I don’t believe I blogged about it this time, as we have in the past made mention of the challenges that were afoot amongst ourselves so our dear readership could follow along at the moment by moment updates, on the edge of their seat to witness the battle champion arise victorious in the wee dawn hours of the morning. Well, that is just what happened, no one knew about it but us. And I had kept it a secret from Drew the entire time that I was slowly but silently carving away at the this book. When we compare to one another how far we are along in one of the challenges it inspires the other one to drop whatever it is they are doing and read that book. Which can be frustrating for me because I, as has been well documented on this journey, read at half the speed that Drew Moody does, and that is why we arrive at the state that our challenge month’s record is in. So a short recap.
January – Travels of Jaimie McPheeters – Drew Won but only a few pages, down to the wire.
February – Lonesome Dove – Drew Won, this time but a larger but still competitive margin.
March – Gone with the Wind – Drew won, I have still to finish this book.
April – No Challenge Month
May – Angle of Repose – I win.
So without further ado…the review of Angle of Repose.
I hate this book. I cannot find one thing anywhere inside me that can form any sort of emotional attachment to this book. I would have. I could have without the ending. The ending solidified this book into the most unreadable book of all time. It took me two weeks to read this book, but it felt like an eternity. It really did. I can’t even start to put into words, as I am trying now what it was about this book that made me turn my back on it and forsake it forever. I am sorry Mr. Stegner. With great acclaim, comes great criticism, from a lowly person like me I offer that what you did was pure cowardice, and I wasn’t even that interested in the book to begin with when I came to the ending.
Everyone I assume must say that the book should have ended before Stegner just tagged on the final bit, Zodiac Cottage. This how I am imagine Mr. Stegner writing this book, and I assume there is A LOT from this book that didn’t make it into the final cut. Why because at 569 pages this book was unbearable, UNBEARABLE. I have never had a book truly last as long as this one did that felt like a punishment to read. Some books have such high emotional costs on the reader that they felt like punishments but in the end rewards the reader with a true ending. This ending wasn’t true, it as a frankenstein’s monster of mixed up hurry up and finishes if I have ever seen one. Well, that was quite a review.
So I will give Mr. Stegner some well deserved praise. I found myself at times caring for these characters which is very hard to do with an extremely uninteresting plot. I cannot tell you how COMPLETELY uninteresting this plot was. I am really sorry Mr. Stegner, but it wasn’t interesting as you and your main character may have found that the Victorian novel set in Idaho isn’t interesting. Its not I’m sorry. And I really am in this way sorry that this ambitious novel didn’t work. I mean it won the Pulitzer prize, and has some fantastic writing in it. Some heart breaking symbolism and elements and themes that he brings through out the novel that really work. Some that don’t, some that he really wanted to work but weren’t doing as much work as he thought they were doing. Some that he forgot he was using for oh I don’t know 300 pages, and then rushed in and mentioned at the end. So, what this novel needed was some really tough editing. Because this novel isn’t what it thinks it is. And I think that Mr. Stegner knows. I would like to see the reason why this one won the prize. Perhaps for Stegner’s body of work. Because honestly this isn’t a great book. It is a really really well written book which literary allusions, famous characters walking in off the street, some really fantastic drama moments, the dramatic arch over the last 100 pages was at times, not all the time, I put it down plenty, but at times were really page-turning for such a very drab book.
The one bit of praise that I can without condition give Wallace Stegner is that, there are at times the most well-thought out actions I have ever read. Stegner writes certain scenes that are perfectly staged in his writing. I mean perfectly, as a writer right now that is going through a second draft of an extended work, there were moments where Stegner is completely in control of everything you are seeing and feeling and you aren’t nit-picking his novel to death. For that, against all odds, he gets my vote for a great writer, but this novel is not a great novel.