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24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The drama of the American immigrant struggling to survive.
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...
Published on 9 Oct 2005 by Jana L. Perskie

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Portray of Life in the countryside
Good book on the life in the prairies in US at the beginning of the last century. I believe it may be very close to the real situations of immigrants families from Europe and their start-up as farmers in harsh countryside and somehow unkind nature. I liked the feeling the author gives of landscapes, winter, habits, values of small town and stories from the immigrants...
Published on 27 Jan 2011 by SergeEscudé


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24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The drama of the American immigrant struggling to survive., 9 Oct 2005
This review is from: My Antonia (Paperback)
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. At almost the same time that Jim arrived, the Shimerda family settled on their land. 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. Fourteen year-old Antonia Shimerda, the eldest daughter became a close friend of Jim's. He was immediately drawn to her warmth and friendliness. When Antonia's father, a sensitive, refined man, discovered that Jim was educated he asked the boy to teach his daughter to speak English. "Te-e-ach, te-e-ach my Án-tonia!" he told/asked Mrs. Burden. Together the two young people worked the land and explored the glorious prairie. And Antonia began to learn English.
Unfortunately, Antonia's studies came to an end with her father's tragic suicide. The man missed his native land terribly and was not able to accept his family's extreme poverty or the demands of his wife and son. When he lost his only friends, he sunk into a deep depression from which he was not able to escape. After Mr. Shimerda's death, Antonia had to work even harder, performing the heaviest, most physically demanding chores, just to keep the farm from going under. She was not able to go to school with Jim, and began to slowly lose the refined ways she had learned from her dad.
The author describes Antonia's life as Jim perceives it, and from information he gathers from others about the long periods when he did not have contact with her. Their widely different positions in society dictated their life choices and their fortunes. And their lives, their personal histories, parallel the changes and the transformation of the Great Plains. When Antonia and Jim explored the Nebraskan wilderness, it was a wilderness as far as the eye could see. "There seemed to be nothing to see; no fences, no creeks or trees, no hills or fields. If there was a road, I could not make it out in the faint starlight. There was nothing but land: not a country at all, but the material out of which countries are made. No, there was nothing but land--slightly undulating..." And, "I had the feeling that the world was left behind, that we had got over the edge of it, and were outside man's jurisdiction. I had never before looked up at the sky when there was not a familiar mountain ridge against it. But this was the complete dome of heaven, all there was of it." When Jim makes his return trip by train, years later, everything had changed.
Willa Cather's prose is straightforward, the narrative is deceptively simple and crystal clear. Her characters are complex and the wonderful, richly textured descriptions of the landscape and life on the plains make reading the novel pure pleasure. The author also captures the interior landscape of her characters with great perception and sensitivity. This is a great work of fiction which depicts a people, and a place in time, which only remain on the pages of a book, preserved vividly by Willa Cather.
H.L. Mencken wrote, "No romantic novel ever written in America, by man or woman, is one half so beautiful as 'My Antonia.'"
JANA
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Portray of Life in the countryside, 27 Jan 2011
This review is from: My Antonia (Paperback)
Good book on the life in the prairies in US at the beginning of the last century. I believe it may be very close to the real situations of immigrants families from Europe and their start-up as farmers in harsh countryside and somehow unkind nature. I liked the feeling the author gives of landscapes, winter, habits, values of small town and stories from the immigrants country. The American spirit of mutual help to new immigrants is largely portrayed. Overall it is too often a description of all these situations rather than a well rounded story. I wondered often where the author was aiming at? Was it only a walk through her native Nebraska? Maybe. I would have liked more sentiments and inner life of the characters especially Jim (and other men) as well as Antonia. It was a good book but on very similar themes I preferred John Fante "1933 was a bad year" short but more intense.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars When women went west, 16 Mar 2008
By 
Peter Reeve (Thousand Oaks, CA USA) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: My Antonia (Paperback)
The narrator of this story makes a point of mentioning that the name of the heroine is pronounced with a stress on the first syllable, like the male name `Anthony', with an `a' on the end. This is not an insignificant choice by the author, who in her youth dressed in men's clothes and called herself `William'. Not that this is a `lesbian novel' as such, but it is a very particular viewpoint, in which strong, androgynous women carve a civilization out of a hostile landscape often despite their menfolk rather than thanks to them.

