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Death Comes for the Archbishop (Vintage Classics) [Paperback]

4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)

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Book Description

6 Mar 1990 0679728899 978-0679728894 Reissue
Willa Cather's best known novel; a narrative that recounts a life lived simply in the silence of the southwestern desert.

Product details

  • Paperback: 297 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Books; Reissue edition (6 Mar 1990)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679728899
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679728894
  • Product Dimensions: 20.4 x 13.3 x 1.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 658,565 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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A tremendous, ranging story, economical and distilled as poetry ... A lovely book (JANE GARDAM)

A powerful piece of writing, rich with the essence of a poor but beautiful country and a simple but dignified people (SUNDAY TIMES)

Quite simply a masterpiece . . . I am completely bowled over by it . . . This will be a book which I go on rereading (A. N. Wilson, TELEGRAPH) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Book Description

Willa Cather's best known novel; a narrative that recounts a life lived simply in the silence of the southwestern desert. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
4.1 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Strange... very, very, very strange 29 Mar 1998
By A Customer
I picked up this book in the library purely because of the title. There are certain book titles which, upon seeing, compel me to pick up the book and read it, no matter the content, and "Death Comes for the Archbishop" was one of them. I was expecting to read a dark, gothic novel with deep, philosophical discussions about the nature of good and evil, perhaps with Death and the Archbishop sitting down to a game of chess or something. Instead what do I get? Some thinly veiled Christian dogma set in an "Oh, California" textbook.

But here's the strange part... I actually LIKED this book. For no tangible reason, I couldn't put it down. Now, to reiterate, this was what I would have considered, by any normal standards, to be an extremely stupid, boring book. There is no plot, to speak of. There are pages and pages, entire chapters almost, devoted solely to describing how peaceful and beautiful the arid New Mexican landscape is. And although it spans almost fifty years, it moves at the pace of a lone French missionary jorneying through the desert. But despite all this, I found myself liking it more intensely than almost any other book I've ever read. I found myself caught up in its slow, quiet, undulating rhythm. In fact, towards the end, I practically had tears in my eyes from the beauty of it all.

I would have given it a ten, if I didn't find this whole thing so damn unsettling.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great story of harsh life in the wild west. 27 Sep 1997
By A Customer
I picked up this book during the summer of 1997 in Bandelier National Monument, near Santa Fe, NM. A park guide recommended it & said that Ms. Cather visited the park in the 1920's, when there were no roads to the park. This book will be a treat to anyone who has travelled to or has lived in Enchanting NM. The places that she describes (Pecos, Taos, Santa Fe, Albuquerque) are all very familiar places today. I could not put it down on my 4 hour flight back home from NM. Ms. Cather leads you on the Archbishop's adventures through the wild areas of NM. You will eat in the indian villages, the indian guides will lead you through a snow storm on horseback, you will sleep in a sacred cave and will have to swear to the indians that you will not reveal the secret, you will have a run in with an arrogant, corrupt missionary, you will happen upon a murderous loner in the desert and help his beaten wife escape the tyrant, you will even stay with Kit Carson for a grand dinner party!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Even though Willa Cather was not a Catholic, she has created a moving description of the dedication of a missionary bishop in New Mexico, and the difficulties he encountered in his work. Carefully crafted writing and the integration of the historical facts make this a must-read.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
This is a beautiful work which pulls you in on a number of levels and is at times both funny and moving. Set in the ninteenth century it is the story of a Bishop and his colleague who are sent by Rome to New Mexico to reawaken the Catholic faith. What they find when they get there is a land and a way of life completely alien to them. The story follows them on their quixotic quest as they meet their flock. The central characters are brilliantly drawn as are the unusual individuals they meet. The amazing landscape is vividly captured throughout, particularly in one section about a village built high on a tower of rock in the centre of an endless plain. Based on the life of a real priest this is a story which deals both with the vastness of a magnificent landscape and the foibles and subtleties of the human heart.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars God in the American Southwest 9 Jun 2008
By Robin Friedman TOP 500 REVIEWER
Willa Cather's novels divide into three periods. Her early novels including "O Pioneers" and "My Antonia" focus on strong women who succeed, if only at great cost, in mastering the American Midwest. Her middle period novels such as "Lucy Gayheart" and "A Lost Lady" also take place on the Nebraska plains. They also feature women as main characters. They emphasize more than do the earlier books a sense of loss and disillusion and the need for the salvation of religion.

Cather's late style is exemplified in "Death Comes for the Archbishop", written in 1927. The protagonists in this book are primarily men. This book is a historical novel and takes place in the American Southwest, with Santa Fe as the center beginning in the 1850's and continuing through the end of the 19th Century. The heros of the book are two Catholic priests, Father Jean Latour and Father Joseph Vailant who have been friends from their youth in the seminary in France. They are sent to New Mexico to bring Catholicism to the developing American territory. The novel is based on the letters of priests and missionaries in the area at the time together with Cather's own experiences and the work of her imagination.

The novel is full of descriptions of the landscape of the American Southwest, its distances, bleakness, deserts, frost, wind, cold, and Pueblos. There are descriptions of the people in the area at time, particularly Mexicans and Indians. Kit Carson also has an important role in the book. We see a great deal of the two protagonists as they struggle externally to bring the teachings of the Church to life and internally with their own hearts and spiritual development.

The novel is static and episodic in character. It doesn't have much in the way of a continuous plot.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Regency
I have long heard about this book, Reading it was a delight. Willa Cather is a fascinating and very varied author. Read more
Published 19 months ago by Mr. Andrew H. Williams
5.0 out of 5 stars More than it seems -
Merely an episodic novel about two priest in the Wild West it is not. The descriptions of places are haunting. Read more
Published on 15 Sep 2011 by Mr Stephen D Edwards
5.0 out of 5 stars A masterpiece
Willa Cather admitted that it was misleading to describe this as a novel; she preferred to call it a 'narrative', unfolding at a leisurely pace, gently, one thing after another,... Read more
Published on 16 Mar 2010 by booksetc
5.0 out of 5 stars astounding vision
This book is so beautifully written it is hard to believe it is fiction. The landscapes and the era and the characters come alive better than in any film about the old west. Read more
Published on 16 July 2004 by Timothy Ecott
1.0 out of 5 stars A disappointing religious ramble around New Mexico
...Willa Cather's novel lacks characterisation, is paternalisitic in its attitude to the 'simple but dignified' indigenous people, makes no reference to the indiginities suffered... Read more
Published on 8 Mar 2002
1.0 out of 5 stars The book was long boring, and without a solid plot
I was forced to read this book for summer reading. If my grade had not depended on my reading this i would have burned it after 30 pages. Read more
Published on 15 Aug 1999
5.0 out of 5 stars my favorite book ever
As an English major in college and an all-around lover of literature, I have had the joy of reading some wonderful books by the world's best authors. This book is my favorite. Read more
Published on 30 Mar 1999
4.0 out of 5 stars Page turner
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Cather's descriptions are vivid and extensive, but to my taste not boring. Read more
Published on 20 Mar 1999
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