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The Wapshot Chronicle

3.76  ·  Rating Details ·  5,653 Ratings  ·  278 Reviews
A small country town and the larger milieu of Washington provide the setting for this most human of novels. John Cheever, who fist made his name as a writer of short stories, paints in The Wapshot Chronicle the engaging portrait of an American family. The doings of the venerable Cousin Honora, the escapades of Moses and Coverly, the lusty Wapshot sons, and the poignant jou ...more
Paperback, 1st Penguin Edition, 283 pages
Published 1963 by Penguin Books (first published 1957)
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Dec 07, 2016 Ted rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
… we might climb the stairs and pry into things of more pertinence. There is Leander’s bureau drawer, where we find a withered rose – once yellow – and a wreath of yellow hair, the butt end of a Roman candle that was fired at the turn of the century, a boiled shirt on which an explicit picture of a naked woman is drawn in red ink, a necklace made of champagne corks and a loaded revolver.

4 stars

John Cheever (1912-1982) sold a short story to The New Yorker in 1935, the first of many. His reputati
Mike Lindgren
Dec 05, 2007 Mike Lindgren rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Vit Babenco
Jan 18, 2014 Vit Babenco rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Some family chronicles are long and boring like a slumber induced with the sleeping pills and some are turbulent like a rocket launching. I think you may effortlessly guess to what category The Wapshot Chronicle does belong.
“The Wapshot boys had been up since four; they were sleepy and sitting in the hot sun they seemed to have outlived the holiday. Moses had burned his hand on a salute. Coverly had lost his eyebrows in another explosion. They lived on a farm two miles below the village and had
"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
Do NOT be as stupid as me. Don’t pick a book by its cover.
Particularly when the cover does not accurately portray what the book will give you. I wanted to re-test John Cheever and the cover drew my attention. Big mistake!

The primary focus of this novel is sexuality. The author was bisexual, so I have full understanding that one’s sexual identity was a topic of particular interest to him. Halfway through the book, not yet understanding that ambivalent feelings about one's sexual identity is in
Judith Hannan
Jul 08, 2012 Judith Hannan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 Massachusett ...more
Jul 13, 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 n ...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 07, 2009 Elizabeth rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 h ...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
Mar 26, 2012 Dillwynia Peter rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 28, 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  ·  review of another edition
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 11, 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
Jul 29, 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.
Mar 22, 2011 Judy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: John Cheever fans
John Cheever is best known for his short stories, but his first novel won the National Book Award in 1958. I was expecting one of those John O'Hara or John Marquand novels because I had gotten the idea Cheever was a "New Yorker" favorite. Instead, I was pleasantly surprised.

The Wapshot family has lived for generations in a New England village which began as a sailing port. By the time of the novel, it is a dying town and the fading family lives mostly for tradition. Leander Wapshot, the current
Nov 18, 2012 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 03, 2013 Jesse rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Sep 05, 2010 Justin Evans rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 25, 2015 Stephanie rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Highly recommended for anyone having trouble sleeping. Guaranteed to make your eyes cross with boredom after only five pages, after which you will fall into a deep sleep, if only to avoid having to read anymore of this.

I really like a lot of John Cheever's short stories, but this has to be close to the most boring thing I have EVER read.
Apr 19, 2017 Bob rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The book follows a New England family, neither aristocratic nor proletarian, one of the first families of a provincial littoral town with all the places of honor in the annual 4th of July parade that such a social position offers.
The narrative jumps around a bit chronologically, filling in background detail as needed, but mainly follows the two Wapshot sons, Moses and Coverly, as they become adolescents, leave the family home and town to try their luck in the big cities of New York and Washingto
William Kuhn
Mar 10, 2017 William Kuhn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I found this a strangely discontinuous book and I don't think I enjoyed it as much the second time around as I did the first. It has a send-up of someone who might be Isabella Stewart Gardner. I'd never noticed before. Nothing wrong with that. But I wonder whether Cheever had much affection for his characters. Leander and the two boys are the most memorable, but they all experience such outrageous reversals of fortune, that the overall feeling is one of melancholy. It's possible that Waugh-like ...more
Andrea Homier
The Wapshot Chronicle is one of the weirder books I’ve read, and I find it very odd that it won the National Book Award in 1958. The only reason I can think it might have been found to be a great piece of work is Cheever’s style, including his lovely sentences packed with beautiful words (bruit, puissant, antivivisection), describing a feeling or place in a way that one would never have dreamed. Maybe that was reason enough alone.

As a novel and a story, The Wapshot Chronicle is fragmented, borin
Apr 13, 2013 Owen rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
If you’ve ever met a person who meets your basic criteria for a long-term romantic relationship, only to find there’s no chemistry, then you know how I feel about John Cheever’s first novel, The Wapshot Chronciles. It checks all the necessary boxes to win the National Book Award in 1958: 1) It’s by John Cheever, who has already achieved eminence as short story writer, 2) It attempts to be innovative, truthful, and illuminating, and thus literary, 3) The writing is distinct and, in some cases, ex ...more
Christian Engler
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 l ...more
Inderjit Sanghera
Jun 05, 2016 Inderjit Sanghera rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
‘The Wapshot Chronicles’ inhabit the same WASP’y world of Updike, with the same defects, from the one (or on odd occasion two) dimensional female characters, to the tired old story of the privileged, self-entitlted White man mired in misery and in the midst of a perpetual existential crises-he shares Updike’s subtle sense of irony, his eye for detail and his beautiful, if at times too perfect, prose style.

‘The Wapshot Chronicles’ follows the lives of the Wapshot, an eccentric bunch of misfits,
Jun 25, 2008 Colin rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 hometow ...more
Oct 22, 2012 Myles rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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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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