The Wapshot Scandal by John Cheever

The Wapshot ScandalAfter reading The Wapshot Chronicle on my first list of 100, I was so impressed, I made certain I would revisit the works of John Cheever.

While The Wapshot Scandal can certainly stand on its own, having read its predecessor, I believe, made it all the more enjoyable.  Cheever’s ability is like a fine needle weaving in and out of beautiful fabric to eventually reveal a   thing of beauty.

Cheever starts us out in St. Botolphs, Massachusetts, the home town of the Wapshot family, but takes us away on a journey that leads as far as Rome and eventually circles back to the family origins.

The current family patriarch, Honora Wapshot is a colorful woman, full of strong opinions not left unsaid.  She is also a very generous woman and has kept the family financially secure for many years.  Her reaction to accusations of tax evasion lead her to flee the country.  She is nearly fleeced by a con man aboard a ship, sits with the Pope and is adored by those strangers who she gives money to.  Reminded me of an aunt long gone.

Coverly Wapshot is described as an annoying knuckle cracker and not too bright.  He seems to walk through life unaware of the turmoil surrounding him which makes him an ideal employee at the Missile Research center where he works.  Perhaps not one considered an intellect, but a very decent man.

Betsey Wapshot is the martyred wife to Coverly.  Never happy, she wants only to be accepted socially and all her attempts fall flat.  When her sister comes to visit, we learn that she was abused as a child and apparently never acknowledged it.  The target of her abuse is Coverly, who takes her jabs as if they were love pats.  The type of woman who you make excuses to get away from.

Dr. Cameron is Coverly’s boss and is considered a genius by his colleagues.  He takes Coverly under his wing, not as a favor, but because he considers him simple.  We learn, however, that this man has some very dark skeletons in his closet which shake up all it seems, but Coverly.  A man to be avoided at all costs.


The village, he knew, had, like any other, its brutes and its shrews, its thieves, and its perverts, but like any other it meant to conceal these facts under a shine of decorum that was not hypocrisy but a guise or mode of hope.  

Coverly was one of those men who labor under a preternaturally large sense of guilt that, like some enormous bruise, concealed by his clothing, could be carried painlessly until it was touched, but once it was touched it would threaten to unnerve him with its pain.  

The street lights burned  and the store windows were lighted but there was still a rosy light from the setting sun and he felt that excitement he always experienced in the ball park when, during the fourth or fifth inning of a double-header, they would turn on the lights while the sky was still blue.  

I would love to stroll the seaside with Mr. Cheever after enjoying a light fare.  Perhaps he’d share with me his early days as a struggling writer.  What I’d love to uncover is how he was able to get so deeply into the minds of such distinctly different people.

My rating for The Wapshot Scandal is a 9 out of 10.

Please share your own reviews or  comments by using the link below.

Next up, Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Notes from Underground…Notes from Underground


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