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"Man is not simple. Hobgoblin company of love always with us."
The Wapshot Chronicle is a twin Bildungsroman of sons Moses and Coverly, framed by the letters, journaling, and loneliness of their father Leander. It is a crazy beautiful 20th Century Great Expectations-like novel of a family's depth and breadth, its secrets and its flaws. The two brothers are saddled with the albatross and obligation to insure ensure that Old Honora’s keeps paying the bills (future) for the boys and (current) for their parents.
Cheever fills his novel with dominating mothers, idiosyncratic and co-dependent guardians, changeable wives and costly lovers. The trinity of Wapshot men, float throughout Cheever's novel in a wayward, rudderless boat. Their lives are constantly taking on water and they seem destined to be blown further from the shore by the dominant humor of the nearest strong-willed female.
The characters in The Wapshot Chronicle were amazing. Its language and narrative were incredible. Cheever's satire and ribald humor constantly bit this reader in his lusty-for-good-literature ass.
22 of 24 people found this review helpful
Though the author has a gift with words and listening to the Wapshot Chronicle has its times of funny or poignant interest, overall it seemed to go nowhere. I listened to the end, waiting for some conclusion, something to tie the thing together, but its not there. Instead it is a tale about an eccentric, all-over-the place family, that in the end is sad to me. I don't know about you, but who wants to hear, over and over about three men who meander through life and never really resolve anything?
2 of 4 people found this review helpful
I struggled with a busy schedule to find the time to read... however, half-way through I took time out to read Cheever’s short story The Swimmer which, actually, is head and shoulders above this novel.
The literary acclaim which surrounds The Wapshot Chronicle seems disproportionate to the actual achievement contained in this novel - for a start I don’t think by any means it is within the top 60 books of the Twentieth Century.
Equally, the fear - which it is claimed has been completely countered, that the novel is simply a collection of short-stories strung together by a connecting theme of family and the individual members thereof - doesn’t seem in my view to stand up to scrutiny either. This is a long, rambling tome which at times is really quite entertaining and at other times drifts into mediocrity of a sort that is not a feature of Cheever’s concentrated short story form.
Worth reading to get the whole picture on John Cheever, but I’m pretty certain that his reputation lies in his short-story achievement and will continue to do so.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
What did you like most about The Wapshot Chronicle?
What a pleasure to be told a story in prose so beautifully clear, subtle and strong. Nothing forced or flashy. No literary gimmickry. And no narrative fat. Cheever's background as a short story writer shows in every line of this lovely, superbly-crafted novel. His aesthetic sensibility as a stylist is as sound as his eye is perceptive.
In this tale centring on a group of characters related to the Wapshot family, the author delivers a perfectly judged and imaginatively constructed evocation of place, character, and period. A terrific antidote to the nostalgic cinematic vision we are familiar with.
Perfectly paced, with deftness and masterly precision we are presented through multiple view-points, a complex variety of interior experiences of characters grounded in a community which, in lesser hands, might so easily have turned into a ponderous family saga, the arty subtext of which would be to present a profound portrait of a national character. For sure, this is certainly another serious shot at 'The Great American Novel', but (lucky us) it's also light and graceful, full of unexpected narrative entertainments which hook us effortlessly on a trip of emotional depth-charges. The delight and pathos have an authenticity. Nothing vaguely gimmicky or soapy about this family drama. Mr. Cheever doesn't do banal, or 'ordinary' apparently.
This is a striking, authentically original voice which suckers us into buying story as truth. And very entertaining to listen to. Easy.
What did you like best about this story?
The original pictures painted; the insights offered by them.
There's an emotional truth at the core of every character. The skill and subtlety of the Cheever's characterisation is a rare treat. Authentic artistry. I thought the examination of sexuality was particularly interesting and well handled. Very perceptive. I couldn't be more impressed.
The scope of Cheever's imagination is really impressive. His' struck struck me as a drinker's unflinching gaze looking upon an America of fascinating, telling details. The story is shot through with a gently melancholic poetry which I associate with that generation. It's a wonderfully visual depiction of late-50s America which constantly places us in a variety of narrative scenarios at once familiar and yet unexpected. Very fresh and cliche-free, it's re-informed my take on that time and the notion of American soul. This has much to do with Cheever's personal combination of sensitivity, humour, deep seriousness and grace. And love for his subject, of course.
Which character – as performed by Joe Barrett – was your favourite?
Joe Barrett's performance was uniformly excellent across a very wide variety of character types -- all compelling literary creations. The performance reminded me how very much I prefer American audio books to be voiced by American readers and European by Europeans (or do I mean Brits?).
Did you have an emotional reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?
I did laugh out loud in places, smiled very frequently and had a lump in my throat at the end. More often though I was simply transported by the sombre, soulful beauty of much of the story. And refreshed by some ravishing turn in the lines.
Any additional comments?
Ignore the naysayers, This book is highly-rated by the literary types with good reason. It's first rate.
Only the second novel I've 'read' by John Cheever, I'm now a solid fan. Going to eat-up those short stories, I'm sure.