master.

WVMLBookClubTitles Jun 17, 2013

Stegner won a Pulitzer Prize in 1972 for his novel about a retired historian who researches and writes about his pioneer grandparents and the American West. A slow moving story that seamlessly weaves the past and the present as the professor confronts his own history and failed marriage. A book to be slowly savored, from one of America’s finest novelists.

j_wilson22 Mar 01, 2013

Kind of boring

r
ralphdyer
Sep 09, 2012

It has been a while since a book has made me tear up; but, this one did. One of the better novels that I have read. Well worth it.

r
rab1953
Aug 02, 2012

A really interesting portrait of life in the early years of the American West. Susan and Oliver are interesting characters with diverse, complex motives. Sometimes you want to give one or other of them a shake and say Smarten up, but you know it's how they are, and they are not going to change. (Much like real people I know.) The contemporary historian looking at their lives adds another element, as he shares some of the patterns of their lives, and perhaps learns from them in dealing with his own troubling relationships. (Though it's a bit odd to look back on a conservative 1971 view of the social changes taking place in the USA of the 1960s and '70s.) Very engrossing and illuminating.

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