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Angle of Repose

4.27  ·  Rating details ·  46,312 ratings  ·  3,890 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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Deborah I think that the chapters on Leadville were among the most powerful in the book, mostly due to its exquisite description of the land and the mines at…moreI think that the chapters on Leadville were among the most powerful in the book, mostly due to its exquisite description of the land and the mines at that time in history. The Leadville mine in particular played a significant role in mining history. The book actually ends in Grass Valley, Ca., while the mining camp in Idaho is also written about. I think of the Idaho part as the more emotional part of their marriage, and the Leadville as a gripping description of what the land was really like. The Leadville writing is what stayed with me most, and and I have read it twice. I hope you liked the book..its my favorite! It is based on a true story of the artists life.(less)
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Jim Fonseca
May 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1972, this book is considered by some to be Stegner’s masterpiece. It’s a great read that is largely based on the true story of a woman pioneer in the west when so many other books about this era tell the stories of men.

Layered on the frontier story is the fictional story of the man writing it who turns these pioneers into his grandparents. An older divorced man confined to a wheel chair with one leg missing, Stegner interweaves his narrator’s isolati
...more
Steve
Dec 12, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
BT
Aug 27, 2007 rated it it was ok
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
Elyse Walters
Aug 02, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorite-books
Update.... geeeezzz Marie!!! Another $1.99 Kindle gem this morning- ( I bought it myself) ... and I own an old paper copy!
It’s true I never wrote a review- read it before I did such foolish things ... haha..
But if readers have not read this book yet - TIMELESS ( and Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner... also TIMELESS)... you’re missing two wonderful books. Two of my all time favorites!!!!

I’m sure you can find more detailed reviews either here on Goodreads or Amazon -

Angle of Repose won the
...more
Michael Finocchiaro
This book started out great, but quickly got repetitive for me. Learning on Wikipedia that Stegner derived (with permission!) large parts of it from real letters published the next year certainly took winds out of my sails. Several critics have mentioned that Stegner's version of Mary Hallock Foote diverges considerably from the original - a necessity for the author trying to fit his story to her narrative. That being said, it is impossible not to recognize the talent behind the writing and the ...more
Dolors
Mar 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Those brave enough to forgive
Little did I expect that the taming of the Wild West could be so intricately reflected in the ongoing evolution of a marriage, with all its tensions, compromises and sporadic moments of exultation; a marriage that seemed doomed to failure from the start.

Lyman Ward, retired historian and scholar, now prostrated in a wheelchair, sets his mind to write the story of his grandparents and their generation, of the many young adventurers who embarked on a non-return trip to the inhospitable Western land
...more
Cheri
”I am on my grandparents’ side. I believe in Time, as they did, and in the life chronological rather than in the life existential. We live in time and through it, we build our huts in its ruins, or used to, and we cannot afford all these abandonings.”

”I can look in any direction by turning my wheelchair, and I choose to look back … that is the only direction we can learn from.”

While confined to a wheelchair, Lyman Ward begins to read through his grandmother’s papers, her stories, old letters
...more
Beth
Apr 09, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Steven Godin
Mar 11, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction, america, amour
Wallace Stegner was once quoted as saying " It’s perfectly clear that if every writer is born to write one story, that’s my story", this was referring to the tour-de-force novel that is 'Angle of Repose' which just about ticks all the boxes in terms of literary perfection, containing masterful writing of great prose and vision, an epic, engrossing and mature story charting four generations of an american family trying to carve a piece of history into the western frontier, and richly detailed cha ...more
Carol
Nov 29, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
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
Sara
May 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone!
Recommended to Sara by: Elyse
Staggering. Riveting. Perceptive. Penetrating. Wallace Stegner knows how to get inside a marriage and pull at it and prod at it, until it settles down into what it cannot help becoming and finds its angle of repose. This story is the saddest kind of story possible, because it is about the loss of opportunity, the loss of happiness, and the loss of what might have been. It wrenches and tears and tatters the reader. I was gasping from the injustice, the cross-purposes, the lack of communication an ...more
Scott Axsom
Dec 05, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
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. 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 perspective of a not
...more
Ted
It's perfectly clear to me that if a writer is born to write one story, this is my story.
Wallace Stegner




Wallace Stegner (1909-1993), born in Lake Mills Iowa, died in Santa Fe. Historian, novelist, short story writer, environmentalist. Jackson Benson, in his Introduction to this edition, identifies the “major strands of his career” as his love of the land, his concern for history, his advocacy of cooperation and antagonism toward rugged individualism, and his dedication to writing. Some of his be
...more
Lyn
Jul 13, 2016 rated it really liked it
Wallace Stegner’s 1971 novel Angle of Repose was a beautifully written, masterfully crafted, touchingly and ponderously enjoyable to read.

The dictionary tells us that an angle of repose means “the steepest angle at which a sloping surface formed of a particular loose material is stable”. A fitting enough title for a story that had a lot to do with mining and engineering, but in Stegner’s capable hands it comes to mean much more.

