Skip to content

May 29, 2017


Angle of Repose

by N@ncy

STEGNER 7_audels_p78fig78_angle-of-repose.png

  • Author: W. Stegner
  • Title: Angle of Repose
  • Published: 1971
  • Trivia: Pulitzer Prize 1972
  • Trivia:  Nr 82 on Modern Library’s top 100 novels 20th C
  • #20BooksOfSummer
  • Trivia: 16 weeks to read 20 major classics….starting 
  • …a few days early (29 May).
  • I need all the reading time I can get!

Sense of Place:

  1. New York, Mexico, Idaho, Colorado, California
  2. Stegner emphasizes the difference between East and West coast.
  3. East: Susan – tradition; snobbish and self-centered wife;
  4. misses her community of close friends (Augusta, Thomas);
  5. Susan retreats into her own world (drawings, letters) while living in the west.
  6. West: Oliver – driven and dedicated husband;
  7. has his own qualities that Susan sometimes overlooks;
  8. differences between  husband and wife drive them apart.

Theme:   Marriage

  1. Lyman (narrator) searches in the past to discover
  2. …why his grandparent’s (Susan and Oliver) marriage
  3. …survived while his collapsed.
  4. Susan and Oliver fight hardships on the frontier,
  5. …perservere through great sorrow and still find strengths
  6. …in each other that emulate the ‘western spirit.’
  7. Lyman needs this ‘western’ courage to face his  failed marriage and
  8. …his dependency on others (health issues).


  1. Angle of Repose is  a novel within a novel.
  2. — inner novel is Lyman’s story of Susan
  3. — the outer one is the story of Lyman himself.
  4. This simultaneous telling of two stories is a clever device.
  5. I feel Stegner  ‘created  this book to impress’.
  6. Everything is ‘stream-lined’ narratives that weave seamlessly together,
  7. woman’s worlds past and present and grumpy retired professor.
  8. I’m not impressed unfortunately.


  1. Stegner does succeed in writing realism (descriptions)
  2. …of the West without falling
  3. into ‘frontier potboiler’ romanticism of  the setting and the people…
  4. heroes vs villains.


  1. Angle of Repose is a geological term.
  2. It is  the slope at which rocks cease to  roll.
  3. This was the BEST part of the book.
  4. It is a clever metaphor for the relationship Susan – Oliver.
  5. Husband and wife exist in an unhappy state of being.
  6. They accommodate, they adjust to meet a need to live together.
  7. Lyman is trying to reach this
  8. …point of reconciliation …with ex-wife and himself.


  1. I did my best to review a book that I did not enjoy.
  2. There was a lack of depth and in this never-ending book…
  3. …I found the narratives too obvious and  transparent.
  4. I expected more  from a Pulitzer Prize winning book.
  5. But remember W. Stegner’s book  is also considered  a ‘classic’.
  6. You should read it and decide  if it is worth finishing.
  7. I had my doubts….but must #NeverGiveUp.
  8. I am including Brona’s Books the review Angle of Repose.
  9. She is saving this book for a ‘re-read’.
  10. I am not.
  11. Do yourself a favor and leave this  ‘long-winded’ book on the shelf.
  12. Stegner was creative writing professor at Stamford University.
  13. He was well versed  in narrative theory.
  14. What does a (usually female) reader always fall for?
  15. Infidelity, forgiveness and the realization that
  16. …the choice of a marriage partner rules a woman’s life!

Last thoughts:

  • Many readers love this book and I keep asking myself why?
  • I too was drawn into the book in the first pages…but soon lost interest.
  • The writing was not ‘powerful’….it was seductive.
  • Stegener uses pathos that appeals to emotion to ‘bamboozle’  me.
  • I had the feeling Stegner was determined to make his book a best-seller
  • ….by effectively targeting certain type of audience.
  • The quirky retired teacher with marriage/personal issues
  • …that he wants to solve….
  • …with the help of a pioneer grandmother’s
  • …letters grabs the reader’s attention.
  • It just did not grab my attention

W. Stegner (1909-1993)

Stegner 0d5fd272c2c35745190cf3c9b0d2c429

8 Comments Post a comment
  1. May 29 2017

    Hilarious, I love your review of a book that didn’t impress and your exploration of why, well done! I have one of his books on the shelf, oh dear, just checked and its this one. But I do recall reading a few reviews and choosing another of his for my Dad to read, one that sounded more appealing than my impression of this from the thoughts of others. Oh well, you’ve saved me a reading trip!


    • May 29 2017

      My first good turn of the day….do yourself a favor and leave this ‘long-winded’ book on the shelf. Stegner was creative writing professor at Stamford University. He was well versed in narrative theory. What does a (usually female) reader always fall for? Infidelity, forgiveness and the realization that the choice of a marriage partner rules a woman’s life!
      Glad you enjoyed my thoughts….now it’s time for coffee!

      Liked by 1 person

      • May 29 2017

        Ah yes, off the shelf an into the ‘donate to charity’ box, I’m reading Osho on Intuition, mine already works pretty well and it’s telling me there’s no need to read Stegner’s repose 🙂


  2. Jun 4 2017

    That’s what I love about reading and blogging – we all like (or not) different things for different reasons.

    For me, I was fascinated by the real woman this book was actually based on. I did a lot of research on her at the time and I also spent a lot of time trying to work out why Stegner failed to acknowledge this properly.

    Inherent misogyny and patriarchal attitudes?
    I wonder what Foote’s story would look like in the hands of a female author?


    • Jun 4 2017

      I agree…we get along like a house on fire….but our tastes in books can be miles apart!
      I had no interest in researching Mary Foote but was more interested in Stegner’s writing style.
      Despite the accolade ‘ one of top 100 novels of 20th C’ I was not impressed…still not impressed. I enjoyed a classic Greek play Medea much more!
      Thanks for your comments…!

      Liked by 1 person


Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. #20BooksOfSummer | NancyElin
  2. #6 degrees July 2017 | NancyElin
  3. Wrap-up #20BooksOfSummer 2017 | NancyElin

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Note: HTML is allowed. Your email address will never be published.

Subscribe to comments

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: