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Angle of Repose (Penguin Modern Classics) Paperback – 30 Mar 2006
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"Two stories, past and present, merge to produce what important fiction must: a sense of the enhancement of life". -- Los Angeles Times
The novel tells the story of Lyman Ward, a retired professor of history and author of books about the Western frontier, who returns to his ancestral home in the Sierra Nevada. Wheelchair-bound with a crippling bone disease, Ward embarks nonetheless on a search to rediscover his grandmother, no long dead, who made her own journey to Grass Valley nearly a hundred years earlier.See all Product description
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The novel is set in the early 1970s as a retired academic writes the story of his grandparents' marriage through a series of discovered letters, artefacts and clippings. The family story begins in the 1870s and spans a period of roughly 15 years as the saga is told. A talented and artistic young women begins her life with an ambitious and somewhat stoic engineer who plans to help pioneer in the American west. Via California, Colorado, Mexico, Idaho and later back to California the story weaves between episodes of hope and despair as one fate befalls another.
Concurrently, the author, writing from his wheelchair in the ancestral cottage in California, looks at the process of marriage and life with disappointment both in his grandparents' past and in his own present. Very believable characters and expansive prose serve to transport the reader effectively to a world gone by - some of the descriptive passages of travelling in the old west especially stood out as some of the best I've ever read.
This is the first book of his that I've read and I will definitely read more.
Still haven't checked out how closely the book follows Mary Foote's correspondence, but what a great idea using authentic sources as a basis for an historical novel, ensuring the reader gets a true feel for the times.