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Shadows on the Rock

3.96  ·  Rating Details ·  1,234 Ratings  ·  180 Reviews
"Superbly written, with that sensitivity to sunset and afterglow that has always been Miss Cather's."
The New York Times

Willa Cather wrote Shadows on the Rock immediately after her historical masterpiece, Death Comes for the Archbishop. Like its predecessor, this novel of seventeenth-century Quebec is a luminous evocation of North American origins, and of the men and women
ebook, 240 pages
Published August 24th 2011 by Vintage (first published 1931)
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(showing 1-30)
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Feb 26, 2016 Paul rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: american-novels
Three and a half stars
This is the first work I have read by Willa Cather and it is a historical novel set in Quebec in 1687-8. It is told from the point of view of 12 year old Cecile Auclair and her father Euclid, an apothecary. It covers one year in the life of the city with an epilogue set 15 years later to tie up loose ends. Cecile’s mother has died two years previously and she now looks assists her father and keeps house. Euclid serves the aging Count and has followed him to Canada. The Cath
Being the third of the books I've read by Cather, I've come to expect a certain ecstatic experience from her work, and Shadows is no exception. In fact, compared to the other two, the utter simplicity and straightforwardness of the characters and emotions depicted has made this by far the most enjoyable of what I've read (the other two being My Antonia and Death Comes for the Archbishop). There is a rhythm to her composition, in which characters are introduced, back story is discovered, an inten ...more
Willa Cather is known for her classic novels set in the 18th century American prairie, but in this one she moves to 17th century, French Colonial Quebec. But what remains the same is Cather's beautiful writing and her exceptional ability to create memorable characters, and craft stories that is historical fiction at it's finest. Reading this, one gets the sense of life the French settlers experienced in this lonely Canadian outpost, and the influence of the French culture that still lives in Que ...more
Jul 05, 2012 Schmacko rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
I guess it’s no secret by now that I adore Willa Cather. Shadows on the Rock (1931) is one of her late novels, and I loved every minute of it. It’s an account of people living in colonial Quebec. There’s not much of a plot; this is all about character and place. In it, Cather fully shows her power of description and her awesome talent in presenting the spirit of a land.

This genius is no surprise; Cather captured life on the Nebraska plain in My Àntonia, O Pioneers, and My Mortal Enemy. She expl
Oct 16, 2014 Shawn rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What a great book! Willa Cather never disappoints a reader. This was one of her lesser known novels but it is still excellent. Shadows on the Rock is a tale of Quebec City during the final days of the royal governor Louis Frontenac and colonial New France. It is not a long book but the characters are many and varied and thoughtfully drawn. Of course, Cather's brilliance, at least to me, remains in the way she creates a sense of time and place with her rich and poetic depictions of landscape, wea ...more
Dec 17, 2014 Trina rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is such a lovely, modest book, like so much of Cather. I found it in the library and decided to give it a try -- it's a portrait of the town of Kebec, currently known as Quebec City to anglophones, in the late 17th century. Lots of it is based on the truth, but the characters are so fully drawn, and the descriptions of the St. Lawrence River and the Rock, aka Kebec, are so beautiful, it's a poetically inspired historical novel. I have never known much about the settlement of New France in t ...more
Devyn Duffy
Apr 05, 2015 Devyn Duffy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone
Recommended to Devyn by: found it in the library's Classics shelf
Yet another amazing work from Willa Cather. After completing Death Comes for the Archbishop, Cather wrote this novel about the town of Quebec in the late 1600s, and similarly included actual historical figures as characters, and referred to actual historical events. With Cather's unmatched descriptive ability, it's easy for the reader to get a sense of what colonial life must have been like in a place that was cut off from the mother country between October and June of every year. And again it i ...more
May 09, 2015 Tom rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Cather writes, "When an adventurer carries his gods with him into a remote and savage country, the colony he founds will, from the beginning, have graces, traditions, richs of the mind and spirit. Its history will shine with bright incidents, slight, perhaps, but precious, as in life itself, where the great matters are often as worthless as astronomical distances, and the trifles dear as the heart’s blood.”

