Sunday, January 20, 2019

Oh, Pioneers



I just finished my first classic of 2019, Willa Cather's Oh, Pioneers. It is the first in what is termed her Great Plains Trilogy, which also includes Song of the Lark and My Antonia. I plan to read all three books this year, and this first book reconfirmed this plan.

Oh, Pioneers was simply marvelous. The writing was superb--strong, clear, deceptively simple, just like the story Cather told in the novel. The heroine, Alexandra Bergson, is the daughter of Swedish immigrants who settle in Nebraska around 1900. Alexandra's father dies early in the story, leaving his level-headed daughter in charge of the family farm in lieu of her brothers, whom he doesn't feel have the right stuff to manage the farm and the family's finances. Alexandra proves him right, and manages to bring the family through hard times to prosperity.

The novel spans several decades and we see the family evolve along with the west. There is joy and sorrow, tragedy and triumph as the Bergsons farm the land, participate in the melting pot community of immigrants who are also trying to build a new home on the American prairie, and seek to take advantage of the educational opportunities that America provides.

The story is a richly detailed account of life on the prairie before WWI changed the world, both the incredible harshness of the land and the beauty and vastness of it.

An excellent start to my classic reading for this year.

Not going to peg this for the Back to the Classics Challenge for 2019 as I have other books in mind for the categories into which it would fit.


9 comments:

  1. Hi Jane,
    When I read this fairly recently (within the past 3 years), I was startled and tremendously moved by the really horrific tragedy that takes place in this novel. Although many proclaim the ways in which Cather presents the essence of the plains, the landscape, and so forth--in this book I felt the plains as a somewhat menacing force, where people are driven to the extremes of existence, in a way. A very, very powerful novel, indeed.

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  2. I had the same experience with this one. Cather was a beautifully talented writer. You'll enjoy My Antonia, too.

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  3. Cather has been on my list of authors that I want to read for awhile I really must give this a try soon. I have heard so much about the writing and descriptions of the land in her books. I am fairly certain that I would get a lot out of these works.

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  4. This book is on top of my TBR, can't wait to read it!

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  5. I absolutely loved this book... my favorite Cather so far! Reading your review makes me want to pick it up again.

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  6. That is a great start to your classic reading year! I love Willa Cather. I'm planning on reading Sapphira and the Slave Girl for my classic Cather novel. (Because that's one of hers I haven't read yet.) :)

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  7. My reading of Cather has been hit and miss but I think O Pioneers will really appeal to me. Great review and glad you are off to a positive start in 2019! :D

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  8. So many people love Willa Cather! I haven't read this one but now I'd like to. I have Death Comes for the Archbishop but I haven't finished it.

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  9. I read this last year and while it was fine ... I think I liked My Antonia much better, but I read that one long ago. I'd like to read My Antonia again.

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