February 2, 2017

Looking Back - My Antonia

Looking Back... In an effort to transfer my book journal entries over to this blog, I'm going to attempt to post (in chronological order) an entry every Friday. I may or may not add extra commentary to what I jotted down in these journals.

My Antonia by Willa Cather
Great Plains Trilogy #3
1995 Houghton Mifflin (First Published in 1918)
Finished on February 21, 1997
Rating: 4/5 (Very Good)

Publisher's Blurb:

An enduring literary masterpiece first published in 1918, this hauntingly eloquent classic is an inspiring reminder of the rich past we have inherited. Willa Cather's lustrous prose, infused of the immigrant pioneer woman on the Nebraska plains, while etching a deeply moving portrait of an entire community. As Jim Burden revisits his childhood friendship with the free-spirited Antonia Shimerda, we come to understand the sheer fortitude of homesteaders on the prairie, the steadfast bonds cultivated there, and the abiding memories that such vast expanses inspire. Holding the pastoral society's heart, of course, is the bewitching Antonia, whose unfailing industry and infectious enthusiasm for life exemplify the triumphant vitality of an era.

Kathleen Norris says in her forward that My Antonia is in many ways "a perfect evocation of childhood," guided by a remarkable friendship. Willa Cather has wondrously captured a measure of our collective youth, and her classic remains an ode to the pioneering soul and the romantic possibilities of the land.

My Original Notes (1997):

What a beautifully written book. My very first Cather and I enjoyed it so much, I bought a bunch more by her to read this summer. (Also, a couple of biographies.)

I was a little disappointed when I first began reading the book, because it seemed so simplistic. As I got further into the novel, I realized how eloquent Cather wrote. It's basically a plotless novel, yet rich in description of the characters and the beauty of the land.

Lots of symbolism & imagery. 

My Current Thoughts:

Like most high school students of the 70s, I read authors such as Hawthorne, London, Austin, Bronte, Steinbeck and Melville. It wasn't until I moved to Nebraska in the early 90s that I even heard of Willa Cather, let alone read one of her famous novels. Again, thanks to a wonderful reading list in my Great Plains Lit class at the university, I was introduced to My Antonia, which I have since read a second time. I have also read O Pioneers! and The Song of the Lark, which complete this Great Plains trilogy. 

As I thumb through my copy of My Antonia, I find myself reading the highlighted passages and notations from my first encounter with the novel, eager to make time to read the book a third time.

If you've read any of Cather's novels and find yourself in Nebraska, do make time for a visit to Red Cloud. I went for a Cather symposium many years ago and loved seeing so many of the landmarks mentioned in My Antonia. You can view several wonderful video clips by clicking here

My husband and I have now lived in Nebraska for almost 25 years. These are just a few of the photographs I've taken of the wide open sky and prairie.


  1. I need to get back to some of the classics. This sounds terrific!

    1. Kathy, I'm not a huge fan of the classics, but Cather's books are worthwhile. She paints such beautiful images with her words.

  2. The variety of landscapes in this country will always and ever amaze me. People who have never been here would be astounded. It is like all our regions are little countries unto themselves.

  3. I've only read O Pioneers which I remember loving but just haven't read more by her. I really should!

    1. Iliana, O Pioneers! is my favorite of the three in this trilogy. So lovely.

  4. I haven't read this one in more than 30 years but have been meaning to do so. After I reread O' Pioneers! a couple of years ago, I've been wanting to read all of Cather's work. I really had not understood the first time how incredible her writing was.

    1. Lisa, I've read quite a few of Cather's but my favorites are the three in this trilogy and Death Comes for the Archbishop. She's a great writer!

  5. I love your "Looking Back" posts, and this is a particularly lovely one with those beautiful photos! Willa Cather is such an exquisite writer, and how fun to see your notes about that from long ago. I need to visit Red Cloud!

    1. Thanks, Robin! I hope you get a chance to visit Red Cloud sometime in the future. I would say I would meet you there, but I'll probably be in Oregon. The house sold yesterday!!!


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