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O Pioneers! (Great Plains Trilogy #1)

3.83  ·  Rating Details  ·  30,828 Ratings  ·  1,948 Reviews
O Pioneers! (1913) was Willa Cather's first great novel, and to many it remains her unchallenged masterpiece. No other work of fiction so faithfully conveys both the sharp physical realities and the mythic sweep of the transformation of the American frontier—and the transformation of the people who settled it. Cather's heroine is Alexandra Bergson, who arrives on the wind- ...more
Paperback, 159 pages
Published 1992 by Vintage (first published 1913)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Henry Avila
Feb 24, 2016 Henry Avila rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Alexandra Bergson, at a young age , has to take care of her family and farm, in Nebraska, with the untimely death of their father John, he wished his oldest child ( and smartest ), to guide the poor immigrants from Sweden in the 1880's, everyone agrees at first, struggling on the harsh prairie, are also brothers Lou, Oscar and five year old Emil, her pet, the mother knows little about farming... An endless drought soon after begins , the Sun baking the soil , the crops withering for lack of rain ...more
Sparrow
Jun 16, 2010 Sparrow rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone
Recommended to Sparrow by: sadly, I think no one did
Alexandra looked at him mournfully. “I try to be more liberal about such things than I used to be. I try to realize that we are not all made alike.”

Everything in O Pioneers! is beauty to me. I am so in love with this book. Maybe it is because I have it in my brain that pioneers by definition suck that Willa Cather always catches me by surprise and turns me upside down. It’s like walking through an alien landscape and then running into my best friend. I thought what I would find was Michael Lando
...more
Diane
Sep 11, 2013 Diane rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"The history of every country begins in the heart of a man or a woman."

I don't know why I haven't read this before -- it seems like the kind of novel I should have been assigned in 9th grade -- but I'm glad I read it as an adult because I wouldn't have appreciated it as much when I was younger. I am from the Midwest and my grandparents were farmers, and I loved Willa Cather's stories about what it was like for the pioneers in Nebraska. I liked Cather's spare writing style; she gives just the rig
...more
Cheryl
Dec 20, 2015 Cheryl rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, american-lit
Isn't it queer: there are only two or three human stories, and they go on repeating themselves as fiercely as if they had never happened before; like the larks in this country, that have been singing the same five notes over for thousands of years.

If you've read Willa Cather's famous My Antonia, you're already aware of the Bohemian community, those farming pioneers of the American frontier she writes about. The young Swede protagonist of this novel, Alexandra Bergson, is familiar; she grows up
...more
Richard Derus
Rating: 3.75* of five

The Publisher Says: 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 flight to survive and succeed, O Pioneers! relates an important chapter in the history of the American frontier.

Evoking the harsh grandeur of the prairie, this landmark of American fiction unfurls
...more
Margitte
Once again, a second time, I was at the mercy of Willa Cather's writing, and closed this book with a feeling of accomplishment: as a reader as well as a human being.

In my world, more than a century after this novel was written, we still battle nature on a daily basis and we are aware that nature will return the moment we leave this little piece of earth for a respite. With seed, roots and rain, the stories of ages of human history will be covered in an instant, wiped away as though we never walk
...more
Sarah
Nov 05, 2007 Sarah rated it really liked it
I don’t know how, but I got through all of high school and college in America without reading a word of Willa Cather. It all worked out for the best though, since ten years ago I would have probably found her work like, totally boring and about farming and the human condition, or whatever.

I picked up My Antonia a few months ago and loved it to bits - to me, nothing beats stories written in ordinary language about ordinary people. Mix in some bleak, sweeping plains, some overtly lesbian action, a
...more
Kim
Mar 14, 2014 Kim rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kindle

Where has Willa Cather been all my reading life? Until fairly recently, I'd never heard of her. Now that I've read just one of her novels, I want to read more.

This short novel is centred on Alexandra Bergson, the daughter of Swedish immigrants whose intelligence and hard work brings her success as a farmer in a rural area of early 20th century Nebraska. It's a deceptively simple novel, with a third person narrative progressed in chronological order. However, even though Cather's narrative style
...more
Dolors
Sep 28, 2015 Dolors rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2015
I was enraptured by Cather's smooth prose, the beautifully woven descriptions of the land with its double facet; hostile wilderness and source of livelihood; I warmed to all the characters, who were exquisitely painted in relation to the different degrees of understanding of the land, I fell prey to the nostalgic hues that tinted the story, its cinematic texture; but when I turned the last page of the book, I felt part of the magic disappeared by Alexandra's conservative morals. (view spoiler) ...more
Steve
Apr 27, 2016 Steve added it


Willa Cather (1873-1947)

Isn't it queer: there are only two or three human stories, and they go on repeating themselves as fiercely as if they had never happened before; like the larks in this country, that have been singing the same five notes over for thousands of years.


