March 17, 2009

My Antonia by Willa Cather

BOOK #: 17
CHALLENGES: Triple 999, New Authors, Centuries Challenge
RATING: 3 Stars

"Before I could sit down in the chair she offered me, the miracle happened; one of those quiet moments that clutch the heart, and take more courage than the noisy, excited passages in life."

Ah, I loved Jim and Antonia. They have the world's greatest love affair that never goes beyond friendship. They first meet as they are riding out to the farms outside of Black Hawk, Nebraska to start life anew- Jim with his grandparents after becoming an orphan, and Antonia with her family after leaving Bohemia. Jim begins to give Antonia English lessons and they fall into the greatest friendship a person could hope to have in life. Even after they grow up and part ways when they reunite it is as if they had never spent a day apart.

The story is told completely from Jim's viewpoint. His perspective is a wonderful way to tell the story. His affection for Antonia and the situations around him helped me to feel for the characters more than a third-person narrative would have. He relates everything from planting corn in the fields to the strange incidence with the Russian neighbors with fresh eyes and a gentle spirit.

Antonia's father dies tragically at one point in the book and she and her family must figure out how to run a farm and survive without him. The loss of Antonia's father, of course, reminded me of my own recent loss. I teared up as Cather described her father's funeral. After her father dies, Antonia has to work in the fields with her older brother in order to support her family. Even when she takes the opportunity to live and work in town, she knows one day she has to go back out to the country that makes her feel at home. She is strong, determined, intelligent, and when she made a choice that could change her life and reputation forever, I was glued to the book to see what happened.

It's just a really great story. It is no wonder it is a beloved classic.

"The country girls were considered a menace to the social order. Their beauty shone out too boldly against a conventional background. It was at the Vanni's tent (a traveling tent for dancing that came to town) that Antonia was discovered. Hitherto she had been looked upon more as a ward of the Harlings than as one of the 'hired girls'. But after the tent came, she began to go out with the other girls and their friends. The Vanni's often said that Antonia was the best dancer of them all. There were always partners for her; she began to dance before she got her breath. Antonia's success at the tent had its consequences... A crisis was inevitable."

Other Reviews of My Antonia:

6 comments:

  1. Inevitable crisis? Sounds familiar!

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  2. For some reason, I always pick this up at the library and then put it back. One of these days I'll have to stop that and make it reach the counter!

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  3. The quotes made me remember how much I liked this book! O,Pioneers
    was even better.

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  4. I noticed your mention of this book while visiting Kelly aka The Chic Geek. It surprises me whenever I see someone reading it. It is a fine book, in my opinion, and as someone else said, O Pioneers is even better.

    It would be beneficial if more people were reading more books written in the late 19th and early- to mid-20th centuries. Try Giants in the Earth and The Boat of Longing by O.E. Rolvaag for another pair of winners. Or any by Mari Sandoz, if you haven't already discovered them.

    Neat site.

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  5. I love Willa Cather! My Antonia is one of my favorites as is O Pioneers. My absolute favorite Cather novel is Death Comes for the Archbishop. It is very different from My Antonia, but has a stark beauty in the writing that I love.

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  6. My Antonia is the first Willa Cather novel I have read. I will have to check out Death Comes for the Archbishop and O Pioneers. I will also have to look into Giants of the Earth and The Boat of Longing. Thanks for the recommendations! And thanks for coming by and saying hello!

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