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O Pioneers! (Dover Thrift Editions) Paperback – 2 Jan 2000

4.0 out of 5 stars 26 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Dover Publications Inc.; New edition edition (2 Jan. 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0486277852
  • ISBN-13: 978-0486277851
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 0.8 x 21.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 290,332 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Amazon Review

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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By Mrs. K. A. Wheatley TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 18 Jan. 2012
Format: Paperback
One of my resolutions this year has been to read more American fiction. I admit I struggle with the greats like Steinbeck and Melville. I have also been rather depressed at the lack of women writers who appear in the American Classics. Someone recommended Willa Cather and I thought I would give this a try. I did worry it would be the usual worthy read with a deeply moral tale that does not sit comfortably with my modern sensibilities. I could not have been more wrong. This story of a young girl growing up in the wilds of Nebraska at the end of the 1800's, and her struggle to make her own way in a harsh world run in the main by, it has to be said, fairly stupid, reactionary men, is fantastic. It is very modern in its tone which makes it eminently readable. Alexandra, as a heroine is fascinating, strong, forward thinking and innovative. The story is compelling despite what promises on the cover to be dreary pickings, and I just ate this up in a sitting. What really lifts this book out of the ordinary for me are the beautiful descriptions of the land that Cather describes. A stunning book which does not get the attention it deserves.
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Wilella ‘Willa’ Cather is of course well known for her portrayal of frontier life, where the more intrepid persons carved out a life on the land and cultivated areas to create vast swathes of arable land. This novel, first published in 1913 gives us a quite interesting read of life on the prairie as we follow the trials and tribulations of the Bergson family.

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.
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By lawyeraau HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on 1 Mar. 2005
Format: Paperback
In this, the author's second published work, the author writes about that which she knew best, early pioneer life in Nebraska, the place to which she and her family moved in 1883 when she was a mere slip of a girl. She eventually attended the University of Nebraska, graduating in 1995, at a time when most girls did no such thing.
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.
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Format: Paperback
The first half of this novel is curiously disjointed. Months, sometimes years elapse between each chapter, making it rather like reading fragments of a long family saga. The effect is to distance the reader from the characters. The second half is a more continuous and involving narrative, developing into a conventional social drama with a surprisingly melodramatic climax.
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.
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