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A Shooting Star

3.34  ·  Rating details ·  433 Ratings  ·  76 Reviews
Sabrina Castro is a wealthy, attractive woman married to an older society physician who no loonger fulfills her dreams. An almost accidental misstep leads her down the slow descent of moral disintegration. How she comes to terms with her life is the theme of this absorbing personal drama by the National Book Award-winning author of The Spectator Bird.
Hardcover, Book Club Edition, First Printing, 411 pages
Published 1961 by Viking Press
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3.5 stars (for now...)
“If he had said anything—anything!—to indicate that he felt as a wronged husband should feel. But that controlled suspension of judgment, that look not critical but only clinical, as if the gross symptoms of treachery were to be gathered together objectively like the symptoms of peptic ulcers.”

The above is stated in the opening paragraph of the novel, and it is obvious from the outset that Sabrina has committed adultery and has confessed all to her husband. Said husband,
An extremely underrated novel by a breathtakingly wonderful writer, this 1961 effort is a unique work in the Stegner canon, chronicling the intellectual and spiritual turning point in the life of an upper class California doctor's wife and heiress to an old New England fortune.

This is a challenging book but not because the protagonist, Sabrina Castro, is "unlikeable" as many other reviewers seem to feel but because underneath the painstaking details of Sabrina's mental and emotional disintegrat
Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
Just goes to show, even a literary hero can lay an egg once in awhile. I gave this book much more time than it deserved because of my great fondness for Stegner, but I had to give up. If you'd given me this book minus the author's name, I never would have guessed Wally had written it. NOTHING like his other work, and I hate to say it, but it almost ventures into literary chick book territory. As far as I went that's what it seemed like, anyway. I did give it two tries, so I won't be revisiting i ...more
Wallace Stegner has been an uneven novelist for this reader. I first read his 1943 historical The Big Rock Candy Mountain, a book I could not put down. The Preacher and the Slave, about Joe Hill and the Wobblies was also riveting. A couple others left me either bored or less than enraptured.

He was a great writer both in craft and the conveying of emotion, but sometimes I feel he tried too hard, even to the point of preaching his message too obviously. In A Shooting Star he went overboard on wor
Steve Smits
Aug 22, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An amazing work by Stegner. Is this man still remembered and valued so many years after he’s gone? He should be for in my view he is one of the finest writers of the 20th century. This novel takes place in the early 60’s in California. In the first pages Sabrina Castro announces to her husband that she’s had an affair while vacationing in Mexico. He doesn’t react the way she thought (hoped) he would; he’s contained and controlled, not showing the anger and anguish she expected. It was as if the ...more
Feb 03, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wallace Stegner's best work as a novelist (excepting "The Big Rock Candy Mountain," certainly in his top four) came after age 57; the proof is in the awards ("Angle of Repose," Pulitzer Prize, 1971; "The Spectator Bird," National Book Award, six years later) and in critical consensus. "A Shooting Star," a 1961 novel that predates his classic period that started with "All the Little Live Things" (my favorite), finds Stegner swinging way outside his usual strike zone but, well, lacing a ringing do ...more
Aug 11, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: literary-fiction
Sabrina Castro is the wealthy and attractive wife of a Pasadena physician and also the offspring of a transplanted New England family that found wealth but never a sense of purpose. Life begins to unravel for Sabrina after twelve years of childless marriage as a "trophy" wife when she takes a vacation in Mexico and has an affair with a married man.

