Saturday, July 21, 2007

Beautifully Written Tale That will Live On

O' Pioneers by Willa Cather (212 pgs) was a book I choose to read for the Decades challenge. One of the reasons I ended up with this title was I've heard wonderful things about Willa Cather and her writing. I'm very glad I did!

As the story opens, we meet 16-year-old Alexandra Bergson. She and her family had immigrated from Sweden years before, and are now settlers on the wind-swept Nebraska prairie. As her father was dying, he told the children that Alexandra, as the oldest, was to be in charge of the land. A land he wanted to keep in the family, no matter what the cost. He didn't trust the boys to do what was right, and he knew that Alexandra would.

Many people at that time were cutting and running, selling the land for so much less than it was really worth. And the boys wanted to do this as well. But Alexandra knew better. She knew that the land would be worth a lot some day, and talked the boys into mortgaging the land to buy more. She traveled to different counties and universities to find the newest farming techniques and crops -- much to the dismay of her brothers, who were always so worried their neighbors would be "laughing" at them. And yet, as time went on, the Bergson farm flourished and grew. Lou and Oscar, the two older boys, each found a wife and moved out on their own. But Emil, the youngest, was Alexandra's heart. He was sent to the university to become more than just a farmer. She wanted him to have a life beyond just the land.

And just as Alexandra is starting to really feel the lonliness of her life, an old family friend, Carl, reappears to visit. She has some decisions to make about her life, her family and her land.

This tale spans a space of 25-years in the life of Alexandra. She is an incredibly smart business woman and a wonderful strong character. She is not given to do things based on appearnces, which is an attribute that I love about her character. But she is lacking a lot of the social awareness that most women have. Especially since the character was written by a woman! But through all the hard times and the good times, Alexandra is there to hold this family of pioneers together. This is truly a fantastic book, well deserved of the title "Classic"! If you haven't read anything by Cather, I strongly urge you to read this one!! 4.5/5
Also reviewed by:
Chris @ Book-A-Rama


Sarah said...

I read "My Antonia" for the first time ever this spring. I will definitely add this one to my list. I just can't figure out how I missed Cather all these years! SmallWorld

3M said...

SO GLAD you liked this. This was my choice for that decade, too. Looking even more forward to it now! It's funny, I just picked it up from the library today.

Bonnie Jacobs said...

Lots of people are reading Willa Cather's books this month. I'm reading Shadows on the Rock, set in Quebec.

O Pioneers would work very well for my challenge. There is no time limit, just books being suggested for each of the states. Why don't you come by and look at it?

Gentle Reader said...

I've only read My Antonia and I really liked it, so I'll put this on my list. I've always wanted to read more of her stuff, including this and The Song of the Lark. Thanks for the review!

Chris said...

I'm glad you liked it too! Alexandra is such a strong woman.

Antinormative Geek said...

i love that book. it encapsulates the living experiences of midwestern pioneers in such a vivid way, arguably the most vivid way out of all her novels.