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Remembering Laughter

3.78  ·  Rating Details  ·  854 Ratings  ·  142 Reviews
Margaret Stuart, the proud wife of a prosperous Iowa farmer, sets high standards for herself and others. Happy in her marriage, she tries to look the other way when her genial husband, Alec, takes to the bottle. When Elspeth, Margaret's sister, comes to live with them, the young woman is immediately captivated by the beauty and vitality of the farm, and by the affection sh ...more
Paperback, 160 pages
Published November 1st 1996 by Penguin Books (first published 1937)
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(showing 1-30 of 1,556)
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Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
This novelette is a brief and powerful illustration of the destructive power of marital infidelity and unforgiveness. The hurt and guilt run so deep that they dam the flow of communication, and laughter becomes only a memory. It's chastely told, as was the custom back when people were content to use their imaginations regarding matters of intimacy. The text is sorrowful yet beautiful, evoking scenes of Iowa farm life through the seasons. All the literary gifts we associate with Wallace Stegner a ...more
Aug 06, 2014 Heidi rated it it was amazing
I used Peter Senge’s “ask why five times” tool to get to the root cause of what goes wrong for the people in this novel.

Why is Margaret such a martyr? Why does her sister Elspeth choose the “self-immolation” of guilt that ruins her life? Why, in spite of a seemingly good relationship, has Alec never seen his wife naked? Why does he drink? Why do they all lack the courage to make things right, if not for themselves then for the boy? (Alec tries, but mouses around in secret.)

The answers all ring
Feb 22, 2011 Ed rated it really liked it
Boom! The electrical power snapped off. A transformer outside of our neighborhood had blown. We'd be awhile with no juice. So, by a lantern I read REMEMBERING LAUGHTER, my first Wallace Stegner title (his own debut). It was masterful and reminded me of Willa Cather with its agrarian Midwest setting and Edith Wharton's Ethan Frome in its themes of repressed emotions. Mr. Stegner, his widow recounts in this edition, wrote RL as a novella entered in a contest which he won. I'm going to try his late ...more
Dec 13, 2014 Ivan rated it it was amazing
"Throughout the latter part of the morning buggies kept turning in from the highway and wheeling up the quarter-mile of elm-arched drive to the farm -- surreys and democrat wagons, an occasional brougham, an even more occasional automobile whose brass caught the sunlight between the elms." So begins the arrival of funeral guests. And what follows is a truly heartbreaking novella of death, both literal and figurative. But primarily, the death of all that makes life worth living...caused by a refu ...more
Mar 10, 2012 Tim rated it really liked it
Wallace Stegner had only a couple short stories on his resume when he won a Little, Brown novella prize, earning $2,500 and the publication of "Remembering Laughter" in 1937. Thus began a magnificent career for this teacher and chronicler of the West.

"Remembering Laughter," though brief and telling a very simple story, is no mere footnote, is not an afterthought for the completist who loved novels such as "All the Little Live Things" or the Pulitzer-winning "Angle of Repose" (my favorites). It i
Joel Pinckney
Dec 23, 2015 Joel Pinckney rated it really liked it
Enjoyed this little novelette. It was interesting to read this, Stegner's first novel, shortly after finishing Crossing to Safety, Stegner's final novel (with nearly a 50 year gap between the two). At some moments it seems like an entirely different author; at others the commonalities between the young and the old Stegner are really striking. I look forward to reading more Stegner, filling in the gap between the two I've read to this point.
Kerri Stebbins
Mar 10, 2012 Kerri Stebbins rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: no one.
Being a big fan of words, I never particularly enjoy using mine to blast someone else's creative attempts, but I would be lying to say I felt anything but consistent loathing for this book and Stegner's telling vs. showing storytelling. The premise of the story was unoriginal and telegraphed from page two, but I kept reading, thinking Stegner was going to redeem his story, hoping he was going to allow his characters some semblance of redemption. Alas, no, on both accounts. The three protagonists ...more
Oct 22, 2010 Joell rated it really liked it
Stegner stories are like a favorite sweater, kind of worn, but comfy and comforting and wonderful. This is an early novella by the author, well, he had already written Big Rock Candy Mountain. The story is full of Stegner-ish characters, strong, quiet, flawed and fully human and the landscape is unforgiving but beautiful. But it was the afterward by his wife, Mary that really got me. She told the story of him writing it while teaching in Utah and getting a prize and a giant check ($2500) for the ...more
Jan 31, 2010 Mark rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
For the first time in years (probably about eight of 'em, to be precise), I picked up a book and read the entire thing in one day. Hell, it's been years since I've been able to do that with a magazine article...

