This was my first exposure to Stegner.
At first I was engrossed, Wonderful descriptive writing, pithy quotations from the narrator and his interior monologues engaging and his attendant pre-occupations startlingly apropos-I am in my early seventies.
And there was a stately measured quality of pace like 40's and 50's novels, those story crafted books (Novels when story was engine) that was peaceful and nostalgic, a slower time before the quicker cuts and the flood of the compressed narrative of blogs, www et al. When one curled up with a good read.
And there is a wonderful creation of Isak Dinesen
But just after that, half way through the book I began to lose interest. I found that the story became gothic: implausible, an archaic melodrama with far too much foreshadowing. The characterization of the central protagonists-Astrid and her brother stagy, the dialogue wordy and contrived. And poor Ruth, the narrators wife, so thinly developed; "a nice girl and ... a nice woman"
So I read rapidly through to the end, a sweet conclusion, but plausible only if we believe-is Stegner that tough a novelist- that to the very end our narrator chooses to deny the authenticity of his experiences, to continue, even now to "scratch dead leaves over them." in which case the ending is sad indeed.