There are some parallels with Owen Wister's The Virginian, where the narrator often leaves the scene to be replaced by the heroine, so that the two take turns in interacting with the idealized hero. Here, Cather has a male narrator speak for her and to interact with Antonia. However, he often adopts a distinctly womanly perspective, with feminine references to hairstyles and fashions and so forth, references that sound somewhat out of character. Many readers have been puzzled by the relationship between the narrator and Antonia, but if you occasionally think of him as really being a woman, it all makes perfect sense.

The story unfolds in a gentle, understated manner. It is about characters and their relationship to the landscape, and how the former and the latter evolve together. There is a hint of mystery associated with a violent death early in the story, but this is not developed or remarked on again.

What makes the novel worthwhile is the fine quality of the writing and the authenticity that Cather brings to the narrative. This is my second Cather novel, the other being Oh Pioneers! which I did not particularly like. If you are new to Cather, I think My Antonia is the place to start.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The harsh realities of immigrant life in rural America at the turn of the century, 18 Jun 2014
By 
Dr R (Norwich, UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: My Antonia (Paperback)
I started this book, published in 1918, without realising that it was the final book of Willa Cather’s Prairie Trilogy, following ‘O Pioneers!’ [1913] and ‘Song of the Lark’ [1915].

A short Introduction, by an unnamed writer [Cather herself?], describes meeting Jim Burden, a boyhood friend and now a successful lawyer for a transcontinental railroad. Both knew Ántonia, the daughter of an immigrant family from Bohemia, when they were younger. When Jim tells the narrator that he has been considering writing about her, the latter encourages him and asks if he could read the manuscript. Some months later Jim gives the narrator a draft and it is this that forms the novel. Before he leaves, Jim prefaces ‘Ántonia’ on the front of the manuscript with ‘My’.

The book opens in the last decades of the 19th-century when Jim is ten years old and, recently orphaned, on the move from Virginia to Black Hawk, Nebraska, to live on his grandparents’ farm. On the way he and Jake Marpole, who will work on the farm, meet an immigrant family from Bohemia traveling to the same area. Shortly after arriving at the farm, Jim finds that the family, the Shimerdas, are his grandparents' closest neighbours.

The first part of the novel describes Jim getting to know the Shimerdas, teaching the children English and the difficulties that the family face trying to scrape a living on inhospitable land. Their difficulties mount when Mr Shimerda dies, whether by suicide or murder is unclear. Jim is drawn to Ántonia, seeing in her the strength and determination of immigrants, and, especially later, associates her with the natural beauty of the expansive Nebraskan landscape.

Ántonia takes over many of her father's responsibilities and must work on the farm rather than attend school. After Jim goes to school in Black Hawk, they meet only rarely and Jim judges her harshly for, as he sees it, preferring farmwork to gaining an education. Jim goes on to high school and his ageing grandparents move into town. He expects to see even less of her now but she decides to find work in town to help her family’s finances. Jim and Ántonia have a group of friends, many the children of Nordic immigrants, and the author makes very clear how the town families look down on the immigrant ‘hired girls’.

The second part of the book describes the lives of these hired girls, notably Ántonia, Lena Lingard and Tiny Soderball. Much of the focus her is on how Jim feels about Lena, although the reader suspects that it is Ántonia who he feels closest to. The third part deals with Lena, by now a successful dressmaker, who has moved to Lincoln, the State capital, where Jim is at university. The fourth part finds Jim, prior to going to Harvard Law School, returning to Black Hawk and catching up with what has happened to Ántonia. In the final part, Jim and Ántonia meet again after 20 years.

