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My Antonia (Oxford World's Classics) [Paperback]

Willa Cather , Janet Sharistanian
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
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Book Description

11 Dec 2008 Oxford World's Classics
'As I looked about me I felt that the grass was the country, as the water is the sea. The red of the grass made all the great prairie the colour of wine-stains...And there was so much motion in it; the whole country seemed, somehow, to be running.'

My Antonia (1918) depicts the pioneering period of European settlement on the tall-grass prairie of the American midwest, with its beautiful yet terrifying landscape, rich ethnic mix of immigrants and native-born Americans, and communities who share life's joys and sorrows. Jim Burden recounts his memories of Antonia Shimerda, whose family settle in Nebraska from Bohemia. Together they share childhoods spent in a new world. Jim leaves the prairie for college and a career in the east, while Antonia devotes herself to her large family and productive farm. Her story is that of the land itself, a moving portrait of endurance and strength.

Described on publication as 'one of the best [novels] that any American has ever done', My Antonia paradoxically took Cather out of the rank of provincial novelists as the same time that it celebrated the provinces, and mythologized a period of American history that had to be lost before its value could be understood.
ABOUT THE SERIES: For over 100 years Oxford World's Classics has made available the widest range of literature from around the globe. Each affordable volume reflects Oxford's commitment to scholarship, providing the most accurate text plus a wealth of other valuable features, including expert introductions by leading authorities, helpful notes to clarify the text, up-to-date bibliographies for further study, and much more.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: OUP Oxford (11 Dec 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 019953814X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199538140
  • Product Dimensions: 19.3 x 12.7 x 1.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 18,759 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"The arrival of a definitive text . . . does timely service. Handsomely printed, and replete with textual notes and James Woodress's assiduous history of the novel's composition and reception, it gives My Antonia due scholarly format."-Review of English Studies --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Book Description

In this powerful and astonishing novel, Willa Cather created one of the most winning yet thoroughly convincing heroines in American fiction. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Leaves You Wondering! 16 April 2007
By James Gallen TOP 1000 REVIEWER
I started "My Antonia" just to find out what this literary classic was about. I soon found myself captivated by a development of characters and their relationships.

The story is seen through the eyes of Jim Burton, who begins the story as a ten year old orphan traveling from his family home in Virginia to his grandparents' farm near Black Hawk, Nebraska. The other two primary characters in the book are Antonia Shimerda, a Bohemian immigrant four years older than Jim, and Lena Lingard, a similarly aged girl from the local Norwegian community. As the years and the book pass, we see the characters develop in different ways. During this their relationships change, but the reader's interest is held.

The ability of this book to captivate the reader in intriguing! It has no real crises, no particular tragedies, just developing personalities and relationships. Although the main characters change, they all seem to develop along self directed lines, with no winners or losers. At the end the reader rides off with Jim, possessing many of the same feelings as he expresses. One test I apply to a novel is whether it leaves me wondering. Wondering why the characters lives develop as they do, wondering if the characters are really satisfied with their lives, wondering whether they desire something that the others have, wondering what happens to them after the last page. I am still wondering about "My Antonia." Any book that can do that has earned its status as a classic.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Published in 1918, this novel, set on the plains of Nebraska, is as fresh and memorable today as it was when it was published, largely because author Willa Cather has chosen to emphasize her fascinating characters and setting, instead of creating a fast-paced plot. As children, Jim Burden and Antonia Shimerda arrive on the plains of Nebraska at the same time, he to live with his grandparents, and she and her family to try to carve out a new life for themselves after emigrating from Bohemia. Jim narrates the story, as he and Antonia, a few years older, discover that nature offers many opportunities for exploration and joy. Both children also help work their farms, however, and they also understand nature's harshness.

For Cather, who lived in Nebraska, life on the plains, seen through Jim and Antonia and their families, offers freedom and independence--the kind of sturdy self-reliance that enables children to build strong characters. Though her portrait of life on the farm is sometimes romantic (as seen with Jim's first Christmas celebration during a snowstorm when everyone was housebound), life is also full of danger and uncertainty, a price farmers are willing to pay to live close to the land and away from cities. Eventually, both Jim and Antonia leave the farm for better opportunities, she to work in Black Hawk, and Jim to attend Harvard. Their paths diverge and do not reconnect for twenty years.