Torn between her New England family rectitude and her frustrations, she confesses her affair and yet refuses to utterly break it off, until she sees t
Rebecca Wilkins
May 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016
I read A Shooting Star by Wallace Stegner for at least the third time. I first read it in 1971 when I was new to California. It was interesting to read in a work of fiction about the locale that I was now living in. Few books are written about southwestern Michigan but the San Francisco Bay Area figures prominently in the news, movies and books. Sabrina is a self indulgent drama queen who is doing everything "bad" she can think of to either deconstruct or get the attention of her mother and husb ...more
Jul 23, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
“There. There was the day, all tidy like a drawer freshly arranged” (23).
“ ‘Good morning, Mrs. Hutchens. Sleep well?’
‘I should think it bad management…not to’” (23).
“ ‘Charm can be a very bad substitute for character’” (30).
“She had never seen him, even fully dressed, without feeling his masculinity like a violence” (35).
“He had the look of one whose enormous virility could beget and forget children with the same casualness” (36).
“ ‘Listen, I pay you the compliment of thinking you’re not stupid’
Stephanie Griffin
Feb 15, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Aaaaaaaagh!!! I can't take it anymore!! Dated, misogynistic, just plain bad.
Dec 29, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I adore Wallace Stegner's writing but this book was quite a disappointment. It was written in 1961 and appears very dated now. Sabrina Castra is a wealthy, unfulfilled, hard drinking hysterical young woman. She is self-destructive, miserable, proud and unforgiving. Her mother (who comes from OLD east coast money) is elderly, ill, arrogant and indulges in a sick kind of ancestor worship. (Inviting friends over to read from her ancestor's diaries while she dresses in their old clothes. Icky!) Sabr ...more
Apr 22, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A SHOOTING STAR. (1961). Wallace Stegner. ****.
This is a fine novel from one of America’s best writers. Having lived on both coasts, I’ve noticed that Stegner is likely read more by Westerners that by Easterners. This is likely for his settings, but also for his support of environmental issues – which he manages to sneak into his plots as key hinges to the story line. Although the story is about Sabrine Castro, a young married woman who has yet to come to terms with life, key features of the nov
Mar 25, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
While I typically love Stegner, this book was quite painful to finish. He is a brilliant writer and is a very skilled storyteller, however this book was very pointless and boring. It is about a woman who had an affair and goes home to her extremely wealthy mother and tries to fix her life but doesn’t quite know how to do it because she has been spoiled her whole life. The story weaves some other issues into the fabric of the story but I was very disappointed with its overall effectiveness. I rea ...more
Mar 08, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Have you ever had an acquaintance whose life seems to be forever on the dung heap? Years pass, and every single time you try to spend time with her, she treats you to a litany of her miseries-- and never seems to have anything to say about having tried anything new to get herself out of that monumental funk?

That's the friend that this book is all about. Stegner describes his heroine's surroundings in gorgeous prose, but bottom line is: she's whiny, horrifically selfdestructive and just a bummer
Jan 11, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
An early (1961) Stegner; not the same literary "heft" as Crossing to Safety or Angle of Repose, but a glimpse of what's to come. Still, a sharp, keenly observed take on suburban California before the "real" '60's kicked in.

Updated 2/2: Finished the book and I'm glad I stuck with it. Very strong final 80 pages, with interesting and unexpected resolutions. Again, not Stegner's best--some characters were under-drawn, plot was a bit rambling-- but such a pleasure to read his marvelous prose.
Aley Martin
I read this book after reading "Crossing to Safety" because I enjoyed Stegner's writing style. This book was written earlier in his career and was "okay" although at times a bit verbose and long winded. I got through it so I could next read his Pulitzer prize work "Angle of Repose".
this book kept me riveted in places and antsy in other places, but I am happy to have read it. Sometimes it is just a great way of accessing the genius of a novelist at different times in his life.
Jul 07, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I just don't know how WS knows females so well! I loved reading this on stormy summer days and I'm none too pleased that I could identify (sometimes) with Sabrina's anxieties and doubts. I can't imagine finding a Stegner work that I don't enjoy.
Dec 29, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Stegner's attempt at a high-society novel. Weaker for the attempt to look inside of a social class and gender he was much less equipped to write about, the novel still contains the beautiful naturalistic prose and eye for detail Stegner is a master of.
Feb 11, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Beautifully written and totally modern, even though it was published over 50 years ago. Wallace Stegner is truly one of the Great American Authors.
Aug 18, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: stegner
this is the 2nd story from stegner for me...the 1st, his Crossing to Safety, and that fairly recent, within the last year or two. this one has what...29 reviews here?...i've only glanced at them...later maybe.