Remembering Laughter is Wallace Stegner's first published work and I found it to be fabulous. This is not so much a story about an affair and the breaking of trust between a husband and wife (as well as the breaking of trust between two sisters) as it is a story about balancing freedom wi
Oct 02, 2015 Kathy rated it it was amazing
Shelves: haveread
A wonderful story. I couldn't put this book down. Touching and magical.
May 18, 2016 Lisa rated it really liked it
Jana's postal book selection - round #3
Sep 11, 2009 Kysha rated it liked it
Not as great as his later works, though his writing is excellent. The story is sad and not very complex. A short and easy read.

The thing I enjoyed most about this was the afterward, written by Stegner's wife, describing their early married life and his efforts to become a writer. She explains how Stenger got the inspiration for this novella, entered it into a contest and won. In celebration, they threw a party with their other young literary-minded friends and that very night she ended up givin
Sep 28, 2012 Jay rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobook
Maintains a heavy atmosphere throughout. In ways, it felt like a simpler version of Smiley's "A Thousand Acres", overwhelming weight tied to the loneliness of the farm. The story was not as complex as Smiley's. Another review mentioned the colors being drawn out of the characters, and that was true, you end up in a gray world. The "afterwards" could have been much more compelling if more lengthy. Overall, the writing was great to listen to, the mood was depressing, and the story was OK but not g ...more
Aug 23, 2014 Sunni rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction
Stegner's first book publication, this little novella shares much of the lovely plains farm setting with Willa Cather and much of the plot with Edith Wharton's "Ethan Frome"(and, by my estimation anyway, no story gets more depressing and ironic than that one). So Stegner is in good company, but even with all of the gorgeous description of the farm and the commentary on the destructive forces of lust, unforgiveness, spite, etc., overall it felt a bit disappointing. While I loved the language, the ...more
Dec 02, 2013 Jaime rated it liked it
Building, slow, inevitable, and Iowa farms. Secrets and prisons of our own making. (Oh, be careful with your hearts.)

Do what you have to to be happy in this life, my children. There is so much beauty. - Francesca from Bridges of Madison County

Jan 09, 2010 Ann rated it really liked it
This is Stegner's first - a novellette. It had good descriptive language, a bit of human drama, and left me with some things to think about. This was for a bookclub and was a nice short read.
Andrea Sachs
May 03, 2012 Andrea Sachs rated it really liked it
I think Wallace Stegner was one of our really great writers, and I'm glad I can go back a re-read his books, but so sorry there won't be any new ones.
Martha Richey
Dec 25, 2015 Martha Richey rated it really liked it
This first work by Wallace Stegner was an interesting short novel. It covers the life of a gentleman settling with his wife into Iowa farm life, and the unexpected disruption the arrival of his sister-in-law brings to the tranquil life he is building. The overall story is predictable but enjoyable despite it's tragic elements. It is a compelling description of human behaviors...both positive and negative with all characters developed in depth. I'm now reading the final novel Mr. Stegner wrote, C ...more
Nov 18, 2015 Carolyn rated it really liked it
A very surprising book. Only Wallace Stegner could reveal lives in action as he does. I read this book on the way to Japan and as we went from today to today, so went the plot. It was most thoughtful and I hope to reread this when I am not 22 hours in the air.

This is a wrenching story. Three impossible people in the most guilt ridden experience one could imagine. It hurt the heart just reading the terrible outcome and in addition, what an incredible shame to have son Malcolm in the midst. If you
Jun 25, 2014 Sharon rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was an interesting story. Not at all what I thought it would be like.

It was very real, no made up happy endings for some very real life situations. Because it followed a written formula that kept more to the side of real life, it made you smile when a smile was prompted, shed a tear at the the appropriate moment and feel anger and frustration just as you would if the characters had been an extension of yourself.

