Angle Of Repose
By Wallace Stegner
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Angle Of Repose by Wallace Stegner ranked # 82 on The Modern Library's Top 100 Novels list as selected by its Board Members.
Angle of Repose is a 1971 novel by Wallace Stegner about a wheelchair-bound historian, Lyman Ward, who has lost connection with his son and living family and decides to write about his frontier-era grandparents. It won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1972. The book is loosely based on the life of Mary Hallock Foote and included portions of her letters.
Characters in "Angle of Repose"
Lyman Ward is the narrator of the book, a divorced amputee with a debilitating disease that is slowly "petrifying" him. A retired history professor, in the early 1970s he is dictating the book, the biography of his grandmother Susan Burling Ward, to tape. Fiercely independent, he lives alone in the house where Susan Ward died and in which he spent time as a child. As he dictates, he is fighting off intrusions into his life by his son and other well-meaning people that are concerned by his being alone when he is wheelchair-bound.
Susan Burling (the Mary Hallock Foote-based character) was a promising writer and artist connected with some of the leading lights in New York culture. When she and Oliver Ward meet and fall in love, she leaves the promise of New York to follow him, expecting to return. The contrast between her life in the American west of the second half of the 1800s to that of her best friend in New York is a constant thread through the novel. Lyman depicts her frustrated by the loss of her writing/art career and disappointment with their position in life, but a strong character able to adjust to the circumstances.
Oliver is a bright, straight-forward, honest man who has focused on supporting the family he loves. A mining engineer, he moves all over the West following jobs to Colorado, California, Mexico and Idaho. Some times he is on his own, but when he feels he can, he has his family join him - often in the most primitive of homes in the wildest of places. His honesty limits his progress in the rough world they find themselves trying to succeed in. Lyman sees a struggle between this limitation and Susan's desire to recreate some of the "culture" of the east that she gave up upon her marriage.
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