Telling the story of his Victorian grandparents as they helped to se
...more
☮Karen
Jul 11, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to ☮Karen by: Angela M
Stegner makes the job of writing seem effortless.  His brilliance shines through as he uses wheelchair-bound Lyman, a writer writing the history of his grandmother Susan Ward going back to circa 1870-1895. Susan's published writings and illustrations and her personal letters of her married life in the American West  provide him  (and we readers) wonderful insight into the human experience--interpersonal  relationships, a marriage between social opposites--seamlessly juxtaposed with Lyman's  estr ...more
Perry
Jun 10, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
On the Wings of Love

"He who binds to himself a joy
Does the winged life destroy,
But he who kisses the joy as it flies
Lives in eternity's sun rise."
William Blake

This novel is structured with a fictional novelist writing a novel (meta-fiction) based on the life of his grandmother (which character is partly based the life of a real woman). The story travels between
1) the 1st person account of the novelist, a retired lit prof who recently had a leg amputated, after which his wife left him for his su
...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?
Algernon
Dec 23, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2014, favorites
I finished the book almost three weeks ago, but then I got caught in the day job with overtimes and in the year end parties,
I hope I will get back here and give it the consideration and attention it deserves.
For now, let me just say that it is worthy of using caps, as in Great American Novel.
----------------
[update]

Lyman Ward is a retired professor of history, immobilized in a wheelchair by a bone disease that has left his body twisted, his vertebrae fused so that his neck is unable to turn, so
...more
Richard Derus
Jul 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
No point reviewing something I read 40 years ago unless I decide to re-read it one day. And at $1.99 on Kindle today, 15 July 2018, that sounds like a tempting idea.

For anyone innocent of Stegner's gorgeous word-edifices, this is an excellent place to become acquainted with him. There is a piffling controversy surrounding this book's use of a Victorian historian's actual letters in a fictional context, but seriously people! Is there some copyright violation implied in this absurd kerfuffle? NO!
...more
Deyanne
I am conflicted. Having just finished this book, I find my thoughts engaged in a heated debate. How I can capture my response to this book? Why did I score it a four instead of a five like all of my close friends and associates? Was the writing not brilliant in parts? Indeed. Were the characterizations not complex and layered? Most assuredly. What is at the root of my angst?
The book was painful. Several times I nearly quit reading. I didn't really care for most of the people. I didn't want to k
...more
Linda Orvis
Mar 09, 2008 rated it it was ok
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
Debbie Zapata
Jul 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: saturdaymx
Here is the definition of angle of repose: "the maximum slope, measured in degrees from the horizontal, at which loose solid material will remain in place without sliding." It is an engineering term and determines all sorts of things in construction, from how deep to dig a ditch to how high your slag pile can grow and still maintain its shape.

But in this novel, Stegner applies the term to people as well. How much stress can the people of this novel endure before they pass their angle of repose a
...more
Jim
Dec 18, 2014 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Jim by: Ron
Have you ever had your hands on a book that you just couldn't leave alone? A book that you had to have with you at all times, reading it at the dinner table, sneaking peeks at it during work hours? Well, this isn't that book. It took me weeks to read this sucker. It really slowed down my reading pace...at least at first.

Stegner can definitely write a good story, and it did not escape my notice that this tale is richly detailed. Stegner knows the West, the stock, the people, the history, and all
...more
Maureen
Jul 11, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2012
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
Joy
Mar 23, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jennifer
I really enjoyed this book! This is a book of fiction, but it's like a biography, history, and psychology all rolled into one eloquently written story. Lyman Ward looses himself in writing about his grandmother, not only to forget about his troubles, but also to understand himself better. To find strength, or answers, in how to deal with what life has thrown his way.
Laysee
“Angle of Repose” is the fourth novel I have read by Wallace Stegner, It is, in my opinion, his best work. It won the Putlizer Prize in 1972. With Stegner, one cruises through prose that soothes and lines that sing. It is like being immersed in an orchestration of grand music that dips and swells as a compelling story unfolds.

The story was set in the 1970s in Grass Valley, California. When the novel opened, Lyman Ward, the 58-year-old narrator protagonist, a recent amputee and retired Berkeley H
...more
Josh
Feb 09, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2016
"A writer is an organism that will go on writing even after its heart has been cut out."

How can someone fall in love with a man's words as they flow effortlessly on paper, creating an atmosphere of dust, angst and raw emotion, yet feel like there's a superfluity of thoughts, making you want to throw a fit and toss the book on the ground? Stegner did this to me with the lack of editing in 'Angle of Repose'; it made me want to throw the book from utter boredom at times, but also engage myself so
...more
Gloria
Aug 01, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites
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
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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.
“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.” 288 likes
“Home is a notion that only nations of the homeless fully appreciate and only the uprooted comprehend.” 208 likes
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