birdWho wrote this book and when?
Wallace Stegner published this in 1976.

Has there been a film version?
No, I don’t believe so.

Who are the important characters?
Joe Allston – the narrator, a writer who is now in his late sixties
Ruth Allston – Joe’s wife, a positive individual
The Countess Astrid – a stigmatized woman living in Denmark who befriends the Allstons

What’s it about?
As he struggles to reconcile himself with getting old, Joe Allston uncovers a set of three diaries from a trip to Denmark he and his wife took earlier in their lives. He and Ruth read through them, finding more than just memories in them. The diaries force them to examine how they have each dealt with the death of their only son, and the influence of the beautiful and tragic Danish Duchess they stayed with.

Why is this book a classic/bestseller?
It’s by Wallace Stegner, who is one of the most heartbreakingly straightforward American authors to write.

Do I recommend you read this book?
Yes, most heartily.

How did this book make my list?
I love Stegner’s writing.

Has it won any awards?
The National Book Award of 1977.

Favorite quotes:
“I sometimes get the feeling my whole life happened to somebody else.” – p 81

“If you were black, sure.  Since you’re female, fine.  If you were blind, deaf, crippled, absolutely.  But if you’re old, you’re up against discrimination that doesn’t even know it’s discrimination.” – p 120

“Getting old is like standing in a long, slow line.  You wake up out of the shuffle and torpor only at those moments when the line moves you one step closer to the window.” – p 171

Anything else?
While this book is mainly about dealing with past regret and getting old, it’s applicable to anyone of any age.

Personal thoughts:
Wallace Stegner never ceases to amaze me as an author.  This is the fourth book I’ve read by him and while not all of them have been good enough to be labeled favorites, they’re still in your face honest and engrossing.  This story is a bit different from his other books.  Instead of following a life, it retrospects on one.  (Is that a verb?  I don’t think so, but I don’t care.)  And it looks at the entire life through the lens of one small point in it – a trip to Denmark.  The main character is equally cynical and lovable, fighting against regret and a feeling that he has wasted the time he was given.  This book is a masterfully written story and I highly recommend it.

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