Angle of Repose
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Angle of Repose

4.26 of 5 stars 4.26  ·  rating details  ·  28,774 ratings  ·  2,649 reviews
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 tha...more
Paperback, 569 pages
Published May 28th 1992 by Penguin (first published 1971)
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sckenda
Retired historian Lyman Ward lives in his grandparents' home in Grass Valley, California. A horrific bone disease consumes him and the ruins of an amputated leg-stump remind him that he is an invalid severed from his family and his past. Lyman hates his ex-wife who cheated on him almost as much as he hates the culture of the sixties, and he must decide whether to accept the ex-wife’s remorseful overtures of reconciliation.

During his confinement surrounded by his grandparents' possessions and pap...more
BT
Aug 08, 2008 BT rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Nobody
Recommended to BT by: Goodreads reviewers
I read this book based largely on the Goodreads reviews. Maybe I'm not as smart as other reviewers, or maybe other reviewers give it high praise because it was a Pulitzer Prize winner and they didn't want to look dumb (something to which I have no aversion), or maybe this was just a fluke, but I didn't think this book was worth reading. I wouldn't recommend it to anyone. I started the book about 4 or 5 times, and when I finally did slog through it, it was in 5 and 10 page increments. I just coul...more
Steve
Fellow Goodreaders know that feeling of exhilaration when a new entrant pushes its way onto a top-ten-of-all-time list. Wallace Stegner’s Pulitzer Prize winner from 1972 is my most recent example. Of course, Goodreads reviewers also know the pressure involved in justifying the choice. So what makes this one so good? As befits a top ten inclusion, here are ten factors that come to mind.

1. A Damn Good Story

Lyman Ward is a former professor of history with a bone disease that put him in a wheelchai...more
Beth
I have read this book twice so far. The first time, I was a single college student. The second time, I had been married about five years. I'm sure I will read it again a few more times. And I'm sure that the more years of marriage I've logged, the more I will get out of this book.

Marriage, and what it takes -- and takes out of you -- to make it work is the main theme of this book. Stegner has some profound things to say about it. But even before I could personally relate to the story's main the...more
Scott Axsom
Fiction moves me most when it’s most piercingly honest – when it reveals to me places in my heart that I’ve been afraid to recognize the existence of. Wallace Stegner’s “Angle of Repose” examines the part of us that's reluctant to forgive and that cannot seem to learn how to forget. The book is hauntingly true and ruthlessly introspective and it left me, at times, gasping for breath at the beauty of its lyricism - it could serve well as a master class in honest writing.

Stegner writes from the p...more
Elizabeth (Alaska)
As I read this, I thought, "this is about a 4 star read." So why did I give it 5 stars? It is such a beautiful book, that's why. There were many parts that didn't seem to move along, which is why I thought I would be stingy, but I'm so very glad the author took his time. And I felt myself talking to the characters, mostly Susan. "Don't be so removed from your life - how many do you get?" Could I be so involved with a story and not give it 5 stars?
Jonathan

Stegner is almost unheard of outside the U.S, and even in his home country he seems to remain at the periphery of the collective literary consciousness. For the life of me I cannot work out why. Apparently, even after winning the Pulitzer, the New York Times refused to review this novel.

The first point to note about Stegner is that he is a master of prose, a craftsman of great skill and control. Reading his work is a pleasure, pure and simple. There is perhaps something of the lyrical, or the R...more
Linda
Mar 09, 2008 Linda rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: History Lovers who seek depression
Recommended to Linda by: Pulitzer Prize Novels List
Stegner won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1972 for this book. Goes to show you that you should disregard my reviews! Absolutely no taste, whatsoever. This book took me over two months to read because I kept putting it down. Down being the operative word here. It was not only a "downer", but lacked the skill of a good editor. In today's publishing world, Stegner wouldn't have gotten away with such a ponderous, heavy book. This was written in the "old way," with the author making it apparent t...more
Joy
This is easily one of my favorite novels of the books I've read in the past 5 years. It's lauded as Stegner's masterpiece and I completely agree.

