November 10, 2017

Looking Back - Death Comes For the Archbishop

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.

Death Comes For the Archbishop by Willa Cather
1990 Vintage Classics (first published in 1927)
Finished in April 1997
Rating: 4/5 (Very Good)

Publisher's Blurb:

There is something epic--and almost mythic--about this sparsely beautiful novel by Willa Cather, although the story it tells is that of a single human life, lived simply in the silence of the desert. In 1851 Father Jean Marie Latour comes as the Apostolic Vicar to New Mexico. What he finds is a vast territory of red hills and tortuous arroyos, American by law but Mexican and Indian in custom and belief. In the almost forty years that follow, Latour spreads his faith in the only way he knows--gently, although he must contend with an unforgiving landscape, derelict and sometimes openly rebellious priests, and his own loneliness. Out of these events Cather gives us an indelible vision of life unfolding in a place where time itself seems suspended.

My Original Notes (1997):

Another beautifully written novel by Cather! Very different from My Antonia, but just as good. Now I want to go to New Mexico and see the Cathedral in Santa Fe and the Mission at Acoma. The landscape Cather describes so well sounds lovely.

Wonderful characters. Eloquently described.

My Current Thoughts:

This is another novel of Cather's that I'd like to reread. Flipping through my copy I see lots of highlighted passages, most of which pertain to the landscape. It took me 16 years, but I eventually got to New Mexico and saw the Cathedral in Santa Fe. It was just as impressive as I had imagined.

I had no doubt that I would fall in love with the New Mexico landscape, but it was the sky that impressed me the most. I couldn't get enough of the clouds!

The ride back to Santa Fe was something under four hundred miles. The weather alternated between blinding sand-storms and brilliant sunlight. The sky was as full of motion and change as the desert beneath it was monotonous and still,--and there was so much sky, more than at sea, more than anywhere else in the world. The plain was there, under one's feet, but what one saw when one looked about was that brilliant blue world of stinging air and moving cloud. Even the mountains were mere ant-hills under it. Elsewhere the sky is the roof of the world; but here the earth was the floor of the sky. The landscape one longed for when one was far away, the thing all about one, the world one actually lived in, was the sky, the sky!

Now that we have our travel trailer, it might be time for another visit to New Mexico.


  1. Willa Cather's novels never disappoint, but I still haven't read Death Comes for the Archbishop. It's on my shelf and my second Classics Club list, so hopeful I'll get to it soon.

    We love Santa Fe! My BIL and his family live there, so we always have an excuse to visit. The last time we were there (almost 2 years ago) we stayed at La Fonda, right across the strew from the cathedral. Loved it!

    1. JoAnn, it's really a great novel. I'll be anxious to hear what you think if you do wind up reading it for your Classics' challenge.

      Ah, we had lunch at La Fonda in their center court patio! Such a lovely old building. Spicy food, though!

  2. Santa Fe, NM is beautiful isn't it? It's been so many years since I've been there but I would love to go back. And, read this book! Sounds like a great companion piece.

    1. Iliana, that whole area is breathtakingly gorgeous and Cather captures it all in her prose. Do read it!


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