Sep 14, 2014

My Ántonia

by Willa Cather

This is the story of an immigrant family adjusting to life on the Nebraska prairie during the early 1900's. It's about one girl in particular, the oldest child of a Bohemian family. Told by their neighbor Jim, it details the family's early struggles and how things changed throughout the community as they grew into adulthood. The hard work on the farm, living with deprivation, struggling to learn new ways in a new country, missing the old land. I found the personalities of Ántonia's parents intriguing- one caustic and demanding of respect, the other gentle and longing for home. Jim describes Ántonia as a strong, curious, determined girl who worked hard. Later she moves into town to work in a rich family's home, but retains her love for the countryside. I won't tell you all what happens, but I did admire Ántonia, how she held staunch to her morals, how she made the best of a bad situation, how she was beloved by her children and esteemed by her close friends in the end. It was interesting to see the portrait Cather builds of a frontier town, and how the fortune of several characters didn't turn out as you might expect.

But in spite of all that, it was a book I just couldn't get into. Partly because I have been preoccupied of late, but also because the story felt distanced to me. Jim the narrator never really tells much about himself, he seems to be a bystander without much personality. And the story of Ántonia is told in a rather dry fashion- events reported, things described, but without much emotion (at least, it didn't come through to me). It's more the story of a town and of the wide landscapes, and I wasn't quite in the mood for that. In fact, the entire thing came across to me as a grown-up version of a Little House on the Prairie story. Which is not at all meant to be insulting- Wilder's books are very good!

This is one of those books I'd always meant to read, and it's a classic, so I feel kind of bad not appreciating it more. As if I'm missing something. I've heard it's one of her best novels so now I have misgivings to try any more Cather, which disappoints me as well. Maybe later down the road...

Rating: 3/5        290 pages, 1918

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bermudaonion said...

I bet the language did make you feel distanced from the story. Too bad.

Jenny @ Reading the End said...

I've always suspected that I wouldn't like Willa Cather. Don't feel bad! You don't have to like every classic you ever read!

Jeane said...

I know! But now it seems like so many I try are just "meh" and they're classics they're supposed to be great! I feel like I'm some kind of sorry opposite to a book snob if I don't appreciate them.

Stefanie said...

Too bad you ended up not liking it. It was the first Cather I ever read and I loved it and have read several more of her books since and plan to keep going until there aren't any left to read.