Stegner is one of those authors that needs to be savored, so take some time to read this work slowly and thoughtfully. The novel presents a retired historian, Lyman Ward, in his attempt to compile the biography of his grandparents who raised him. What follows is a rich telling of an engineer and his author/artist wife who become part of the story of the American West during the late 1800’s.
The character of Lyman’s grandmother, Susan Burling Ward, was based on a real-life woman of similar background named Mary Hallock-Foote. Stegner was able to use her writings as source material and even quotes from her book “A Victorian Gentlewoman in the Far West,” in this beautifully written masterpiece.
Wallace Stegner’s writing is stunning. It is rich in imagery and deep in information. And yet as prose, it is among the very best. I enjoyed learning about the life of the Wards and the struggles of a marriage on the frontier. And yet the story isn’t just about Oliver and Susan Ward, it’s about holding on to your own self-identity through marriage and life trials. It’s a story that Lyman Ward realizes touches his life in a myriad of ways, and it’s a timeless story that we, too, can’t help but recognize within our own lives. It’s about life, love, forgiveness, sacrifice and suffering. And it’s about determining what the correct balance of those things are for our own stability. The title, Angle of Repose, is Stegner’s use of an engineering term, which means the correct angle in while material can be piled without fall down. It is a clever and fitting title to this amazing and brilliant novel.
5 stars (out of 5)
Published in 1971