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The Wapshot Chronicle

3.75  ·  Rating Details ·  5,411 Ratings  ·  254 Reviews
When The Wapshot Chronicle was published in 1957, John Cheever was already recognized as a writer of superb short stories. But The Wapshot Chronicle, which won the 1958 National Book Award, established him as a major novelist.

Based in part on Cheever’s adolescence in New England, the novel follows the destinies of the impecunious and wildly eccentric Wapshots of St. Botolp
Paperback, 352 pages
Published June 28th 2011 by Harper Perennial Modern Classics (first published 1957)
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Mike Lindgren
Dec 13, 2013 Mike Lindgren rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
It's gonna happen sometime, people, no matter how you may dread it. Yes, I am referring to my long-planned, heavily-unanticipated, as-yet-unwritten, irritatingly irrelevant monograph on John Cheever, wherein I single-handedly return him to his proper place in the first rank of American novelists. Due in equal parts to Seinfeld and postmodernism, Cheever has become little more than a punch line: a sad symbol of dated postwar suburban cocktail-party angst… well, think again, bitches! The Wapsho ...more
Jun 28, 2016 Darwin8u rated it it was amazing
"Man is not simple. Hobgoblin company of love always with us."
― John Cheever, The Wapshot Chronicle


The Wapshot Chronicle is a twin Bildungsroman of sons Moses and Coverly, framed by the letters, journaling, and loneliness of their father Leander. It is a crazy beautiful 20th Century Great Expectations-like novel of a family's depth and breadth, its secrets and its flaws. The two brothers are saddled with the albatross and obligation to insure ensure that Old Honora’s keeps paying the bills (futu
Judith Hannan
Jul 10, 2012 Judith Hannan rated it it was amazing
Have you ever met someone who is particularly striking or beautiful but when you pick apart all their features they don't add up to your definition of attractiveness. Maybe their lips are thin and you associate that with being cruel. Maybe their nose is off-center or their eyes too close. Pointy chin, rough skin, thick shins--it shouldn't add up but it does. Tne Wapshot Chronicle was a glorious read, but if you analyze all its separte pieces it doesn't seem as if it should. Set in a ...more
Aug 11, 2009 Phil rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
First off, this is not my sort of topic for a book. Waspy New England families of a bygone era? Blech blahh! Second of all, it doesn't matter when the prose is so lovely and vivid. Cheever manages to make otherwise boring crap sound beautiful. And out of the random doings of a family in a New England port town emerge many of the problems and themes universal to families, blah blah blah. But then out of nowhere, you see through the character's mundane workaday into what makes them tick. Cheever ...more
Elizabeth (Alaska)
This moves along with humor and old-fashioned New Englandness (is that a word?) and I expected to give it a solid four stars. But the ending made my heart sing and I will not feel stingy.

I quibbled with Cheever off and on in this. There are two aging/elderly female characters who are single, wealthy, use that wealth to wield power, and wish to live in a chaste world. Well, almost. Honora Wapshot wants to leave her wealth to her nephews, but only if they produce sons. In any case, I could not re
Jul 20, 2009 Elizabeth rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2009
I was hesitant to begin reading Cheever (I have no idea why I believed his fiction wouldn't interest me), and even more skeptical about starting with a novel rather than his more well-regarded short stories. However, this novel was nothing short of excellent, and makes me even more excited to turn to his short fiction. The Wapshot Chronicle tells the tale of a single family's existence in and around St. Botolph's, a fishing village on the northern coast of Massachusetts. The novel focuses most ...more
Cheever's sensory descriptions in this book made me nostalgic for things I've never even experienced. E.g. this whale of a sentence:

"The attic was a fitting place for these papers, for this barny summit of the house--as big as a hayloft--with its trunks and oars and tillers and torn sails and broken furniture and crooked chimneys and hornets and wasps and obsolete lamps spread out at one's feet like the ruins of a vanished civilization and with an extraordinary spiciness in the air as if some ei
Dillwynia Peter
Dec 09, 2014 Dillwynia Peter rated it really liked it
Cheever, based on my reading of this book, was one of the authors questioning the American Dream that was prevalent after 1945. What is this dream & will you be happy would be a decent premise for this novel.