A curious chance it is that in the midst of bitter efforts by Republican legislators in the American South to protect us all from the terrifying possibility that someone with different sexual equipment might have the temerity to
...more
Scott Axsom
Feb 15, 2014 Scott Axsom rated it it was amazing
Willa Cather is a genius. There, I said it. It’s out of the way. O Pioneers! was published in 1913 and I’m convinced, had it been published just a few years later, she would’ve won the Pulitzer for it. Sadly, the prize had yet to be established when O Pioneers! was published. (It was established for fiction 5 years later, and she received it, anyway, in 1922 for One of Ours).

Many factors go into making Cather such a brilliant writer but foremost, in my mind, is her ability to effortlessly descri
...more
Sue
May 03, 2016 Sue rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: readers of classic American fiction
Willa Cather appears to write so effortlessly or, perhaps, I should say, her prose reads so effortlessly. Her characters ring true and the land looms over them all. Of course Cather lived on that prairie and knew that land. Cather knew farm families like the Bergsons and possibly a woman like Alexandra Bergson, whose life was fully formed and influenced by the land.

There are different views of the land's influence on its people:


"John Bergson had the Old-World belief that land, in
itself, is des
...more
Matt
Apr 26, 2016 Matt rated it really liked it
Shelves: classic-novels
"Hell, I even thought I was dead 'til I found out it was just that I was in Nebraska."
-- Gene Hackman as Little Bill Daggett, Unforgiven

Willa Cather's opening description of Nebraska is unlikely to find its way into the Cornhusker State's tourism bureau pamphlets. She describes the fictional town of Hanover as near to being blown away by a howling wind; she describes low drab buildings; a gray sky; a gray prairie. The Nebraska of O Pioneers! is hard, unforgiving, yet tempting; it is a land that
...more
Teresa
May 30, 2015 Teresa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I remember putting Death Comes for the Archbishop back on the library shelf when I was kid, thinking it sounded boring. Perhaps that preconception stuck with me, because this is the first Cather I've read. It is far from boring. The prose seems effortless, the pages turn quickly and I became invested in the characters.

Over the weekend, while in Jackson, Mississippi, I came across a quoted conversation (in the Mississippi Writers Exhibit in the public library renamed the Eudora Welty Library) tha
...more
Jim
I've heard about this for years. It's supposed to be a classic & I don't know exactly what I expected, but this wasn't it. There wasn't enough detail to really catch my attention. It was a bit of a character study of the strong people that built our country, but they were all caricatures. Silly, virginal love threads intertwined with tough characters in a really interesting landscape & time that didn't get nearly enough attention. A lot of good elements, but it just didn't do much for me ...more
Moonlight Reader
H-o-l-y s-h-i-t.

Willa Cather was the real deal.

Jane
Coming back to read this book for a second time reminded me that when I first read Willa Cather – many years ago – she took me to a time and place I had known nothing about and she made me realise that there were more sides to classic writing than I had realised.

Before I read her books the only American woman author I knew was Louisa May Alcott ….

Enthused by my new discovery I read every single book I could find in a short space of time, not really stopping to think about the arc of her storytel
...more
Mark
Nov 25, 2011 Mark rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: commuters
Recommended to Mark by: Ivan
My journey from Poole in Dorset up to London on the train and then back again yesterday was made so easy by virtue of reading this book that I did not even notice that i was 20 mins late into London in the morning and 40 mins late back into Poole last night. Well maybe a little but it was certainly made less frustrating. This was a quite wonderful novel in so many ways and the danger would be that I could collapse into cliche but I shall try to restrain myself.

You know how often people talk of
...more
Lisa Kay


4/8/16 - Update. Okay, quite liking this one. Realized I've read it before, but not sure when. Possibly in high school? Also, realized I've seen the Hallmark movie of it, staring Jessica Lange.
Okay, finished this one. Well written, and a good example of life in Nebraska in the early part of the 20th Century. A little unrealistic, as far as a woman being able to be this successful, but still very good with regards to the mores of the time. The author makes you feel as if your in that time-peri
...more
Dorine
May 18, 2016 Dorine rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those who love family saga surprises in a small package
O PIONEERS! by Willa Cather was my choice for “something different,” our theme this month in SuperWendy’s TBR Challenge 2016. I succeeded in finding a book that’s a different style, as well as a classic from 1913 that focuses on the history of the prairie pioneers of North America, as well as examples of historic literature reviews and commentary. Willa Cather was an amazing woman very in touch with her talent and I can’t wait to read the rest of the GREAT PLAINS TRILOGY.