this one (published 1961) begins:
except for an occasional dry question, he left the talking to her, waiting while she fought out the difficult words. it was as if he applied a pump: she could feel the content of her insides, discolored and poisonous, being exposed to his laboratory scrutiny
Jun 23, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I wanted to love this book because I really like most things he wrote. That said, while the prose was beautiful as always the plot was not great. There was a lot of profanity, adultery, other behaviors I find offensive. Don't waste you time. Read Angle of Repose or Crossing to Safety instead.
Feb 17, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I love Stegner's writing but, the story line did not appeal to me.
Jun 09, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: stopped-reading
Wallace Stevens' Angle of Repose is one of my all-time favorite books. And the characters in his Crossing to Safety make me crazy, but I find it compelling reading nevertheless. His character studies are so good. But this book is darker so far than either of others, with no particularly sympathetic characters yet. And it's hard to relate to characters all of whom come from, and are consumed by, their old money elite status. There's no poking fun at the Brahmins here, just a sense of their self-a ...more
Brent Jacocks
Feb 15, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm a Wallace Stegner fan, so it's rare that I find one of his books that I don't like. In this one, the main character, Sabrina, is well drawn, yet I have trouble connecting with her. She's a woman who could be said to have everything, yet she doesn't appreciate any of it and continues to complain that her life is unfulfilling. She seems to race from one disaster to the next, rarely considering her own culpability or the damage that she's inflicted on others. Having said all this, I found mysel ...more
Jul 12, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, audiobook
I liked this better than I thought I would though I probably would not re-read it. From what I understand this was Wallace Stegner's first novel and I know many people complained about the melodrama. Yes, there is melodrama but then it sure is entertaining melodrama! I am a fan of Stegner's work and I plan on reading all his books. I am very familiar with his style of writing and this one didn't disappoint because after all my first paintings are not masterpieces. One has to take in consideratio ...more
Circa 1960, socialite Sabrina Castro becomes bored with her marriage and frivolous life in southern California and spirals into self-destruction. After leaving her husband, she moves to her mother’s estate in San Francisco. Along the way, Sabrina is forced to address her fractious relationship with her mother and brother, and rekindles her childhood friendship with Barbara, who is happily ensconced in a middle-class marriage, with 2 children and a third on the way.

Sabrina was pretty hard to lik
Brian Reynolds
Jan 31, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
While not one of the best Stegner novels, I did find it somewhat engaging. I did not like it that much at first - I had some trouble visualizing some of the scenes, especially the trip to Nevada sequence, which is unusual for me with a Stegner. I was going to rate this as 3 stars until the last third of the book, where both the descriptions and dialogue became sharper. I found myself enjoying the characters and plot more by the end. Interesting that the characters were eating yogurt (spelled yog ...more
Oct 16, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Madame Bovary goes west, and with a different ancestry than Emma. I found this engrossing, though in it the theme of the land ethic so important to Stegner is only a small backstory. This is very much about the drawbacks to inherited wealth and proper Bostonian ancestry, both of which I lack. (I have plenty of other drawbacks, not inherited). Slightly Jamesian but coarser in a way that the Master would never be.
Nov 03, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone...
I had never read a novel by Wallace Stegner before but figured I should. To be honest, while I was reading it, I couldn't put this novel down, but I didn't like the main character at all. She was a wealthy doctor's wife trying to "find herself," but it was hard for me to have empathy for her because she was so spoiled and rich. This novel was beautifully written, though, and there were other characters I was intrigued by. And the interactions between the characters were very believable.
Dec 20, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I'm a huge Stegner fan, but this one was just not my favorite. Way too melodramatic. I didn't identify well with any of the characters. There was a small bit (sort of side commentary) about suburban development and the need to protect wild space, but even that felt mistreated and over characterized. I probably would have put it down sooner if it hadn't been an audio book and easy to "read" at the gym. There were plenty of times when I felt I had spaced off but didn't miss much.
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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.
More about Wallace Stegner...