O Pioneers! (Dover Thrift Editions) Paperback – 2 Jan 2000
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Willa Cather's second novel is abundant with interwoven themes. In one respect Cather bears witness to the early 20th-century Pioneers. The farmer taming the wild Northern States of America, battling with the elements and an unforgiving land to create a home, family and livlihood. On another level O Pioneers! is the story of Alexandra Bergson. Due to the death of her father she becomes the head of the household and spends her time between protecting her younger brother and out in the countryside that has become hers. Overshadowed somewhat by the more popular My Antonia this early work of Cather's is a much admired example of early 20th-century American fiction. O Pioneers! is a powerful testimony to love, the land and the pioneering spirit. --Jon Smith
The land belongs to the future... that's the way it seems to me....I might as well try to will the sunset over there to my brother's children. We come and go, but the land is always here. And the people who love it and understand it are the people who own it -- for a little while."
O Pioneers! (1913) was Willa Cather's first great novel, and to many it remains her unchallenged masterpiece. No other work of fiction so faithfully conveys both the sharp physical realities and the mythic sweep of the transformation of the American frontier -- and the transformation of the people who settled it. Cather's heroine is Alexandra Bergson, who arrives on the wind-blasted prairie of Hanover, Nebraska, as a girl and grows up to make it a prosperous farm. But this archetypal success story is darkened by loss, and Alexandra's devotion to the land may come at the cost of love itself.
At once a sophisticated pastoral and a prototype for later feminist novels, O Pioneers! is a work in which triumph is inextricably enmeshed with tragedy, a story of people who do not claim a land so much as they submit to it and, in the process, become greater than they were. --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
John Bergson brings his family to America from Sweden after feeling the dishonour that his father brought upon the family name. As they settle down to farm life they find it quite a disheartening task, and as he dies he leaves the control of his land to his daughter, Alexandra. This may seem a strange choice but as we see Alexandra is more than up to the job, turning the farm around, increasing its value and productivity over the next sixteen years.
Although not a particularly long novel Willa paints the world she is talking about with broad brushstrokes creating something that we can clearly visualise. As we follow the story of how Alexandra wants the best for her youngest brother and how she has to control her two other brothers to create the best farmland we can see how much she has to personally sacrifice to follow the responsibility placed on her by her father.
Why this book works quite well is how we see the lands around the Bergson family are occupied by other immigrants, and how each nationality seems to have certain traits and strengths in the way that they cope. Taking in love and duty we also see how resentment can build up in a family as Alexandra here is the main driving force and this becomes a wedge between her and two of her brothers.Read more ›
In this work, the author was on very sure footing. Her clear, straightforward prose lends itself capably to the story of early pioneers who went to Nebraska and set down roots, weathering the exigencies that often plagued a newcomer to a particular region. It is a surprisingly unsentimental look at pioneer life.
This thematically complex, but simply written story focuses primarily on Alexandra Bergson, the intelligent, independent, resourceful, and strong-willed daughter of pioneer John Bergson. Upon his death he did what was then the nearly unthinkable. He left his land in the hands of his oldest child, his daughter, Alexandra, rather than in those of his sons, recognizing in his daughter those qualities that would ensure that his land would prosper under her stewardship.
This then is the story of not only Alexandra but of that land and those whose sustenance depended upon its fruitfulness. The reader follows the Bergson clan as they live their lives and interact with their neighbors. Under Alexandra's skillful management, the Bergson farm prospers. As the farm prospers, so does its environs, as the area becomes a bustling center of activity with more and more settlers developing the land around that of the Bergsons.
Thematically, the book explores the vicissitudes of life, as well as its life-affirming moments. As in all lives, the characters in this book experience moments of high drama and great tragedy, as well as memorable moments of love and hate.Read more ›
The writing is fine, with an especially strong visual sense, sometimes reading almost like a treatment for a screenplay. The author manages a simple and elegant style that suits her theme perfectly.
Cather's sympathies are firmly with the strong central female character Alexandra. The male characters are mostly insipid and unstable; and an affection, tinged with contempt, is shown toward the more submissive female characters. Apart from Alexandra, the author's deepest sympathy is reserved for the country itself. Cather writes of the Nebraska that she knew in her youth and of the immigrant men and women who tamed a hostile landscape.
The title is taken from a very poor and overblown poem by Walt Whitman, appropriate only in that the poem is as hard going for the reader as the land was for the pioneer. But, title apart, the novel remains a solid rendition of Western pioneer life, which was a vital strand of American cultural history.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I came across this book by accident. It is a story of a pioneer farming community in Nebraska in the late nineteenth early twentieth century. Read morePublished 9 months ago by Rf And Tm Walters
A simple story but so well written.
Clearly the writer loves the country and the people who shape it.
I enjoyed this very much.
It's the sort of story my friend enjoys and she was pleased to receive it as a birthday gift as it introduced her to Willa Cather's work.Published on 26 April 2014 by Jane Haynes