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on 3 July 2014
I started reading this book yesterday morning very early on a bus journey I was dreading; from a few pages in, it completely changed my view of my surroundings and of the trip I was undertaking. The words in the book are so beautiful, the descriptions so vivid that from the start I read slowly, savouring each page. I took the time to look out of the window and to appreciate how the morning sun was illuminating the green fields around me, the mist handing on church spires in the distance. As I got deeper into the book, I got attached to Sally and Larry, and Sid and Charity, the four main protagonists, whose friendship is the underlying theme. Stegner tells of their lives, of the wonderful fun they have, in snow, on boats, in the outside; of the parties they organise, of the adventures they go on, but also of the sorrows they face. The focus is on the relationship between Sid and Charity, who have very opposing characterics. The dilemmas they face seem real, and I often paused to ask myself what I would do in a given situation. On several occasions, it also became a page-turner, making me speed up to find out the outcome of certain predicaments.
Like other wonderful books such as Siri Hudvest's What I love, it talks beautifully of art. It made me what to go to museums, to listen to music properly, to create, to develop my life. I really can't recommend this book enough; I will definitely reread it, and then make my way through all of Stegner's other writings.
2 people found this helpful
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on 11 August 2014
This novel started off full of promise and I loved the story of two married academic couples bound in friendship and their early married life. But then, three quarters of the way through, the story loses its way as if Stegner had no idea how to finish it. Was there something symbolic about the two wives becoming neutralised, physically damaged, while their husbands stagger on and survive, fully armed? Perhaps the answer is there somewhere but I raced through the endless boring detail and description in the latter part of the novel, detail that left ragged ends and seemed to go nowhere. Final analysis, disappointing.
(Freak Out! My Life with Frank Zappa)
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on 13 July 2013
This was our book club choice and not one I would have chosen for myself for all sorts of reasons, but then that's why I belong to a book club. It was an easy read, not at all challenging. Until you start to think it over.
It is an in-depth study of relationships and the many things that drive people's behaviour and relationships. In the end it was challenging, as it makes you re-think your own relationships, and the relationships of people you know. Our book club discussion drew out further aspects that I hadn't seen, but had been discovered by others. Great book that creeps up on you.
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on 30 May 2014
I read this because of a book group I subscribe to.

The most interesting aspect of the novel was the relationship of Charity and Sid: it involved me because the character of Charity was by turns irritating and admirable, though I was more irritated than admiring.

I was uncertain to give it four or three stars as although it was well written I thought Stegner's occasional autobiographical input detracted somewhat, especially the Florence chapter.
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on 3 January 2013
Heard a +ve review for this one on Radio 4 and got it as a Christmas present. Read it in two days, enjoying every minute. You really, really connect with the characters - two couples that meet in their early 20's. It is a truly splendid journey that provokes thought and reflection like no other book I have read before. He wrote this as an old man looking back picking out all the key moments in an epic friendship. Wow.
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on 19 December 2013
With little in the way of an actual story, you'd expect at least to find the characters sympathetic and the descriptions absorbing... and maybe there'd be a a bit of drama or at least tension. None of that. I tried and tried but gave up about two-thirds of the way through. Easily the least satisfying of the thirty or so novels I've read this year. My difficulty is grasping why everyone else seems to like it so much.
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on 16 March 2015
I read a mention of this in a biography, which said it was the best book about friendship that person had ever read. I ordered it there and then and am so glad I did. Deeply drawn characters and a lovely writing style with some glorious passages.
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on 16 April 2013
A beautifully crafted novel which suggests how the story is going to finish right at the beginning which actually enhances the reader's involvement. Wallace Stegner claims it is the closest to an autobiography that he could have written and he is represented by a male narrator. He portrays the other characters sensitively in an academic arena and an intense relationship with another married couple.

No violence - lots of understanding of human relationships-detailed examination of the importance of literature and writing.

Our reading group could have continued our discussion well into the night. A very thought provoking story.
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on 8 June 2013
At the beginning of the book I thought it was going to be an fairly typical (and relatively uninteresting) American campus novel, but then it became something much more interesting. About friendship and marriage and the compromises and sacrifices involved in both. And ultimately about what it is to be human.
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on 19 March 2013
Slow and unpromising initially and the American style of writing was at times off putting. The smugness and lack of self doubt in any aspect of life of the story teller was annoying but the portrayal of a marriage between a dominant wife and apparently more passive husband interesting and helpful, as were the examples of how to cope with disabling and terminal illnesses of Sally and Charity.
3 people found this helpful
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