Sunday, August 28, 2011

Book Review of #1 O Pioneers by Willa Cather

Name of book: O Pioneers

Author Name: Willa Cather

ISBN: 0-486-27785-2

Publisher:  Dover Thrift

Type of book:  Young adult to adult, Prairie, Nebraska, immigrants, old way of life, new way of life, 1880s?-1900s?

Year it was published: 1913 (version I have 1993)


Set on the Nebraska prairie where Willa Cather (1873-1947) grew up, this powerful early novel tells the story of the young Alexandra Bergson, whose dying father leaves her in charge of the family and of the lands they have struggled to farm. In Alexandra's long fight to survive and succeed, O Pionners! relates an important chapter in the history of the American frontier. Evoking the harsh grandeur of the prairie, this landmark of American fiction unfurls a saga of love, greed, murder, failed dreams and hard-won triump. In the fateful interaction of her characters, Willa Cather compares with keen insight the experiences of Swedish, French and Bohemian immigrants in the United states. And in her absorbing narrative, she displayes teh virtuoso storytelling skills that have mad her one of the most admired masters of the American novel.


Alexandra seems to be an early prototype for Scarlett O'Hara interestingly enough. Alexandra, unlike Scarlett, cares very little for getting married and whatnot, but they do have things in common such as only practicality and no looking into psychology of people, longtime crushes, (Scarlett and Ashley, Alexandra and Carl,) and in many ways, due to them not realizing the emotions of people around them, disaster strikes. Other characters in the book such as Emil and Marie and her husband, although are interesting, are not painted as well as one liked.


I honestly think that one of the lessons learned from the book is the idea of polarity, how there has to be a perfect mix between the grit and toughness as well as open-mindedness. Unfortunately, for those who are college educated but with no grit, the result will be death. I think it will be the same thing with grit but no open mindedness. (If it weren't for Alexandra, then all of the family would have perished.)


This is written in third person omniscient, with chapters kind of rotating from one character to another. Most of it is from Alexandra's point of view, although you'll also have Emil and Marie thrown in. There is also a hierarchy and contempt for one another in the book; the learned vs unlearned and that apparently can tear families apart ,at least no close relationships; still looking out for one another but only because of blood and not due to warm emotions.

Author Information:

Willa Seibert Cather (December 7, 1873[1] – April 24, 1947) was an American author who achieved recognition for her novels of frontier life on the Great Plains, in works such as O Pioneers!, My Ántonia, and The Song of the Lark. In 1923 she was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for One of Ours (1922), a novel set during World War I. Cather grew up in Nebraska and graduated from the University of Nebraska; she lived and worked in Pittsburgh for ten years; at age 33 she moved to New York for the rest of her adult life and writing career.(from wikipedia)


Just like Cowboys are my weakness by Pam Houston, I've read this second time out of nostalgia. For one reason or another, I'm not sure why, but this is a book that I've strangely enjoyed. I liked the nature description, and liked characters in there, (Emil and Marie in particular.) There are numerous time jumps however which might be jarring for readers and might prevent them from getting to know the characters' psyches.

4 out of 5
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)

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