Title: Angel of Repose
Author: Wallace Stegner
Genre: Fiction: Classics; Historical Fiction
Pages: read to page 353
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. (from Goodreads)
Thoughts: Lyman Ward, crippled with one leg amputated, moves back into his childhood home where he was raised by his grandparents to research and write a book about his grandmother’s life, Susan Burling Ward. Angel of Repose is mainly the story of Susan and her life out West as the wife of a mining engineer, although the book also covers the time of Lyman living in Susan’s home, his research, his relationship with his son and his young secretary assistant.
I stopped reading this book about two-thirds of the way through. In truth, if I had not been reading this book for a challenge, I would have stopped reading it well before. This book is well-written, it won the Pulitzer Prize, the plot is interesting, and the blending of Lyman’s and his grandmother’s stories are well executed. And yet I could not bring myself to care and I never feet fully engaged in the book. I didn’t care for Susan; she was too stuck up, there was too much stressing the fact that she was a ‘lady’ living out in the wild West, and she was selfish in her control over her husband’s professional life. I didn’t like Lyman either. He’s only 58 years old and yet he’s constantly going on about how young people these days have no sense of history and about how things were different back in the good old days. To me Lyman was simply too young to be portrayed as he was- a cranky old man. I couldn’t help but think that Stenger used Lyman mainly to complain about how he felt about the world of the 60’s and 70’s.
Even though from the beginning I didn’t particularly enjoy this book, I was determined to finish it. I kept pushing myself to read it, picking it up with no enthusiasm, but I kept going. I finally decided to give it up as a lost cause when I went out of town last week- I dutifully packed the book, hoping to get through a few pages while I was away. I didn’t pick it up once. When I got home I opened to where I was- page 353- and couldn’t make myself read a single line. For all Stegner’s skill and a plot/setting- that I normally would have enjoyed- I just didn’t care. Not about the characters themselves or what happened to them. So I stopped. If I’m not enjoying a book I usually don’t hesitate to put it down and read something else. But this book was for a challenge I am doing this year and I felt like I simply had to read it. I can usually tell early on if a book isn’t for me- it was the same for me here but because I felt obligated to read it I kept going and when I finally called it quits I was upset that I had wasted so much time- 353 hard won pages- only not to finish. So while I am disappointed I learned an important lesson: if I’m not enjoying a book- stop. I shouldn’t force myself to keep reading for whatever reason. I read for fun and I want to keep it that way. Lesson learned!