Why was it in Dorine’s T
...more
Dem
Sep 16, 2015 Dem rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 Stars. Review to follow.
Steven
Jul 03, 2008 Steven rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"A pioneer should have imagination, should be able to enjoy the idea of things more than the things themselves (27)," Willa Cather writes in her most famous novel, and with it, proves herself to be a pioneer of American literature. This is a must-read for anyone interested in an astute take on the westward expansion of our nation, told from the point-of-view of the female immigrants who had the vision to see what this country could become. It also charts with emotional precision the issues surr ...more
Rod
I love Willa Cather's stark, beautiful descriptions of the Nebraska prairie and her sensitive portrayals of the various peoples (Bohemians, Swedes, Norwegians, French, etc.) who settled there, and I love her spare, economical prose. She obviously knew this land and its people intimately, and felt a deep, abiding connection to it. Despite how enamored I was with the richness of the story and its telling, though, upon finishing it I couldn't help thinking something was missing, something that prev ...more
Diane S ☔
Apr 23, 2014 Diane S ☔ rated it really liked it
The prairie land of Nebraska, many immigrants from other countries flocked to the wide open spaces and land for the taking, many were defeated by the harsh conditions. Where the weather could make or break one, were intakes were most often re-paid in misfortune. Many would leave, go back to the cities and jobs in factories, but for those who stayed, made wise decisions the land would yield much.

A wonderful story, beautiful but plain prose, descriptive writing, one can feel the beauty and alterna
...more
HacheC
Jul 22, 2016 HacheC rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Willa Cather me ha ganado totalmente con esta novela que trata de personajes anclados a una tierra que los acoge y los ve crecer. Me ha recordado en muchos momentos a Steinbeck por la unión entre la tierra en si y los que la trabajan.
Alexandra es un personaje fascinante, lejos de la típica heroína pero con muchísima fuerza y un par de ovarios bien puestos. La única pega: Me ha parecido demasiado corto.
Cherie
Jul 18, 2016 Cherie rated it it was amazing
Shelves: series, read-audio
I don't know why I have waited so long to read this book. I am so grateful for the folks at Books in Motion from Spokane, Washington and Stephanie Brush and my Library Consortium on Overdrive for making it available in audio.

I laughed and cried and enjoyed this wonderful story as I listened over the last two weekends while doing yard work. I know I must be a sight to the neighbors and make them doubt my sanity as I parade around the yard with my iPod in one pocket and my hand shears in the othe
...more
Trish
Jun 28, 2016 Trish rated it liked it
more like 3.5 stars

I saw some reviews where people claimed this novel of Willa Cather's made more of an impression on them than My Antonia... I can't say I agree or disagree. Both novels have their strengths in characters and plot, but Cather's writing in My Antonia simply blows O Pioneers! out of the water. Nonetheless, I thoroughly enjoyed escaping to this countryside world that Cather so colorfully described and I look forward to returning to it soon.
Ben Winch
Jul 31, 2012 Ben Winch rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: american, anglo
I came to this book without preconceptions (in Australia, Willa Cather is not as central to the canon as in the U.S.) and loved it. The prose - for its time and for all time - is crisp, clear, concise and beautiful. The sense of place is haunting. The characters are the type you miss when the story's over. One small criticism: it seemed, perhaps, too tragic, as though its tragedy was the trope of a young writer wanting something to hang a novel on and not intrinsic, deeply-felt, inevitable. Me, ...more
Steph
Beautiful, beautiful. The story might be predictable, and some elements of the ending might be uncomfortable (view spoiler), but the atmosphere! Cather's writing never ceases to amaze me.
Marie stole slowly, flutteringly, along the path, like a white night-moth out of the fields. The years seemed to stretch before her like the land; spring, summer, autumn, winter, spring; always the same patient fields, the patient little tree
...more
Lisa See
Feb 10, 2014 Lisa See rated it really liked it
Brilliant, brilliant writing.
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Happily Ever Afte...: Qtrly Classic Read Apr-June 2016 - O Pioneers by Willa Cather 17 19 Jul 08, 2016 08:22AM  
Goodreads Librari...: Add edition 1 20 Jun 16, 2015 12:55AM  
23 Short Classics: May Book - O Pioneers! 8 12 Jun 11, 2014 03:59PM  
Nature Literature: O Pioneers Turns 100 1 14 Jan 08, 2014 07:18PM  
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  • Babbitt
  • Old Jules
  • Giants in the Earth
  • Founding America: Documents from the Revolution to the Bill of Rights
  • Night and Day
  • The Moon Pool
  • Sister Carrie
  • The Glimpses of the Moon
  • The Ox-Bow Incident
  • The Awakening and Selected Stories
  • Great American Short Stories: From Hawthorne to Hemingway
  • A Christmas Carol and Other Christmas Stories: Christmas Festivities, The Story of the Goblins Who Stole a Sexton, A Christmas Tree, The Seven Poor Travellers, The Haunted Man, and Master Humphrey's Clock
  • Where Angels Fear to Tread
  • The Robber Bridegroom
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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
More about Willa Cather...

Other Books in the Series

Great Plains Trilogy (3 books)
  • The Song of the Lark
  • My Ántonia

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“And now the old story has begun to write itself over there," said Carl softly. "Isn’t it queer: there are only two or three human stories, and they go on repeating themselves as fiercely as if they had never happened before; like the larks in this country, that have been singing the same five notes for thousands of years.” 102 likes
“I like trees because they seem more resigned to the way they have to live than other things do. I feel as if this tree knows everything I ever think of when I sit here. When I come back to it, I never have to remind it of anything; I begin just where I left off.” 87 likes
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