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Crossing to Safety Paperback – 5 Sep 2013

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Crossing to Safety + Angle of Repose + The Spectator Bird (Penguin Classics)
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Product details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; Re-issue edition (5 Sep 2013)
  • Language: Unknown
  • ISBN-10: 0141394951
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141394954
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (71 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 40,265 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


Not only a book of a lifetime, Crossing to Safety is a book that comes at the end of a long lifetime of writing....a miraculous book, written with the wisdom of age but without seeming old...A book of great maturity, this one, and not to be missed. --Gillian Slovo, The Independent, Friday 5th December 2008

A superb book. . . . Nothing in these lives is lost or wasted, suffering becomes an enriching benediction, and life itself a luminous experience. --Doris Grumbach

Adding to a distinguished body of work that already has earned him a Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Awardand on the 50th anniversary of the publication of his first novelStegner's new book is an eloquent, wise and immensely moving narrative. It is a meditation on the idealism and spirit of youth, when the world is full of promise, and on the blows and compromises life inevitably inflicts. Two couples meet during the Depression years in Madison, Wis., and become devoted friends despite vast differences in upbringing and social status. Hard work, hope and the will to succeed as a writer motivate the penurious narrator Larry Morgan and his wife Sally as he begins a term teaching at the university. Equally excited by their opportunities are Sid Lang, another junior man in the English department, and his wife Charity. They are fortune's children, favored with intelligence, breeding and money. Taken into the Langs' nourishing and generous embrace, the Morgans have many reasons for gratitude over the years, especially when Sally is afflicted with polio and the Langs provide financial as well as moral support. During visits at the Langs' summer home on Battell Pond in Vermont and later sharing a year in Florence, the couples feel that they are "four in Eden." Yet the Morgans observe the stresses in their friends' marriage as headstrong, insufferably well-organized Charity tries to bully the passive Sid into a more aggressive mold. Charity is one of the most vivid characters in fiction; if she is arrogant, she is also kindhearted, enthusiastic, stalwart and bravean ardent liver of life. Her incandescent personality is both the dominant force and the source of strain in the enduring friendship Stegner conveys with brilliant artistry. He is also superb at expressing a sense of place, and his intelligent voice makes cogent observations on American society in the decades of his setting. But most importantly, he speaks to us of universal questions, reflecting on "the miserable failure of the law of nature to conform to the dream of man." In doing so, he has created a believable human drama the dimensions of which reach out beyond the story's end and resonate in the reader's heart. BOMC and QPBC alternates; Franklin Library Signed First Edition Society selection. --Publisher's Weekly --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

About the Author

Wallace Stegner (1909-1993) was the author of, among other novels, Remembering Laughter, 1937; A Shooting Star, 1961; Angle of Repose (Pulitzer Prize), 1971; The Spectator Bird (National Book award), 1977; Recapitulation, 1979. Three of his short stories have won O.Henry prizes, and in 1980 he received the Robert Kirsch award from the Los Angeles Times for his lifetime literary achievements. His collected stories were published in 1990.

Jane Smiley is the author of many novels and works of non-fiction, including, most recently, "Thirteen Ways of Looking at the Novel", about the history and anatomy of the novel. Her most recent novel is "Good Faith". She won the Pulitzer Prize in 1992 for "A Thousand Acres", and was shortlisted for The Orange Prize in 2001 for Horse Heaven.

