Title: My Antonia
Author: Willa Cather
Genre: Historical fiction
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Source: Print copy from my personal library
First line: Last summer I happened to be crossing the plains of Iowa in a season of intense heat, and it was my good fortune to have for a traveling companion James Quayle Burden – Jim Burden, as we still call him in the West.
Goodreads blurb: One of Cather’s earliest novels — written in 1918 — is the story of Antonia Shimerda, who arrives on the Nebraska frontier as part of a family of Bohemian emigrants. In quiet, probing depth, the story commemorates the spirit and courage of the immigrant pioneers whose persistence and strength helped to build America.
My Antonia is considered an American classic, and the honor is much deserved. Willa Cather has written a simple yet beautiful story about a fiercely strong woman who embodies the spirit of the Midwest. Though the title belongs to Antonia, her story is told by Jim Burden, a young man and neighbor who spends his life halfway in love with her.
Cather is a master at writing description, giving the reader just enough detail to thrust him or her into the world of the novel, where the characters become known…
Grandfather’s prayers were often very interesting. He had the gift of simple and moving expression. Because he talked so little, his words had a peculiar force; they were not worn dull from constant use. His prayers reflected what he was thinking about at the time, and it was chiefly through them that we got to know his feelings and his views about things. ~ p. 43
…and the setting is felt.
The snow did not fall this time, it simply spilled out of heaven, like thousands of feather-beds being emptied. ~ p. 46
As I read this book, I was continually moved by how amazingly hard and brutal the lives of women were in the Midwest of the early 20th century. The amount of work performed, especially by the women who immigrated most recently, was staggering. I never would have survived back then! I was also surprised by the amount of prejudice that existed against the immigrant families. It was subtle, but it still existed, and it was simply understood that the “local” boys would not marry any of the immigrant girls.
I am glad that such a worthy and wonderful read kicked off our “I’ve Always Meant to Read That Book!” Challenge year, and I hope that many of you enjoyed it as well.
For those of you who have also read My Antonia this month, please leave a link to your review in the Mr. Linky. If you don’t have a blog, feel free to leave your thoughts in the comment section below.