Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Wapshot Chronicle” as Want to Read:
The Wapshot Chronicle
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Wapshot Chronicle

3.76  ·  Rating details ·  6,786 ratings  ·  359 reviews
Meet the Wapshots of St Botolphs. There is Captain Leander Wapshot, venerable sea-dog and would-be suicide; his licentious older son, Moses; and Moses's adoring and errant younger brother, Coverly. Tragic and funny, ribald and splendidly picaresque, and partly based on Cheever's adolescence in New England, The Wapshot Chronicle is a stirring family narrative in the finest ...more
Paperback, 352 pages
Published June 3rd 2003 by Harper Perennial Modern Classics (first published 1957)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Wapshot Chronicle, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
Kelly None of the following is a solid mirror, but perhaps: Ten North Frederick by John O'Hara, A Frolic of His Own by William Gaddis, The Way We Live Now b…moreNone of the following is a solid mirror, but perhaps: Ten North Frederick by John O'Hara, A Frolic of His Own by William Gaddis, The Way We Live Now by Trollope, Studs Lonigan by James Farrell, Zuleika Dobson by Max Beerbohm, The Magnificent Ambersons by Booth Tarkington, A Dance to the Music of Time (4 books comprising the 12 volumes) by Anthony Powell. (less)

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.76  · 
Rating details
 ·  6,786 ratings  ·  359 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of The Wapshot Chronicle
Jim Fonseca
Apr 24, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: american-authors
The author was a famous short story writer and this was his first attempt at a novel. It won the National Book Award for 1958.

It’s kind of a coming of age story of two young men, although most of the plot follows not their youth, but the start of their careers.

Their father was a river boat captain so there’s a bit of sea lore. We’re in a small New England sea town at the turn of the century, a time when autos are replacing horses. There’s a focus on change: “…nothing was anymore what it aimed t
Dec 07, 2016 rated it it was amazing
… 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 ½ stars

John Cheever (1912-1982) sold a short story to The New Yorker in 1935, the first of many. His reputat
Steven Godin
Jun 09, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have found at times that the all American novel struggles to be deeply rooted in the social world, that in a Society so fluid and so ever changing fiction hardly has time to digest the way things really happen, tending to tread a path of unrealistic characters journeying through some sort of fantasy life. John Cheever's debut, The Wapshot Chronicle both confirms my suspicions but also contradicts them. The family under the spotlight here get the full treatment, making for a striking read, and ...more
Vit Babenco
Jan 18, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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
Mike Lindgren
Dec 05, 2007 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
Feb 07, 2017 rated it did not like it
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
Apr 16, 2012 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
Nov 12, 2020 rated it really liked it
4.5 Stars

To the best of my recollection, I have never read anything by Cheever. For some reason I am drawn to his name, like I have past reference, a book, a story, something, but I can find nor remember anyhing indicating I have ever read or heard of him before. A short while ago I bought a copy of The Stories of John Cheever. I did this based solely on name recognition. To date I haven’t read a story, so why does his name ring such a bell with me that I grabbed this book on sight. I feel I sho
Judith Hannan
Jul 08, 2012 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 Massachusett ...more
Mar 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
Moses and Coverly Wapshot, dissolute Leander's two sons, have to make their way in the America of the mid-Twentieth Century armed with the airs and attitudes of Nineteenth-Century New England. "St. Botolphs is like a pumpkin pie," says their elderly aunt Honora of their home town, "no upper crust." But there is limited room in St. Botolphs for the two boys, so they set out on their seriocomic adventures. THE WAPSHOT CHRONICLE is a comedy, and often a darn funny one at that in spite of (or perhap ...more
Jul 13, 2009 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
Jul 07, 2009 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 h ...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
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 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
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 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 wedding invitat
Nov 18, 2012 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
I hadn't read a lot of John Cheever but my mother loved him and his books were always around the house when I was growing up; my spouse has the big fat Stories of John Cheever collection and we've read stories like "The Swimmer" and "Christmas is a Sad Season for the Poor" together. Cheever was sometimes disparaged as a talented though middlebrow New Yorker type of writer by the literati, but revered by many (like my mom). One of his main themes was the vanishing of the old social order in Manha ...more
Sep 05, 2011 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
Mar 22, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
I'll start with an oft-repeated saying, that, while oft-repeated, doesn't make it any less valid. That Cheever, master of the short story that he is, isn't as good of a novelist. I tried reading The Wapshot Chronicle for the first time during one of my listless summers home from college, and somehow couldn't get into it.

10+ years later, I finished it, and I did like it. I liked the archival detail of childhood memory that Cheever explores, and the lazy-summer-by-the-sea day vibe of the novel, an
Feb 25, 2015 rated it did not like it
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.
Linda Hart
Jul 19, 2011 rated it it was amazing
A wonderful example of great American literature. Bizarre yet believable characters, dysfunctional family that I felt like I'd met before with humorous and serious situations.
Mar 16, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
I was surprised by how many people waxed rhapsodic over this novel. I liked it enough to finish it, and Cheever shows a talent for picking out the significant small details which help bring a person to life, but overall I thought the book was too long for a cast of characters who were just not that interesting.

The book does not concern itself with the great themes of life. Instead, average people worry about their children, their jobs, and their relationships, they experience minor tragedies and
Love all of Cheever’s short stories; have never really liked any of his novels. This one wandered too much for my taste. It seemed as if Cheever could not decide whether he wanted to tell you everything or nothing at all. I found myself wishing the book had been focused on just one of the three main Wapshot men (Leander, Moses, Coverly) and the various women in their respective lives. Combining all three and superfluous relatives and characters made for a general narrative mess. I did enjoy Lean ...more
Inderjit Sanghera
Jun 05, 2016 rated it really liked it
‘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,
Jan 03, 2013 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
Sara Batkie
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 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
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
The female angle 1 9 Feb 23, 2015 08:19AM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • Appointment in Samarra
  • Zuleika Dobson
  • From Here to Eternity
  • Justine (The Alexandria Quartet #1)
  • The Way of All Flesh
  • The Adventures of Augie March
  • Miss Lonelyhearts
  • The Alexandria Quartet  (The Alexandria Quartet #1-4)
  • The Ginger Man
  • Scoop
  • The Death of the Heart
  • The Moviegoer
  • A High Wind in Jamaica
  • Point Counter Point
  • The Day of the Locust
  • Main Street
  • Parade's End
  • Miss Lonlyhearts
See similar books…
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:

Related Articles

Danielle Evans was just 26 when she released her short story collection Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self in 2010, a multi-award-winning...
15 likes · 1 comments
“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
“She was his potchke, his fleutchke, his notchke, his motchke, his everything that the speech of St. Botolphs left unexpressed. She was his little, little squirrel.” 3 likes
More quotes…