Stegner tells the story of a man who has a disease that is crippling him. He's living in his ancestral home, being taken care of by an old, old, family friend. He's a historian and feels compelled to research his paternal grandmother using the journals and keepsakes that are at the house. Stegner weaves the life story of the grandmother (and grandfathe...more
Carol
For me, it took a while for this novel to reach a certain momentum as the author introduces the reader to the narrator, Lyman Ward. He is a wheelchair-bound historian in the process of writing a biography of the life of his grandparents, Oliver and Susan Ward. He recreates their lives, mostly from his grandmother’s letters written in the 1870’s. I’m a great fan of American Western fiction but I lean towards a pared down, spare writing style; so this woman’s florid prose and descriptions – her ve...more
Maureen
it doesn't surprise that this book won the pulitzer prize. it's an ambitious novel, cleverly constructed, effectively blending life and fiction, containing some beautiful sentences.

this is the story of lyman ward, a historian who has gone into retirement, afflicted by a bone disease that has resulted in the amputation of his right leg, living alone in the house that was his grandparents, and it is also about his grandmother, susan burling ward, an artist and writer, who moved from the east with...more
Julie
Wow, I really enjoyed reading this book! It was such a sad, sad story and just when you think it couldn't get worse, it did - maybe I enjoy unhappy endings... Nevertheless, Stegner is so deliciously descriptive and Lyman's narration was sometimes amusing and (very) frank.
In some ways I sympathized with Susan and understood how she may have felt leaving a life she loved behind and braving the unknown. I think that's what marriage is in general. (It also helped that she mentioned places like Poug...more
Kristin
The next review is for Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner. This was our latest book club read for the month of February. It is a beautifully written, eloquent, descriptive book. It has been highly, highly recommended to me by several people...readers who I respect. Most of them have said that it was the best book they have ever read. Wow! That is saying a lot. This book is a very long and epic tale of a husband and wife who move to the west in the late 1800's to settle. This was good news to me....more
Lucy
Sep 02, 2011 Lucy rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: every single person who breathes
Shelves: favorites
I loved this book even more the second time around. In my opinion, this is the perfect novel. I don't have the expertise to identify the exact narration technique, but to have the narrator, Lyman Ward, not only share his beloved grandparent's 100 year-old history from his 20th century perch, providing both redemptive hindsight and worrisome foreshadowing when needed, but also his own story as an amputee with a debilitating bone disease bitterly protecting his lonely independence, furnishing the...more
Stephen Gallup
Three or four years ago I read where somebody thought Angle of Repose was probably the greatest American novel of the 20th century. That bothered me, because I'd never heard of it. I bought a copy, got about 100 pages into it, and bogged down.

I'm proud to say I've finally read it all (parts of it several times). It is indeed a great novel, and more ambitious than some of the others one might think of as the best. But I'm giving it only four stars because of the length and the sustained effort re...more
Gloria
Sep 29, 2013 Gloria rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Gloria by: sckenda
4.5 stars.

I was trying to think of a quote from this book which might sum it up best. I think I've narrowed it down to this:

I suppose in a way we deserve the people we marry.(p. 204)


Now, I'm just trying to figure if I agree with that statement and to what extent.

There were so many beautiful (achingly so) sections in this book, I lamented the fact that it wasn't mine to highlight and mark up (yes, library, I was good to your book).
To spare you, I will limit myself to three:

Touch. It is touch tha
...more
Jennifer
I thought I was going to hate this book, and for the first few chapters I did. I had a hard time with the present-day sections of the book. Even right after I finished the book, I wasn't quite sure how much I liked it.

In the weeks after I read the book I just couldn't stop thinking about it. Really, I think that Stegner gives us the most accurate and thought-provoking portrayal of the modern woman that I have seen out of a male writer.

The main character in this book is essentially a working moth...more
Bobbi
This was Wallace Stegner's masterpiece and that it is! One of my all-time favorites. His prose is flawless. A story about settling the American West from the view of Susan Ward through her letters, which are actually those of Mary Hallock Foote, one of the finest illustrators of the 19th century. Read and read again.
Larou
According to a well-known essay by William Gass, it is not a good thing for any ambitious writer to receive the Pulitzer Prize for fiction, because the prize has consistently been awarded to mediocre writers, and thus brands each of its recipients with the stamp of mediocrity. There are, however, (as even Gass admits) the occasional execptions where the Pulitzer jury slipped up and gave the prize to an outstanding work. Angle of Repose is, in my opinion one of those exceptions, in fact it is a v...more
Katherine
At the time I read Angle of Repose, I was reading a lot of Cormac McCarthy, who has a profoundly different view of the West than Stegner does. So by contrast, Angle of Repose, the story of a disabled and dying historian chronicling his great-grandparents' marriage amidst ore mines and pioneer camps, seemed somehow hollow and false. It took a few months before I was able to appreciate it on its own merits.