The pace of the novel is slow, as befits a tale of America before its transformation by technology. The author describes the rural and urban landscapes under widely differing seasons in a wonderfully vivid manner, and her characters are truly authentic. When we see Jim and Ántonia again after twenty years, they are totally familiar because of the way that Cather has let the reader see them growing up together. Even minor characters stick in the mind, such as the negro piano player, Blind d’Arnault, who gives a concert at the Opera House each year, ‘It was as if all the agreeable sensations possible to creatures of flesh and blood were heaped up on those black-and-white keys, and he were gloating over them and trickling them through his yellow fingers.’

Cather’s descriptions of the harsh climatic and economic conditions of the time are presented unsentimentally [‘Winter comes down savagely over a little town on the prairie. The wind that sweeps in from the open country strips away all the leafy screens that hide one yard from another in the summer, and the houses seem to draw closer together. The roofs that looked so far away across the green tree-tops, now stare you in the face, and they are so much uglier than when their angles were softened by vines and shrubs.’]. After winter comes spring ‘the throb of it, the light restlessness, the vital essence of it everywhere: in the sky, in the swift clouds, in the pale sunshine, and in the warm, high wind – rising suddenly. Sinking suddenly, impulsive and playful like a big puppy that pawed you and lay down to be petted.’

Highly recommended. I will now seek out Cather’s other books, although some critics rate this to be her best.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A joy to read, 2 April 2014
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I wish all novels were as well written as this - a joy to read, evocative of a time long gone but it gives clues as to the rural communities in America today, their history and that of their largely European origins writ large. Wonderful read, all too short, recommended
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5.0 out of 5 stars My antonia, 14 Feb 2014
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J
I've recommended this book to our Reading Group as I loved it so much---beautifully descritive and a lovingly told story
as
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2.0 out of 5 stars Hard to read, 9 Jan 2014
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This is a thrift edition and the size of the print and poor quality yellowish paper made it uncomfortable to read. A wonderful and significant work spoiled by its presentation.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Not my favourite, 16 Nov 2013
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I was not expecting the reporting style of writing. However, the insight into a life in the wild country was very fascinating. I missed a bit of passion though and felt the main character was lacking in initiative, but that was ok too!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great book, 8 Oct 2013
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This was a nice,easy read on my second year English degree course, but I really enjoyed it and would read again.
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5.0 out of 5 stars One of the loveliest books ever, 8 Aug 2013
By 
Paul Turner - See all my reviews
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This review is from: My Antonia (Paperback)
Cather is sublime. Above all, her characters (here orphaned American boy Jim and Antonia, daughter of poor immigrant farmers) live on in the reader's mind and heart for ever. They are archetypes. Like the places visited in her books, from the prairies to the canyons, from New York to 17th-century Quebec, her characters come to life so naturally that they become unforgettable. The introduction to My Antonia, which, at just two or three pages, is actually a key part of the novel, is one of my favourite passages in all literature (and, in this lovely Dover paperback, you get a bit more of it than you do in other editions, where it is curtailed). The relationship between the two central characters is also one of the loveliest relationships in literature. Cather and her characters have many qualities, one of which is strength, another lack of sentiment but great warmth. As a writer, Cather is economical but her prose is consistently fine. The later American writer James Salter is rightly lauded for his beautiful sentences, his wonderful descriptions. Cather is every bit his equal. Her writing is a joy to read. What she has to say and how she says it are inseparable, indispensable, enduringly fine. When you have discovered her, you will struggle to find her equal. Her short stories are as good as the novels. For the full-length books, start with Antonia, Death Comes for the Archbishop, Shadows on the Rock, Song of the Lark, and One of Ours - and somewhere among them dip into the Collected Stories (including the magnificent Neighbour Rosicky and Tom Outland's Story, later incorporated into another of the novels: The Professor's House). For me the early novels Alexander's Bridge and the later Sapphira and the Slave Girl are less good, but overall Cather is one of the finest writers in the English language.
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My Antonia
My Antonia by Willa Cather (Paperback - 1 Jan 1995)
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