An old historian with a debilitating disease decides to write a biography of his grand-mother, an artist and writer of the frontier-era, who led a life of adventures and disappointments in the American West.
Angle of Repose is a 1972 Pulitzer Prize winner.
To write his novel and "create" the character of the grand-mother, Stegner used the letters of Mary Hallock Foote, a real artist of the West.
I'd heard a lot good things about Wallace Stegner and the beauty of his writing. I found that he lived up to his reputation on that regard. His prose, especially his descriptions of the frontier landscapes, was nostalgic and lyrical. And despite all these detailed descriptions, the entire book is incredibly accessible and easy to read, a combination that's quite difficult to achieve.
Unfortunately, the story Stegner tells fails to be compelling, mainly because his characters aren't as complex as the plot demanded. Whether it is with his grumpy narrator, or with the pioneer grand-parents, Stegner does not develop his characters' personal stories enough for them to be memorable or to induce specific emotions. The parallel between the narrator's present life and his grand-parents' marriage lacked subtlety and complexity. Often times, it was because the narrator did not know much about the subject of his book, and had to fill in the blanks with his imagination. But unlike Philip Roth and his Nathan Zuckerman, Stegner does not seem to have the skills to write a novel mostly made of speculations. The ending was messy and rushed; not worthy of a great writer.
I intend to try something else by Stegner in the future. I have the feeling it was the wrong book by the right writer.