It's cliche to say that the characters come alive, but I can't think of any other way to des...more
Kirsten
Jun 07, 2008 Kirsten rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: soulful humorists
Recommended to Kirsten by: very dear friends
This book. This book has altered the course of my reading tendencies. It pretends to be plainspoken but it is supremely eloquent. The plot description is deceptively talk-show-esque, but the story is bracing. I might even be so bold as to say it is the least pretentious work of literary fiction ever to have consumed my attention.

It's difficult not to sound like an over-zealous book jacket blurb when I try to explain what I liked most about Angle of Repose. It provides a subtle depiction of the...more
Jamie
This was lovely. It’s rich with beauty and ruin. There’s something missing from the heart of it, though, that was missing— for me— from the heart of Crossing to Safety too. Perhaps Stegner and I just aren’t soul mates, as much as I’d agree with him on the way the world works.

“My grandparents had to live their way out of one world and into another, or into several others, making new out of old the way corals live their reef upward. I am on my grandmother’s side. I believe in Time, as they did, a...more
Jeanette
Doggone that Wally Stegner! If only he were still alive, I would hunt him down and hug his guts out! No other author speaks to me the way he does. I will try to write a better review if I get the time...
Callie
I tried to read this many years ago before I was married and I couldn't get into it. Or, rather I got half way through it and gave up. This time around I loved it. HA! I've matured. In fact, there were a number of things that impressed me about this book:

1. It's written from a woman's point of view and not once did I ever think to myself 'a woman would never say/think/do that' Good job, Wallace!
2. Realism, realism, realism. The first time I read this book it was recommended to me by a then-singl...more
Rick
I just finished a wonderful short story by Alice Munro in the most recent New Yorker. And the first adjective that occurred to me about Angle of Repose was one it shared with the Munro story, patience. There is no hurry and no waste in either work. Lyman Ward, one of two main characters in Angle of Repose, a novel rich in characters—the other main character is Ward’s grandmother Susan Burling Ward—is in late middle-age with a failing body and a distressed life. His wife is gone. One of his legs...more
Judy
Jul 13, 2012 Judy rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: classic American fiction lovers
Count me as the latest member of the Wally fan club. Angle of Repose is the one and only Stegner I've read, but will be the first of many.

From the easy writing style, historical background of the US West and the story itself, Angle of Repose grabbed my attention and didn't let go. I loved that Stegner used a handicapped narrator, Lyman Ward, subtly bringing in the doubts, problems and hardships he faced in comparison to his able-bodied grandmother, Susan Ward. The title, Angle of Repose,is an en...more
Casandria
I read this book for a book club and I will be forever grateful to the person who introduced it to me. This is also one of the top 3 books I have ever read.

Angle of Repose follows Lyman Ward's historical research into the lives of his great-grandparents. His great-grandmother had been an educated, genteel Eastern woman and his great-grandfather a rough engineer, who brings her out to build up the American West in the 1800's. The descriptions of the places they lived and what they had to do are...more
Emma
i give it two stars for the gentle, thorough, and consistently engaging prose, which drew me in despite my growing qualms about the book as i read. (although i should note that this praise doesn't hold for the final chapter, which felt like an incongruous cop-out). stegner explores the potentially fascinating intersections of several themes--manifest destiny, history, individualism, pride and gender roles, to name a few--but he does so with the painfully dated social conservatism of his narrator...more
Trin
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Shirley
I found this just as great of a read the second time around after about 14 years and a marriage and child, which may have made the book resonate even more. The characters are flawed but very real, their choices painful as we witness what is given up for family and marriage in the American west of the late 1800s and the circumstances that finally lead to an uneasy angle of repose for Susan and Oliver Ward. Stegner's writing is exquisite - this is definitely his masterpiece.
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Wallace Stegner: Is he brilliant, or what? 4 49 Jul 04, 2014 04:54PM  
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Wallace Earle Stegner (February 18, 1909—April 13, 1993) was an American historian, novelist, short story writer, and environmentalist. Some call him "The Dean of Western Writers."
More about Wallace Stegner...
Crossing to Safety The Big Rock Candy Mountain The Spectator Bird All the Little Live Things Beyond the Hundredth Meridian: John Wesley Powell and the Second Opening of the West

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“Touch. It is touch that is the deadliest enemy of chastity, loyalty, monogamy, gentility with its codes and conventions and restraints. By touch we are betrayed and betray others ... an accidental brushing of shoulders or touching of hands ... hands laid on shoulders in a gesture of comfort that lies like a thief, that takes, not gives, that wants, not offers, that awakes, not pacifies. When one flesh is waiting, there is electricity in the merest contact.” 140 likes
“Home is a notion that only nations of the homeless fully appreciate and only the uprooted comprehend.” 112 likes
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