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First Sentence
Floating upward through a confusion of dreams and memory, curving like a trout through the rings of previous risings, I surface. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By RachelWalker TOP 500 REVIEWER on 27 Jun 2009
Format: Paperback
Crossing to Safety is a remarkably beautiful book backed up by a tender, stern intelligence. It's one to be savoured. It is rare to ever feel so connected to characters on the page, to feel you know them so completely, that they could genuinely be picked straight out of life at the time. I loved it. Both couples' journey from youth to late-middle age is examined with a wonderful human eye, seeing all the details that make such people truly human. The interplay and the tensions between all four players are subtle and fascinating. Crossing to Safety is a book I recommend wholeheartedly. It's to treasure.
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29 of 31 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 31 July 1999
Format: Paperback
This is the book my wife and I fell in love with after we fell in love with each other more than 12 years ago. Whenever we talk with friends about favorite books, we INSIST that they read Crossing to Safety. We've had to buy several copies over the years because we keep lending copies out -- and we can't blame any of our friends for not returning this book. It's a keeper. Wallace Stegner said this novel was the closest he came to writing autobiographically, which explains a certain brightness not found in, say, Angle of Repose (although AOR is an equally beautiful story).
This is simply a beautifully told story about how a friendship formed and aged, so powerfully written that you will come to appreciate your own friends -- and how you came to be friends -- all the more for having made the journey with the couples in Crossing to Safety. This is a book you fall in love with and return to. I'm actually online right now to buy another copy.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By booksetc on 31 Jan 2010
Format: Paperback
Realised that I was reading slower and slower because I didn't want this book to end, and now that I've finished I want to go back - wind back the years - and start again. Wallace Stegner is a breathtakingly good writer and this novel, written towards the end of his long life, has the wisdom of old age - and yet retains memories of all the freshness of youth and hope.
'If we could have foreseen the future during those good years in Madison where all this began, we might not have had the nerve to venture into it ...' This book is about Life, I know that sounds corny but I can't think how else to put it. It is about two young couples and all that life throws at them. It will make you think about your own life and friendships and love and loyalty.
'Leave a mark on the world. Instead the world has left marks on us ...' Probably not a book to read when you're young - if I'd read this in my 20s, even my 30s, I don't think I'd have got it - but for the middleaged and slightly battered, a profoundly emotional read. One of those rare, unforgettable books that become part of what you are. (And the descriptions of New England landscapes are like a garden of Eden.)
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By CFB London on 18 Dec 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
While Crossing to Safety is sprinkled with many bits of quality writing, I really did not like this novel. It is the story of the long-term relationship between two couples, which is frankly a boring story, and the problem is that it is not told in a way that makes it any less dull. I fully agree with the view expressed by another reviewer that the most significant flaw in this book (which is fundamental) is that the author transparently tells the reader his intended messages through the words of the characters with no subtlety rather than conveying the messages through a story. I have just started another novel where in the introduction it is stated about this other novel: "It tells us nothing more than what we need to know, and then it stands back, trusting the intelligence of the reader to flesh out the rest". This is the opposite approach from that taken in Crossing to Safety.

While I found the start of the story enjoyable enough, it became increasingly painful to read, in part because of the manipulative character development. The four main characters are intended to be impressive (with repeated overt signs of how sophisticated and cultured they are) but to me each of them came across as annoying and unlikeable. The characters constantly heap praise and adulation on each other, referring to each other as "wonderful", "brilliant", "amazing", etc. , while at the same time each acts modest by pointing out that he/she has flaws. In addition, throughout the book there is an awkward and pretentious overuse of name-dropping of authors and literary references.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Cloggie Downunder TOP 500 REVIEWER on 21 Nov 2012
Format: Paperback
Crossing to Safety is the last novel by American author Wallace Stegner. The year is 1972, and 64-year-old author and college professor, Larry Morgan and his crippled wife, Sally, journey from Albuquerque to enjoy again the hospitality of their friends, Sidney and Charity Lang, at Battell Pond, Vermont. The occasion, Charity's birthday is, however, tinged with sadness as Charity has only a short time to live. On their return to this much loved place, Larry reflects on the couples' friendship, from their meeting as young college teachers in Madison, Wisconsin in 1937, through to tenure at Cambridge, a year's sabbatical together in Florence and back to Albuquerque. Stegner slowly and surely crafts a story with a wonderfully original plot and beautifully developed characters. Two couples, four vastly different people become friends: warm, generous, uncomplaining and thoughtful Sally; dazzling, dominating, theatrical Charity, occasionally a woman of noble generosity, at other times cruel, but always organising, even her own death; Sid, rich as Croesus, a wonderful teacher and sometimes poet; and Larry, a poor, talented author, loyal husband and friend. Stegner touches on the nature of talent, love, friendship and marriage. He includes a marvellous piece of irony when he has Larry explaining why he would not write a book about their friendship: "How do you make a book that anyone will read out of lives as quiet as these? Where are the things that novelists seize upon and readers expect? Where is the high life, the conspicuous waste, the violence, the kinky sex, the death wish? Where are the suburban infidelities, the promiscuities, the convulsive divorces, the alcohol, the drugs, the lost weekends? Where are the hatreds, the political ambitions, the lust for power?Read more ›
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