Customer Reviews

91
4.3 out of 5 stars
My Antonia
Format: PaperbackChange
Price:£5.50+Free shipping with Amazon Prime
Your rating(Clear)Rate this item


There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.

27 of 27 people found the following review helpful
on 9 October 2005
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
11 commentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on 14 April 1999
Willa Cather's novel is the most beautiful story of the lives of plain people that I have ever read.
Her strength as a novelist lies in her ability to weave a wonderful story around the lives of ordinary characters; ordinary in the sense that everything they feel, every word that they speak, and all that they do, is perfectly understandable to the reader.
Every time I read My Antonia, I wish I could find, like young Jim Burden does, a warm yellow pumpkin to lean my back against, and feel the sun warm my face as I watched the wind push the prarie grass in rolling waves of shimmering green. I am sure that in doing so I would find real happiness.
Cather is an artist, and the full, rich landscape of the frontier prarie is her canvas. On it she creates beautiful images of sunsets and prarie flowers; disturbing pictures of suicide and infidelity; brushstrokes of true friendship and true hardship and determination and strength.
The reunion of Jim and Antonia is beautifully unforgettable, and tells the whole story: when Jim's success as a big city attorney is squared against the humility of Antonia's existence - her fruit cave and orchard trees and grape arbour, and her wriggling, giggling flock of children, it fades down and disappears like a setting sun.
In finishing the story with this visit, Cather preserves the magic of the land, the strength of those who tamed it, and the unbreakable bond between the two.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
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.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
6 of 6 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. Jim, on the other hand, though professionally successful, is far more constrained, a man whose character may have been formed on the prairie but whose life has moved toward the hurly-burly of urban life. Antonia becomes Mother Nature or the Earth Mother, a woman surrounded by many children on the farm, while Jim, who works for the railroad and lives in the highly populated east, represents the growing industrialization of the country.