All that being said, I still expected a different ending. How refreshing, that
Jan 16, 2016 Mholden999 rated it it was amazing
One of the best examples of a novella I've ever read. The arc of the story is brilliant; the characters stand as close as rows of corn--yet their three individual stalks are noticeable. This was written in the late 1930s. Times were so different then, yet there are threads from these lives strung together with wording so brilliant and clear that this story stands the test of time. It has been out of print for a long time...not sure if it has become an ebook. If it has, somewhere, W.E.S. is pixel ...more
Jan 13, 2016 Edith rated it really liked it
This was Wallace Stegner’s first book... actually a novella of only 150 pages... written in 1936. It was submitted for a Little, Brown, and Company competition and he won the prize of $2500 which was a lot of money in those days. When he got the news that he had won the contest, he and his wife threw a celebratory party- immediately followed by Mary, eight months pregnant, going into early labor and giving birth to their only son! His wife had given him the initial idea for the story from circum ...more
Dec 02, 2013 Northpapers rated it really liked it
Stegner's first novel does what a good first novel should do: it reveals the aims and suggests the approach of its author.

It is a good, rich work in its own right, I think, although this conclusion may be colored by the fact that his later work makes him an author who holds a unique appeal to me. I can't help seeing this book in his other work, and his other work in this early piece. But that's an idea he addresses fully too. I think he would welcome that reading.

Stegner approaches the lives o
Dec 30, 2008 Elva rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mickey Reed
Sep 30, 2012 Mickey Reed rated it liked it
Shelves: audio, 2012, solid-gold
See full review here!

I received this through Audiobook Jukebox Solid Gold Reviewer Program. Here is my honest review:

Wow, what a sad book. Remembering Laughter is a good title for this, because without remembering the fun times in this novel, it's hard to get through. I don't mean that this is a bad novella, because it's not. It's written extremely well (minus the use of a couple words too many times), and it's an interesting view of a pretty messed up family. But it's very depressing. It's a sa
Nov 12, 2009 Rick rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
This novella was Stegner’s first. A tragic story of infidelity and its consequences on a husband, wife, the wife’s sister, and the child of the infidelity. It’s a spare story of repressed feelings, unspoken regret and condemnation. It features Stegner’s sinewy prose, his understated compassion, and his love of the western landscape in all its harsh beauty. When Elspeth McCleod arrives from Scotland to join her sister on the ranch owned by her sister’s husband there is a brief season of laughter. ...more
Mar 28, 2008 Mary rated it it was ok
I was able to read this entire book in about 2 hours while we drove from Atlanta, GA to our vacation in Naples, FL. It started out very promising by establishing the tension between the wife and husband. Then the wife's younger sister arrived from Ireland to live with the couple and the trouble started. The husband was attracted to the younger sister and eventually, after much angst on the part of the younger sister (not much from the husband), the two sleep together. As you would guess, the wif ...more
Jul 27, 2014 Margaret rated it really liked it
After reading that some reviewers considered this book by Wallace Stegner to lean towards "chick lit" I was a little apprehensive particularity that I considered chick lit shallow and leaning towards a soap opera. I am happy to say that this was not my experience, I think people jump to the assumption that any book written from the viewpoint of a woman qualifies as chick lit, I beg to differ. The writing was honest, introspective but from a more literary aspect than you would ever find in a chic ...more
Jan 02, 2013 Connie rated it really liked it
Alec Stuart and his wife Margaret invited her younger sister Elspeth to live in their home in Iowa. Margaret was a very proper fashionable woman who got upset by her husband's drinking. Their prosperous farm was owned by Alec who loved to joke and tell stories. Elspeth was a lively young woman with a sense of fun. As the months wore on, the feelings between Alec and his wife's sister grew into a strong attraction. A chill decended upon their lives after this love triangle was discovered. It was ...more
Liza Fireman
Apr 04, 2016 Liza Fireman rated it liked it
Shelves: read-at-hoopla
This book is full of sadness and sorrow. The power of betrayal, the power of infidelity, the depth of lies, and the inability to forgive, for years and years. And the laughter is a far memory, since it is not found in the household for years. As always with Stegner, the prose is beautiful, but this is one of his earlier novels and he has better and stronger ones. It is a 3.5 stars and worth reading, especially for Stegner's fans.
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Wallace Earle Stegner was an American historian, novelist, short story writer, and environmentalist. Some call him "The Dean of Western Writers." He won the Pulitzer Prize in 1972 and the U.S. National Book Award in 1977.
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