Title: My Antonia
Author: Willa Cather
Series: Word Cloud Classics
Rating Out of 5: 4.5 (Amazing, but not quite perfect)
My Bookshelves: Classics, Westerns
Dates read: 26th – 27th June 2020
Publisher: Word Cloud Classics
5th sentence, 74th page: Sometimes he was completely hidden by the clouds of snow that rose about him; then he and the horses would emerge black and shining.
Willa Cather’s novels brought the life of American settlers on the Great Plains to the forefront of the nation’s consciousness during a time when the lands west of the Mississippi were undergoing rapid transformation. My Ántonia, considered by many scholars to be her first masterpiece, tells the story of a young orphan, Jim Burden, who is sent from Virginia to Nebraska, where he grows up with his grandparents on their farm. He becomes friends with Ántonia Shimerda, a Bohemian girl who endures her own struggles as she enters adulthood. Rich in themes that will resonate with readers of all backgrounds, My Ántonia explores the struggles and triumphs of ordinary people in extraordinary times.
This is the first ever full-length Western that I’ve had the privilege to read. And it wasn’t as tedious as I kind of half expected. Mostly, I was expecting it to be a little slow like the short stories I’ve been reading in The Mammoth Book of Westerns. But, it wasn’t like that at all. In fact, I kind of completely loved this novel and just devoured it in one night – I found it really difficult to put down, put away and stop thinking about. Which was surprising, specifically considering the fact that I was a bit eh about her short story.
There is something about Antonia that should feel seriously tragic. And heart wrenching. And just, all round sad. Yet, even though there are moments throughout which do make you feel a little sad, there really isn’t an overall tragic feeling to this story. In fact, it’s almost hopeful and uplifting. Which, if I’m recounting this story, is not how I would be able to describe it. But something in Cather’s story telling manages to make that feeling of hope and the future seriously come alive. It’s a little disconcerting and is probably one of the reasons why I enjoyed this book so much.
Like Cather’s short story, one of the things that really stood out in this novel was the beautifully setting. It was a world in which you were completely immersed from the very first moment. And a really nice transportation into a moment in history that I never knew I was intrigued by. Definitely a very well written story. One which transported you to another world and another time. A world filled with different priorities and challenges, but ones which feel familiar regardless.
This isn’t a fast-paced, crazy storyline. It’s not a grip the edge of your seat kind of story, instead, what it is is just… fun. It’s a great story that transports you to everyday life and the ways in which we form and create bonds. The ways in which we change over time. And how some people are able to stand the test of time in their friendships, even in the most trying of circumstances.
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