Antonia, as Jim lovingly portrays her, is a character who throws herself into whatever she is doing, whether it is plowing or learning to cook. Her joyful embrace of whatever life offers is a testament to her spirit, which we see as characteristic of the strong, independent prairie women she represents.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
In 1882, when author Willa Cather was nine years-old, her family left their home in Back Creek Valley, Virginia, and moved to Nebraska, near the settler country in Red Cloud where they farmed a homestead. Ms. Cather, often thought of as a chronicler of the pioneer American West, frequently drew on her memories of prairie culture and her own personal experiences. She wrote about the themes closest to her heart. Of primary importance was the drama of the immigrant struggling to survive in a new world, epitomized here in "My Antonia." In this extraordinary novel, Miss Cather weaves together the story of Antonia Shimerda, an immigrant girl from Bohemia who represents the optimism, determination and pure grit that newcomers to America needed to make a successful life, and that of American-born Jim Burden, our narrator.
Burden, a successful and cultured East-coast lawyer, is returning to his childhood home in Blackhawk, Nebraska for a visit. On the long train ride, he reminisces with an unnamed friend about the place where they had both grown up and about the people they knew - especially their dear friend Antonia, "who seemed to mean to us the country, the conditions, the whole adventure of our childhood."
When young Jim Burden was orphaned at age ten, he left his native Virginia to live with his grandparents on their farm, just outside of Blackhawk, Nebraska. At almost the same time that Jim arrived, the Shimerda family settled on their homestead. Mrs. Shimerda had argued effectively for a move to America so that the children, especially Ambrosch, the eldest son, would have the chance to make a better life for themselves, with more possibilities of moving up in the social hierarchy and of acquiring wealth. The Bohemian newcomers were the Burden's closest neighbors.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
I think a lot of the problems people have reading this book arise out of our expectations of what a novel should be like, ie with a plot that (usually) follows the hero's journey. Once you accept that the narrator has chosen this form of flowing narration (and for good reasons, realism being one) it is possible to enjoy the novel. The beautifully evoked settings and concentration on day to day non-events, and detailed description of a cohort of insignificant-yet-significant characters, reminds me of the experience one gets from a Steinbeck novel. The main difference is that My Antonia is far more idealistic and optimistic in tone than say, The Grapes of Wrath or East of Eden, although there is suicide and illness, death and decline. It is very bouyant, and written with a loving eye and expressive pen.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Well written
A widow to an era that was soon wiped away by the great depression. Good well developed characters and a flair for description.
Published 11 months ago by Eoin Mellett
4.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful
This is a lovely gentle book. I love how it has been written, it was not a could not put down book but I'm glad I read it.
Published 11 months ago by Lavinia Tomkins
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful book
This was about the fifth copy I've bought - after I read the first one. A wonderful book, perhaps not everyone would enjoy it, but it's very perceptive and deep-thinking and I... Read more
Published 13 months ago by Mrs. S. G. H. Green
5.0 out of 5 stars Willa Cather superb writer
Beautifully written absorbing story of early pioneering times is America, didn't want it to end. Had not read this author before, excellent.
Published 13 months ago by patricia
5.0 out of 5 stars A memorable book!!!
A wonderfully atmospheric book. You really got the sense of the trials the pioneers had to endure and out of that environment some wonderful characters emerged.
Published 14 months ago by MRS JEAN HOLLOWAY
4.0 out of 5 stars like a personal account
brought to life a time which will never be again. The physical challenges to both men and women. Really enjoyed it.
Published 15 months ago by pamela Baggaley
4.0 out of 5 stars A memoir of a great friendship
It is the story of an orphaned boy, moved across country to live with his grandparents and the endutring friendships he forms, most particularly with the woman who will be his... Read more
Published 16 months ago by barbara
5.0 out of 5 stars Lovely book
This book is a good size ( bigger than some paperback novels) and it has a good clear print which makes for easy reading. Read more
Published 17 months ago by Meg
4.0 out of 5 stars Good
Interesting. I would not have read it if I did not belong to a book club and glad I did.
Published 19 months ago by Ab
5.0 out of 5 stars Another good read
I discovered Willa Cather last year (Death comes to the Archbishop) and was determined to read more. Read more
Published 19 months ago by Ms R Robbins
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