Thursday, January 18, 2007
Reading My Antonia
This is my second Classics Challenge read, and I can't believe it took me so long to read this! It's a touching, elegaic novel of early immigrant life in Nebraska. It is written in a stately, formal style which gives a poetic gloss to these lives, but it also feels as if the narrator is looking back over a gap of many years. I found the reminiscent tone a bit distancing -- I liked the book, but was never fully engaged in it.
The story details the lives of the Shimerda family, recent Bohemian immigrants, but from the viewpoint of young neighbour Jim Burden. Maybe that was the difficulty; I would have preferred the story from Antonia's side of things. But, perhaps Willa Cather felt she should or could not tell the story from a Bohemian girl's viewpoint, and she instead made Jim into a semi-autobiographical character, using her own life experience to shape the telling. The novel is really about Jim's experience, not Antonia's, and so that might be why it is titled MY Antonia, and not simply Antonia. It is the story of her life mediated through Jim's understanding.
I am glad I read it; I enjoyed the characters of Antonia and her friends Lena, Tiny and 'the three Marys'. And it is nice to get another of those "should-reads" off my life list!