Sunday, 4 October 2009

My Mortal Enemy

Their talk quite took my breath away; they said such exciting, such fantastic things about people, books, music - anything; they seemed to speak together a kind of highly flavoured special language. Willa Cather
Published in 1926 My Mortal Enemy is a short novel - more like a novella. The central theme of conspicuous consumption reminded me of Edith Wharton's The House of Mirth. It examines the story of Myra, a local beauty in her southern home town who is set to inherit a fortune. She elopes with a young man she falls in love with and they move to New York where they live in an elegant apartment and entertain the artistic community. Unsatisfied that she can't move in the highest circles of society because her husband isn't wealthy enough she begins to resent him and eventually refers to him as 'my mortal enemy.'

In one chapter, Cather describes a party at Myra's apartment where an opera singer goes to the piano to sing Casta Diva from Bellini's opera Norma. She describes the the beginning of the aria as 'like the quivering of moonbeams on the water.' Intrigued to hear this I found a youtube clip of Maria Callas singing Casta Diva and it is as beautiful as Cather describes it.


Mad Housewife said...

I love your review of this. And the Virago cover is beautiful. I need to get back to Cather again.

Rachel said...

This sounds wonderful, and the cover is beautiful. I am anxious to read Cather; your reviews have made me excited to discover her work.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for such a lovely reminder of this book. It was how I discovered Willa Cather. I wasn't at all sure but as the book was so slim I thought I would give it a chance and picked it up from the library shelf. Of course I fell in love.

Vintage Reading said...

Yes, I want to read it again to fully absorb it.

So good to hear from Cather fans!