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Wings Great Reads: Angle of Repose [Hardcover]

Wallace Stegner
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (113 customer reviews)

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Hardcover, June 1 1996 --  
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Book Description

June 1 1996
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 than he's willing to admit. What emerges is an enthralling portrait of four generations in the life of an American family.
--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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From Publishers Weekly

This long, thoughtful novel about a retired historian who researches and writes about his pioneer grandparents garnered Stegner a Pulitzer Prize.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.


"Cause for celebration . . . A superb novel with an amplitude of scale and richness of detail altogether uncommon in contemporary fiction."
The Atlantic Montly

"Brilliant . . . Two stories, past and present, merge to produce what important fiction must: a sense of the enchantment of life."
Los Angeles Times

"A fine novel, engrossing and mature . . . for when all is said individual lives are very much like bits of detritus, rolling down from the high places of stress and emotion until they reach that place where the tumbling and falling stops and they find their angle of repose. To chronicle this movement as well as this novel does is high art—and first-rate writing."
San Francisco Examiner & Chronicle
--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Now I believe they will leave me alone. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An important novel of immense pathos and depth Dec 11 2002
Angle of repose, as defined in Stegner's Pulitzer Prize-winning work, is the angle of incline along a riverbed at which dirt and rocks will not slide. More profoundly, it serves as a permeating theme throughout this novel about an elderly amputee who is confined to a wheelchair but remains determined to pursue an independent and active existence. He is historian Lyman Ward, grandson of Susan and Oliver Ward, and through the prism of historical analysis he presents the lives of his grandparents. As he peruses his grandmother's letters to her best friend, we learn of Susan and Oliver's adventures and challenges as pioneers of America's frontier. Oliver, an engineer, dedicates himself first to mining and later to irrigation projects. Susan, an artist and writer, captures the rugged beauty of 19th century western America in her work, while struggling to maintain a marriage and a family under difficult conditions.
This novel, at its heart, is a work about personal endurance and self-discovery. As Lyman explores the hardships of his grandparents' life, he comes to learn more about his own ability to stand firm in the face of difficulty. Lyman's narrative voice is wise, objective, and admiring, at times reminiscent of Philip Roth's Nathan Zuckerman. Through this voice Stegner has managed to capture that elusive feel of what it means to be human and to truly live. His characters ring true in all their beauty and all their flaws. And his message is a powerful one - that life can be a sedentary existence or an active one, and that it is our decision how we react to the circumstances of our environment.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An uncommonly good book about self and place Nov. 22 2002
I have far more books on my shelves than I've read. This one I have read, greedily. It is as seductive as reading old letters from an attic. And essentially that is what the main character, Lyman Ward (crippled by disease, seperated from his wife), is doing, taking the voluminous letters of his grandmother's roughshod and proud experience in the West, and forming some semblance of her life, and what it means to his (which he consider's essentially over . . .). There really are two stories here, and to toggle from one to the other (from the late 1800's to the 1970's) and to say such true things about people and America, is genius on the part of Stegner.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Solemn Reflections and Lives Oct. 29 2002
Not since Clarissa walked onto her steps in "The Hours," have I immediately loved a character as I did Susan Ward. The life of Susan, as told by her grandson, starts out with much vibrance and excitement. But the parallel story of her grandson's life gives the story an edge- and a glimpse into why he is in pursuit of understanding (and documenting) his grandmother.
The conclusion of these lives (to which we are privy) is not simple nor cheap. But it does stand apart from the rest of the novel. And it does not offer comfort- but rather a glimpse into a set of lives that might be more real than we'd like to admit.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the great novels about the real West Nov. 19 2003
One of Wallace Stegner's greatest peeves as a Western writer was the myth of the West that was promulgated in the bulk of the books about the region. The vast majority of Western novels and movies tended to perpetuate utter myths about the West, instead of grappling with the West itself. Perhaps no American writer knew the West as well as Stegner, not excepting his student Edward Abbey. An inveterate hiker and explorer, he camped or walked nearly every area in the West. He wrote innumerable books about the West and took time to visit every spot he wrote about. For instance, in writing of John Wesley Powell's trip down the Colorado, he retraced his route to gain the greatest possible grasp of what he saw. He traveled the trails that the Mormons and others took in relocating to the West. He was one of the few people to hike along Glen Canyon before Lake Powell consumed it. Moreover, he was raised in the West, spending his childhood on what remained on the frontier.