This is how she makes such a quiet novel, one with minimal plotting, so compelling, even r
Oct 25, 2016 John rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Willa Cather is easily one of my favorite authors. Here she takes us to Quebec in about the year 1700. These brave souls left civilization behind - all the way across the Atlantic Ocean. Ships would arrive only during the summer months. And that assumes they made it safely across the ocean.

She tells the tale of lives lived in the settlement. Typical Cather - not much happens. But she digs deep into the characters.

Really great book.
Jessica Prescott
Mar 11, 2016 Jessica Prescott rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Fellas, this here is my favorite novel of all time.

I mean that. It's beautiful. It's phenomenal. It's a masterpiece . . . and it's something everybody should read at least once in their lives. (In my humble opinion, at any rate.)

What makes it so good? EVERYTHING.

Okay, I'll try to get a little more specific. First-off, the characters are amazingly well-drawn. They truly are real, live, flesh-and-blood people . . . and they walk straight off the page and into your heart. It's not that they're f
Apr 01, 2014 Mark rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

This quiet book captured me with the beauty of its writing, its description of an isolated pioneer life where people had to make the best of what they had, and some purely religious stories of a kind you rarely find in novels anymore.

In this novel of interconnected stories, Cather describes the promontory of "Kebec" in the late 1600s and early 1700s, primarily through the eyes of an apothecary who left France to follow the count who had lived next to his father's shop in Paris. Not long after he
Sep 19, 2007 Penny rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was just charming. It doesn't really have a traditional "plot," as in a central conflict with setbacks, climax, denoument, etc. It's just a year in the life of a 12-year-old girl, her widower father, and their friends, making a life for themselves in Quebec in 1697.

In a way it's sort of a fairy tale. The good characters are pretty much thoroughly good, the evil characters are really not all that evil, and nothing very frightening ever happens. It's appeal lies in the likability of the
Dec 22, 2008 Chliara rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Willa Cather is, hands down, one of the best authors there is. Her writing is poignant, beautiful, and simple, filled with terrific characters and lovely settings; yet it is quite real and sticks you right in amongst the story. This book is about the life of a France-born apothecary and his young daughter, as they face the colorful happenings of a "New France" or Canadian town. A must-read.
Robin Friedman
Sep 09, 2016 Robin Friedman rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A Novel Of Old Quebec

Willa Cather wrote "Shadows on the Rock"(1931) late in her novelistic career following her more famous book, "Death Comes for the Archbishop."(1927). As is the earlier book, "Shadows on the Rock" is influenced heavily by Cather's fascination with Catholicism (a religion she did not practice), her love of French civilization, and her interest in frontier places.

Cather's novel is set in the remote world of "New France", in French Quebec of 1697. The story tells of the early Fr
Readers will enjoy "Shadows on the Rock." The story tells of life in Quebec in 1697. The historical story opens as a supply ship leaves Quebec and Euclide Auclair, the apothecary sees the shadow of the ship against the rocks of Quebec, knowing that the ship and supplies wouldn't return until spring.\