The farm outside Boston with its simple & idyllic lifestyle is juxtapositioned against the big bad cities & world of New York, Washington & new housing developments. While the home life doesn't change much, everywhere else is. The wonderful bitchy description of where all the
The "chronicle" here is the story of Captain Leander Wapshot and his sons, Coverly and Moses, and their lives on the New England coast. Parts of the story are told through Leander's diary, though other chapters are written as flashes, like pieces of short stories. This is Cheever's first novel, being a short story writer first so an entire novel being written in that format is not particularly surprising. It often reminded me of, ugh, Sinclair Lewis, or, double-ugh, Sherwood Anderson, but for a ...more
Feb 16, 2013 Stephanie rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: top-100-lists
Meh. That is all the emotion with which this book left me. Somewhere I read that Cheever was heavily inspired by James Joyce, and it is so, so obvious here. I don't mean that in a good way either.

Cheever is not a novelist, and it is quite apparent. He is a short story writer who wanted to jump ship for novels, but this book is nothing more than a short story that is about 200 pages too long. I got bored more times than I can count.

Aside from that, he is a good writer. The book flows well, and he
Sep 05, 2011 Veronica rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Veronica by: Modern Library's 100 Best Novels
Set in the fictional seaside town of St. Bostolphs, Massachusetts, we meet the Wapshot family. Written with such flair, we get to know many of the Wapshots at a deep level and wonder if we haven’t met them all personally at some of our own family gatherings.

The Wapshots face birth and death, financial crises and recoveries, sexual abstinence and experimentation and deal with the matters of life in their individual manners.

The eldest son of Leander, Moses is most like his father and travels to Wa
Ubik 2.0
Jul 25, 2016 Ubik 2.0 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-e-book
Uno scatolone di vecchie fotografie.

L’odore e il disordine sono le principali sensazioni che il romanzo mi ha lasciato al termine della lettura.

Gli odori (ma anche i sapori) che nel primo ‘900 pervadono i paesi costieri del New England, sono rievocati dall’autore con meticolosa precisione, nella loro composita sostanza, densa di multiple percezioni sensoriali, profumi, afrori sgradevoli, acidità, esalazioni reali o immaginate dalla materia degli oggetti, tutta un’atmosfera che richiama ripetutam
Aug 27, 2008 Christopher rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ah New England...

This is the book Jonathan Richman would have written if he was born at the turn of the twentieth century... and if he was a writer... and a drunk.

