Saturday, 6 December 2008

My Antonia

Re-reading Marilynne Robinson's Gilead this week made me want to go back to Willa Cather's My Antonia. My Antonia is a stunning novel based on Cather's childhood memories of Red Cloud, Nebraska. Jim Burden is sent to live with his grandparents on their farm in Nebraska, a place where the long waving grass resembles the sea and trees are a rare and unfamiliar sight on the flat landscape. One of his childhood friends is Antonia Shimerda the young daughter of poverty-stricken Bohemian immigrants. Although Jim eventually moves to New York he never forgets his childhood friend and one day he goes back to look for her. Here's an extract:
As I looked about me I felt that the grass was the country as the water is the sea. The red of the grass made all the great prairie the colour of wine-stains, or of certain seaweeds when they are first washed up. And there was so much motion in it; the whole country seemed, somehow, to be running.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hi,
I just jumped to your blog from Jane Brockett's and, I just needed to leave a comment about My Antonia. Oh, what a read. And, 'The Song of the Lark'. I now know what I will be doing this evening.
Kelly

Nicola said...

Hi Kelly, I'm a fan of Jane Brocket's blog, too. The only other Willa Cather books I've read are O Pioneers! and The Professor's House (another great read) I'll try The Song of the Lark next because I want to read more Cather. Thanks for dropping by, Nicola.

nacre said...

I like Cather's "Catholic" books: Death Comes for the Archbishop and (I think you might especially like) Shadows on the Rock (a girl grows up in colonial Quebec).

Ms. Wis./Each Little World said...

I liked the "Catholic" books as well. But "My Antonia" is such an American — and Midwestern — book. I love that photo on the cover which gives a real sense of the prairie. In the autumn, one of the wonderful things we see here in the upper Midwest are fields of those grasses; a magnificent sight. So far, I've only learned to identify Big Bluestem by sight. I just enjoy the other grasses and don't worry about their names.

Nicola said...

nacre, hi. I've never heard of Shadows on the Rock, I'll check it out. Thanks for your recommendation.

Ms Wis, You are so lucky to live where you do! I found a Willa Cather website which has pictures of some of the prairie flowers and grasses, so I can now identify the Coneflower, the Ground Cherry and Yarrow. What I really wanted to see was the red buffalo grass but they didn't have a picture.

Jennifer Dee said...

I came to your blog via Cornflower and I'm glad I did. I read 'My Antonia' at the end of last year, and have to say that it has to be one of my favourite reads ever. Your review summed it up so eloquently for me

Vintage Reading said...

Hi Jennifer, thank you for visiting. Cornflower is such an inspiration. I'm going through a bit of a Willa Cather phase right now!