Given all this, I find it utterly astonishing that a couple of reviewers should have the impression that he does not know whereof he wrote. For instance, one reviewer wrote, "Bottom line: the West has a geography, and its denizens a temperament, that demands that we write and read about it in a way that does justice to the hard realities of life in a barren place." Why he would imagine that Stegner, who was intimately familiar with the geography, was one of its denizens, and knew first hand the hard realities of the place by spending his childhood in a variety of barren places, utterly baffles me. I suspect that it is because the book writes about the REAL West and not the West of the Imagination.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Take your sweet time to ponder... Jan. 28 2004
I really wanted to love this book that my bookstore guru gave 5 stars. I don't think I'll ever NOT like a book I've chosen to read. Afterwards I still have that curious feeling that these characters are my friends and teachers and now I have to bid a sad farewell. But I didn't really LOVE these characters, but deeply had a respect for them...well except Augusta who annoyed me because I don't warm up to Eastern Society-types. Susan made me more understanding though. I got over my initial and recurring problem that I had personally with this book. I kept wanting it to be Michener's Centennial. I wanted MORE adventure and history at the locations Susan and Oliver dwelt in, but this was Stengner NOT Michener...and this has a wealth of great descriptive prose and simile that rivaled anything I'd read. So once I disciplined myself, the book seeped into me. It wasn't tedious, but steady. It read fast only a few times for me, mostly it was something to savor and liken to oneself. This revealed the treasure it contains thematically. I liked the 4-generations compared between the lines too. Usually disruptions in the flow of a novel's base story irritate me a bit, but this had an even inspiring effect. In my GREAT imagination, I found myself "writing" my own 4-generation story as I read. My Grandparents' role in shaping the west that was something not very Victorian in morality emerged, I confess... and we're continuing the saga some of us! This book will stir you to thinking long and seriously if you let it in. For that I ought to give it another star.
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Thoughtful,
Beautifully written, the story moves seamlessly from the present day back to the mid 1800’s as a man traces the life of his grandmother.
Published 7 months ago by LD
5.0 out of 5 stars One of my top 5 favorite books
I just keep coming back to this book. It's lovely. I love the depiction of the west and the view of the world from the narrator's eyes. I just can't recommend it enough.
Published on July 6 2004
5.0 out of 5 stars Stunning
Beautiful novel with rich and evocative detail, telling the story of four generations of a family. The story focuses on the tale of the narrators grandparents, early pioneers of... Read more
Published on April 10 2004 by J. Jacobs
5.0 out of 5 stars Revel in the Phrasing
A retired professor, confined to a wheelchair in his family home in northern California, collects notes to write his grandmother's life story and ends up telling his own. Read more
Published on Feb. 4 2004 by M. Eugeni
4.0 out of 5 stars A haunting story, but...
First of all, I wanted to like this book more than I did. It was the innaugural choice for a newly-formed book club of college professors here in Idaho, so with much of the book... Read more
Published on Dec 20 2003 by HardyBoy64
4.0 out of 5 stars A haunting story, but....
First of all, I wanted to like this book more than I did. It was the innaugural choice for a newly-formed book club of college professors here in Idaho, so with much of the book... Read more
Published on Dec 15 2003 by Robert Colvin
5.0 out of 5 stars Moving and Thought-Provoking
I couldn't put this one down. The prose was lovely, the descriptions so vivid, the characters so complex, the narrative threads so surprising. Read more
Published on July 28 2003 by M. Cutler
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant, thoughtful, mesmerizing
Angle of Repose is a commentary on marriage, what makes it work and what makes it fail. A severely disabled (wheelchair bound) professor, whose marriage has failed, researches and... Read more
Published on June 23 2003 by Peggy Vincent
4.0 out of 5 stars Nearly great
Wallace Stegner's Pulitzer Prize-winning "Angle of Repose" is one of those highly readable, but long, works that has a sort of uncomplicated depth while coming at us from... Read more
Published on May 30 2003 by Tim Weber
1.0 out of 5 stars The Wrong Angle
This is one of the worst novels written about the American West. Why?
Let's start with the style It's positively Victorian, like Thackary or Hardy on a bad day. Read more
Published on Dec 19 2002
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