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!


  1. Eek...I haven't even begun my classics challenge reading yet! I will have to start one after I've finished the two I'm reading that the moment though or I won't get it done. I sense a lot of reading coming up this weekend!

  2. This is one of the classics I have been meaning to get to for quite some time. Thanks for the nudge in that direction!

  3. I added a link to your review to my Saturday Review of Books at I host this round-up of book reviews each Saturday at Semicolon, and you're welcome to come by any Saturday and add a link to future reviews.

    I remember My Antonia from reading it a long time ago. Mostly I remember the poetic language that you mentioned.

  4. Love the photo of the prairie on your book. It's been a long time since I read the book, but I remember the red cannas, something so bright and beautiful and frivolous blooming in hard surroundings.

  5. Being a prairie dweller, I love this book. I think it Cather's best. For some reason, the description of the earthy mushrooms always stands out in my memory. You can almost taste them!

  6. I started reading Willa Cather a few years ago. She shines when she writes about geography and place.

    I think The Song of the Lark is my favorite; Shadows on the Rock was another fine read.


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