Winner of the Pulitzer Prize when it was first published in 1971, Angle of Repose has also been selected by the editorial board of the Modern Library as one of the hundred best novels of the twentieth century.
Wallace Stegner's uniquely American classic centers on Lyman Ward, a noted historian who relates a fictionalized biography of his pioneer grandparents at a time when he has become estranged from his own family. Through a combination of research, memory, and exaggeration, Ward voices ideas concerning the relationship between history and the present, art and life, parents and children, husbands and wives. Set in many parts of the West, Angle of Repose is a story of discovery--personal, historical, and geographical--that endures as Wallace Stegner's masterwork: an illumination of yesterday's reality that speaks to today's.
"Angle of Repose is a long, intricate, deeply rewarding novel," wrote William Abrahams in the Atlantic Monthly. "[It] is neither the predictable historical-regional Western epic, nor the equally predictable four-decker family saga, the Forsytes in California, so to speak. . . . For all [its] breadth and sweep, Angle of Repose achieves an effect of intimacy, hence of immediacy, and, though much of the material is 'historical,' an effect of discovery also, of experience newly minted rather than a pageantlike re-creation. . . . Wallace Stegner has written a superb novel, with an amplitude of scale and richness of detail altogether uncommon in contemporary fiction."
"Angle of Repose is a novel about Time, as much as anything--about people who live through time, who believe in both a past and a future. . . . It reveals how even the most rebellious crusades of our time follow paths that our great-grandfathers' feet beat dusty." --Wallace Stegner
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Two books in one--Angle at Repose is a heart-wrenching work of historical fiction that takes the reader on an intimate eye-witness tour of the West post 1850 when the robber barons were leaving their mark as kingdom builders and exploiters of the West's resources. Using personal letters written during that time and place, the narrative is enriched with the daily events of a family's life in harsh and isolated environments as a talented engineer tries to make his fortune. Absent any artifice and too honest to protect himself, our hero is a picture of failure while his artistic wife succeeds as both a mother, homemaker, wife and breadwinner. That she hates her life and longs for the civilized refinements of her home back east adds to her mystery as a wonder-woman. Why did she marry and remain with her failed husband? The lives and fates of this family is masterfully told, but the second book's examination of the life of the author of this historical treatise is awkward and...
Several years ago I set out to read the 100 best novels ever written. Using a series of lists available on the internet I have now woven my way through 102 great novels. The "Angle of Repose" was on most of these lists and in my opinion it should be on all of them. Before I begin my review, let me state my bias. There is a huge difference between a book and a novel. A book is (generally) a fast paced and entertaining story. It may deal with geopolitics, romance, horror, murder, or any other topic you can think of. It's primary purpose, though, is to entertain. A novel on the other hand is written with a purpose beyond story telling. It exists to reveal something about the world, the heart, or the human condition. A truly great novel takes this a step further and allows the reader's heart to experience vicariously the heart condition or lesson it is written to convey. In short, it opens the window on the human soul and allows the reader to see in.
I read this classic at the suggestion of my creative writing professor. I found it pointless and slow going for a long time, not having a special interest in the settling of the American West and finding the narrator self pitying. However when it finally caught me I could barely put it down. The intriguing title says much about a book that should have broad appeal. It would be easy to feel superior to Susan, but who hasn't tried to remake someone in the name of improving them? The narrator rises to the occasion in the end. I learned about the history,of dam building and was touched by the beauty of the land. I suspect many of us have had members in our families like Oliver Ward ((the strong silent capable honest man.). Susan is based on an actual author and illustrator. The writing itself is a reason enough to read this book.
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