Weirdly recommended.
May 18, 2016 Janet rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The descriptions of New England small town landscapes are pitch perfect. Cheever's characterizations are great and detailed. One example - "He must have been fifty-the bags under his eyes couldn't have been formed in a shorter time". However, the plot is so meandering and lacking in cohesion it is sometimes difficult to remember what has happened from scene to scene. As has been noted by others this is Cheever's first novel and he is famed for his short stories.
One of my favorite vignettes wa
Jan 15, 2013 Jesse rated it liked it
Cheever takes a velvet hammer to the institution of the Olde New England Family, with a case study of the Wapshots, a family with few skills or resources for functioning in modern society. Some shakeups at home lead to them finally getting properly injected into the modern American bloodstream, after a car crash victim upsets the ruling order of the house. Patriarch Leander is first to crumble, falling victim to his domineering Aunt, who tries to turn the family home into a bed and breakfast and ...more
Sep 19, 2015 Sara added it
There are some serious problems with the male side of the Wapshot clan. But I could never quite tell if the author realized that or not. I bought the book because I've loved Cheever's short fiction that I've read and my edition has a saucy, Mad Men inspired cover I couldn't resist. Cheever inspires in me a similar guilt that Updike and Roth do, in that I enjoy them despite myself. As someone who considers herself a feminist (and doesn't consider that some sort of hex either), their portrayals of ...more
Justin Evans
Apr 19, 2011 Justin Evans rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction
So, there are two types of card games. One you play usually as an adult, and each hand has an effect on the following hand. You know, you keep score and there's an ultimate goal. Then there are the games you play, usually as a kid, where each hand stands completely on its own. No scoring. No advantage to winning a hand. And this book is like the second. If you're not really involved in the hand you're playing/chapter you're reading, there's no reason to pay any attention whatsoever, because the ...more
Christian Engler
Sep 21, 2013 Christian Engler rated it liked it
John Cheever's The Wapshot Chronicle, was, for me, an unfortunately underwhelming novel that was beautifully crafted. It was filled with rounded characters, a wonderful and sometimes-not-so sublime plot and filled with elegant Chekhovian descriptions of scenery that were quite picturesque. Yet, there was no knockout punch or wow factor that got a hold of me. The Wapshot Chronicle was, and I hate to say it, mediocre in its conveyance of mediocrity, softened only by occasional winsome humor that ...more
Tim Weed
Feb 24, 2014 Tim Weed rated it it was amazing
This book got off to a slow start for me, and pretty far into it I was inclined to think that Cheever was a better short story writer than a novelist. There was something a little too cute for my taste about the first part of the book, as if the eccentricity of the characters, their quirkiness, was what was going to carry the book rather than the sure grip of a dramatic narrative unfolding. That got better, and my opinion changed. The second half of the book was excellent, a page turning account ...more
Oct 27, 2008 Colin rated it liked it
Many people complain about the causality/continuity issues in this book... doubtless Cheever wrote much more than was included in the final draft of the novel... moreover, one of the central issues in "The Wapshot Chronicle" is not simply time, but how individuals and families evolve in relation to time and space. Both of the Wapshot boys must leave their familiar space and venture to places where their identity as Wapshot's is without its usual cloak of history rooted in their ancestral ...more
Oct 30, 2012 Myles rated it really liked it
Everyone says the contents of this book—not to mention Cheever’s other attempts at long form narrative— are botched amalgamations, tenuously unified by exceptional vignettes and shorts. I’m not going to contest that, but I am going to contest whether that’s a bad thing. The Wapshot Chronicle is a strange tasting menu of moods and voices and its inattention to an overarching plot—damn it, this book wanders—makes it an unpredictable journey, but it is also a delightful one.

Each moment is aptly pre
Dec 07, 2011 Tfitoby rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: lit
well it wasn't what i expected or hoped for. i wanted some of that postwar suburban cocktail party angst and what i got was something quite different. a nice surprise but really not what i was looking for when choosing to read my first cheever.

the wapshots are a fabulous bunch, a truly interesting family whose lives are highly entertaining to read about whether it be a walk in the woods or a long standing family argument. it is cheever who manages to create this magic and for that i am looking f
Jesse Kraai
Aug 12, 2012 Jesse Kraai rated it liked it
I see a short story writer trying to jump a weight class, using books like Winesburg, Ohio as his template.

The beginning is strong, the characters are interconnected in time and place. And though we get the disjointed point of view shifts - that characterize the entire book, the reader can say that it is all about the Wapshots; the Wapshot family is the protagonist. Many lovely descriptions and sentences here.

Then people leave. They are off doing things that have nothing to do with their home an
Alia S
Mar 28, 2014 Alia S rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-2014
"On beaches the joy and gall of perpetual youth. Even today. Smell east wind. Hear Neptune's horn. Always raring to go. Pack sandwiches. Bathing suit. Catch ramshackle bus to beach. Irresistible. In blood perhaps. Father read Shakespeare to waves. Mouthful of pebbles. Demosthenes?"