Throughout this warm and sensitive novel, Cather includes many symbols. When Jim, in the presence of Antonia, kills a gigantic snake, the Garden of Eden comes to mind. The seasons dominate the lives of the characters, and some of the saddest events occur in the depths of winter. Roads wind into and out of the farmland and are a sharp visual contrast to the railroad for which Jim eventually works. As Cather develops her characters and follows them for twenty-five years, the reader comes to know them and to understand their choices. A moving tribute to the pioneer spirit and to those, like Antonia, who helped settle the plains. Mary Whipple
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 12 May 1999
As a high school English teacher, I have used My Antonia as a book for my sophomores to read for six years in a row. It is personally one of my very favorite books. I love the book, and teach the book, for three major reasons: the way it treats the landscape; the episodic structure; and the early feminist tendencies of Antonia herself.
The trees being visited like they are people. The undulating fields of prairie grass taller than the head of a man. The huts carved out of the sides of the hills, with walls made of the turf itself. The footpaths becoming roads as the population increases. The mystery of the multitude of stars in the Heavens at night. The essential nature of mother earth, and the connection of man and woman to the earth, cannot be ignored here, even by jaded modern teenagers.
Instead of a plot to "drive" the novel, many episodes combine to let the reader form a complete picture in his or her own mind. The spaces in between the episodes allow for some imagination and conjecture on the part of the reader. In the end, the story of two lives--one woman and one man--feels vivid and complete, though some may find it bittersweet. We know much of where Jim and Antonia end up their lives as adults, and there is a sense of completeness, despite having no plot present to guide the reader.
And Antonia herself. If ever there was a strong personage, for my money it is Antonia. In another later era, she would have been Rosie the Riveter, or in an earlier one, Knut Hamsun's Inger. Antonia is supportive of her family, even as she moves off the prairie into town to live at the Harlings. When Mr. Harling's concerns about her dancing come to a head, she makes a bold decision to leave her comfortable service with them for a less certain future, one where her independence remains intact, unchecked. And in her relationship with Jim, she could easily have let him possess her. She knows in her heart, though, that Jim is destined for brighter lights. She even warns Lena to leave him alone. Antonia propels him on to his destiny, thinking that she will not be a part of it. Read the book if you want to find out if she was right!
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 25 January 1999
My Antonia by Willa Cather is set in the farmlands of Nebraska during the late 1800's. The main characters are a young inexperienced boy named Jim and a strong willed girl named Antonia. I thought the book was unique and worth reading.
It was like a fresh breath of air from reading other stuffy books. The first reason I liked it was because the setting was clear. I never knew what Nebraska looked like until I read the book! I felt like I was standing on the long, red, grassy farmlands. The author described the setting so that the reader could get a better feeling for the story. Another reason was the characters were described very well. The main characters, Jim and Antonia were described to make you feel that they were like real people. Jim snuck out of his house to go to the Fireman's dances every Friday night, when his Grandparents forbid him to go. Antonia had a child with her fiancé who ran away from her before they were married. The last reason was the theme was fantastic. The theme was Jim's admiration for Antonia. Even when Antonia had a bunch of kids and was older, he still admired her inner strength, intelligence, and beauty.
My Antonia is a different kind of a romantic novel. It wasn't gushy, otherwise I wouldn't have read it at all! The novel was exciting and a really good page-turner. My Antonia is a novel you would want to read sometime during your lifetime.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 7 August 1998
Sometimes, the books we read when we are young do not stand up to the test of time. That's not the case with "My Antonia". It means more to me, and seems even better now, than when I first read it. I read the book as a young teenager and remembered loving it (though I do admit I got a bit bored by it once Jim and Antonia had grown up...) I reread the book just recently and was struck by how wonderful it really was.
Cather is the only writer I know who can so successfully evoke the Midwestern American plains. She has also captured the hardships of immigrant life - or even just farm life on the plains. The growth and changes in the town and the land mirror the growth and changes of her characters.
I found that this book meant more to me upon rereading it as an adult. It's a beautiful book. It transported me to the Sandhills, it allowed me to see the joys and sufferings of life in the early part of this century in an area that was still seen as wildern! ess. I was surprised by the strength the characters displayed when faced with tribulation; I did not remember being that impressed by their strength when I was younger. Now I know to some degree what strength it takes just to keep getting up in the morning when faced with difficulties at work. I can't imagine what it was like for those depending on the weather and the rains for a wheat or corn crop.
Cather makes some wise statements in this book... for example, regarding marriage, she remarks through the narrator that what is life for one may not be the life for two (in reference to the farm-loving Antonia and her "city" husband). But Antonia and Cusak make it work, they survive and even are happy at the end of the book despite it all.
Yet, this is not a sugar-coated, "happy" type of book - it is far more satisfying than that.
I read the book first at 15, and now again at (nearly) 30. I suppose I will continue to reread it throughout my life - if! it seems more meaningful to me now given the experiences I! have had in the past 15 years, I cannot wait to see how it opens up more even later....
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 27 January 2011
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.
11 commentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 2 October 2005
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. 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. A.S. Byatt writes a superb Introduction in this edition that gives readers important background information.
H.L. Mencken wrote, "No romantic novel ever written in America, by man or woman, is one half so beautiful as 'My Antonia.'"
JANA
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 21 July 1999
My Antonia is a novel talking about how the life changed for pioneers. The point of view is from Jim Burden who taught Antonia English and grown up with her when they were met each other in their childhood. He saw everything, which is changed from Antonia's whole life step by step. Antonia's family moved to Nebraska from Bohemia. At that time, Nebraska is a wasteland that had nothing on it and they had to start their life over again. When they were in their country, they were rich, but after they used all of the money on traveling expenses, they were lacked of money when they arrived in Nebraska. They even couldn't have a regular meal and there were some huge changes for them. Consequently, her father killed himself because he couldn't accept the situation, which they had. And this let them lose the support, which were from their father so the children in the family had to work instead of studying. For this reason, the children in their family didn't had a good education and had a hard time to get used into America society because they couldn't communicate with people in English very well. This novel expresses the life changing of pioneers amply which are the situations of unaccepted mind and the substance changing. Therefore, the novel is a really good book to read because you can understand the process about how pioneers and immigrators get through the hard time which they had when they moved to a foreign country.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
     
 
Customers who viewed this item also viewed
My Antonia
My Antonia by Willa Cather (Paperback - 22 Aug. 2008)
£3.99

The Song of the Lark (Dover Thrift Editions)
The Song of the Lark (Dover Thrift Editions) by Willa Cather (Paperback - 24 Sept. 2004)
£4.50

O Pioneers! (Oxford World's Classics)
O Pioneers! (Oxford World's Classics) by Willa Cather (Paperback - 14 Aug. 2008)
£7.99
 
     

Send us feedback

How can we make Amazon Customer Reviews better for you?
Let us know here.