Reading about an apothecary so many years ago and his dispensing medicine and advice was interesting. As the son of a doctor, it is hard to imagine this man in ancient Quebec and the people relying
Sep 07, 2016 Valeska rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was my favorite of the three works by Cather I have read. She has an amazing ability to create a wonderful sense of place. The story itself was a bit predictable, but there was so much beauty in her descriptions of colonial Quebec. Yet, the descriptions did not detract from the story and it was a quick read. The plot still flowed quite well and made me appreciate the efforts of the colonists' ability to survive such harsh conditions as a Canadian winter and wilderness. I loved the litt ...more
Nov 16, 2008 Gwen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this novel set in old "Kebec." I am familiar with some of Cather's other works, but particularly admired this surprise (I bought it for a nickel at a used book sale) with the vivid details of the 17th century, as Cecile, her apothecary father (Euclid), neglected Jaques, old Bishop Laval, etc. struggle in their daily lives. Lots of French (which I don't read), a perspective on Catholicism, and weather descriptions that made me despite November in PA wasn't that bad. Some great st ...more
Jan 10, 2012 Lobstergirl rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own, covers, fiction
Cather's 1931 novel is historical fiction, blending real characters (the Count de Frontenac, late 17th-century Governor General of Quebec) with imagined. Although the story bored me at times, Cather's writing - especially her physical descriptions, which are on a par with Thomas Hardy - seems effortless and uncontrived. She creates beauty without grandiose flourishes. If I were going to write fiction, I would study Cather closely.
Jan 19, 2009 Beverly rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literary
Indelible portrait of French settlers in Quebec in the 18th century. Vivid senic descriptions, strong sense of place, charming character portraits, love for nature and humanity. A treasure.
May 18, 2008 Cherie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
A- V and I read this for our book group. Lovely writing, and a great picture of colonial Quebec. I fell in love with the characters, and her language and writing is just so luscious.
Lara Lavoie
Jan 14, 2016 Lara Lavoie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A sweet story with very endearing characters.
Dec 24, 2016 Pearl rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Written just four years after Cather’s widely acclaimed “Death Comes for the Archbishop,” her story of late 17th century Kebec (now known as Quebec City) is as redolent of time and place as was her tale of the newly annexed territory around Albuquerque in the 19th century. Both stories are saturated with French Catholicism, with the old guard versus the new guard, and with the newly arrived settlers’ attitude about civilization (European) versus the way they regarded the native culture (primitiv ...more
Jim Leckband
"Shadows on the Rock" shows the skill of a great writer when presented with a story that isn't much at all. The skill comes out in her crafting her characters so that we believe that the stories they tell and hear don't sound like they were refashioned by Cather from her research into 17th century Quebec. Less skilled authors leave the research skeleton all over the place and you're thinking you're reading an encyclopedia. With Cather, the humanity of the characters and the reality of her descri ...more
Oct 24, 2016 Matt rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A later Willa Cather book, as evidenced by the lack of "action" compared to, say, "O Pioneers." However, it still holds her typical strong historical elements, as well as great character voices and insights. In this case, her writing voice is surprisingly like Charles Dickens'. Lots of Catholic religious elements in this one, similar to "Death Comes to the Archbishop."
Jane Wolfe
Jan 02, 2017 Jane Wolfe rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This lesser known work of Cather is worth reading. As always, the writing is beautiful and Cather finds the goodness in ordinary people and times. The young heroine is quite resourceful. Another good and peaceful read during a tumultuous time.
Brenda Marean
One in the series of Willa Cather's novels; am trying to read all she wrote this year. This was interesting but not fascinating!
Dec 30, 2016 Linda rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A gentle, easy book to read. Early Quebec from a young girl's point of view.
I found this book and began reading it because it is set in Quebec and I had a trip planned there. I would have finished it 2 weeks earlier, but I didn't want to take a library book with me on my vacation.

The descriptions of the 1600's Quebec are very intriguing. I could see the streets and people and Chateau in my mind.

I enjoyed the story of the apothecary and his daughter Cecile. Thinking about how they and the other colonists lived on the rock above the river on the wilds of Canada opened u
Martha Crawley
Jan 03, 2017 Martha Crawley rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is set in bustling late 17th century Quebec City. Willa Cather evokes the citizens sense of isolation as the ships leave for France in October, and they face the dark, cold winter on "the rock." I like her descriptions of the preparations made during the warmer months to survive the winter, and the large role played in their lives by the church. Her finely drawn characters come alive on the page, from the main characters, a young girl and her pharmacist father, to a woman of ill repute ...more
Lory Hess
Feb 19, 2015 Lory Hess rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Originally reviewed at

In Shadows on the Rock, Willa Cather departed from the prairie narratives for which she is most well known to write a historical novel about late seventeenth century Quebec. Her central characters are a French apothecary who longs to return home, but is bound by love of his patron, Count Frontenac; and the apothecary's young daughter Cecile, who feels deeply connected to the new country of Canada. Around them come and go a wonderful array of ch
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Shadows on the Rock 1 7 Nov 12, 2013 07:56PM  
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Wilella Sibert Cather was born in Back Creek Valley, Virgina (Gore) in December 7, 1873. Her novels on frontier life brought her to national recognition. In 1923 she was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for her novel, One of Ours (1922), set during World War I. She grew up in Virginia and Nebraska. She then attended the University of Nebraska, initially planning to become a physician, but after writing ...more
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“Only solitary men know the full joys of friendship. Others have their family; but to a solitary and an exile his friends are everything.” 28 likes
“Schools are not meant to make boys happy, Cécile, but to teach them to do without happiness.” 7 likes
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