* * * * *

I'd never read Cheever (not even his short stories), and like a lot of people was put off by the Wapshot jacket copy's misguided emphasis on "quintessential" fishing villages (???) and "upper-middle-class subu
Aug 19, 2011 Malati rated it it was amazing
This was the first Cheever book I"ve read and I don't think it'll be my last. I'm so glad my book club opened my eyes to him. Like others, I did not think his exploration of the WASPy world of New England would appeal to me. However, he uses this very distinct setting to tell a story that is quite universal. It is about human nature and human relationships. It is about families, brotherhood, growing old, sexual boundaries, gender and societal expectations. It is about growing up and growing ...more
Erring Wildly
Dec 28, 2013 Erring Wildly rated it it was amazing
Excellent book. Cheever's origins as a short story writer really come through. This was his first novel. Every line is tight, perfectly worded, frothing over with emotion, never melodramatic.

This is one of those books that you have a hard time explaining to your friends. It's about a traditional New England family, you'll say. What happens to them? Well, the kids move out and get married and have troubles, and the older ones stay and have troubles, then it ends, and it is amazing.

Hard to swallow
Oct 29, 2015 Stephanie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People amused by the torturous oppression of the 1950s.
Shelves: greatfnwriting
Uncle PeePee Marshmallow is my co-pilot.

I was delightfully surprised by this's beautifully written, mischievous and moving. When I first started reading this, I thought, "Hey, I thought John Cheever was supposed to be depressing...he's so lighthearted and funny! Reminds me a little of Charles Portis." Then I kept reading and the book sounded less like Portis and more like Richard Yates. This is a thought-provoking novel that skewers social convention while admitting we are all slaves
Apr 14, 2009 Lobstergirl rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Rod Blagojevich
Shelves: fiction
Not at all what I expected; yes, there are WASPs committing adultery (some of them), but not at suburban cocktail parties, and the WASPs are poor and live on a farm in a small town. They swim in rivers and swimming holes rather than backyard pools. The men are fuelled by testosterone and the women by anger and righteousness, yet these are enchanting characters in an eccentric family and it's impossible not to like them. The book has many hilarious passages. Sometimes I was reminded of Gabriel ...more
Mar 12, 2014 Peter rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Not what I expected, lots better. Cheever can write fine sentences, I did expect this, and he delivers in spades. The man didn't scuffle under William Shawn for nothing, although unlike many of the others, Cheever escaped with his sense of humor intact. I also expected Cheever to describe lives of quiet desperation and the accumulation of failures and all of the other mid-century spiritual ailments, and he does do this, some. But more than anything, this is a book where he unwinds one fantastic ...more
Jun 07, 2015 Gina rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Currently only half way through and I am in love with this book. Cheever is a wordsmith mastermind and I am absolutely flying through this book. Sometimes, it makes me laugh out loud. The quiet, read-between-the-lines heartbreak is so New England, so beautiful. Can't wait to finish this one and start on The Wapshot Scandal.
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John Cheever was an American novelist and short story writer, sometimes called "the Chekhov of the suburbs" or "the Ovid of Ossining." His fiction is mostly set in the Upper East Side of Manhattan, the suburbs of Westchester, New York, and old New England villages based on various South Shore towns around Quincy, Massachusetts, where he was born.

His main themes include the duality of human nature:
More about John Cheever...

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“I have spent considerable of my leisure time in this past year in the improvement of my mind but I find that much of it has been spent extremely foolish and that walking in the pasture at dusk with virtuous, amiable and genteel young ladies I experience none but swineish passions. I commenced to read Russell’s Modern Europe sometime last summer.” 7 likes
“They were delivered to mansions remodeled into country clubs, boarding schools, retreats for the insane, alcohol cures, health farms, wildlife sanctuaries, wallpaper factories, drafting rooms and places where the aged and the infirm waited sniffily for the angel of death in front of their television sets.” 2 likes
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