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Book review: Recapitulation, Wallace Stegner

The first Wallace Stegner novel I read was “Crossing to Safety”, which I greatly enjoyed as the now elderly man reminisces about his and his wife’s life, particularly with the couple who are their best friends. For the second novel of his to read I picked “Recapitulation”.

In this novel, again an older man reminisces, this time about his childhood and his journey to adulthood in Salt Lake City.  The novel takes place over the couple of days that Bruce Mason returns to Salt Lake City, where he hasn’t been since he left 45 years ago, to take care of the funeral of his aunt. He has come to re-visit the place of his youth, although once there he finds it difficult to go through some of his memories, as he digs up a number of painful episodes relating to his father, along with various memories with his mother, friends and girlfriend; some memories happier than others.

He initially found it difficult to make friends in his childhood, as his father’s illicit activities required them to move often, and not invite friends to their house, but as he gets older he makes friends and finds a girlfriend. He is close to his mother, who sadly dies when he is a young adult, and so leaving him living alone with his father.

It is sad to read his memories of his father, as he and his father don’t understand each other, and his father appears unkind and uncaring towards both of them. Bruce carries a lot of anger for his father, because of this, but by the end of his trip to Salt Lake City has managed to reconcile these feelings and find some closure.

However he leaves town without visiting his old friend, Joe, who was a great friend and help to him in his difficult upbringing. Here he is worried that when he meets him it may turn out only as a disappointment against his memories, but I find it very unkind to Joe, who wants to see him and did so much for him.

I was disappointed with this book, having greatly enjoyed “Crossing to Safety”, as I found Bruce’s life less interesting to hear about, and the writing slower and with more details in places than I wasn’t interested in reading.

Having finished the book I see that it is a sequel to “The Big Rock Candy Mountain”, but right now it does not leave me interested enough to want to pick that up.  Saying that, I will try another of his novels soon.

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This entry was posted on January 2, 2016 by in Book review and tagged , , .
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