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O Pioneers! (Great Plains Trilogy #1)

3.82 of 5 stars 3.82  ·  rating details  ·  27,697 ratings  ·  1,784 reviews
O Pioneers! is a 1913 novel by American author Willa Cather. It was written in part when Cather was living in Cherry Valley, New York, with Isabelle McClung and was completed at the McClungs' home in Pittsburgh. The book is number 83 on the American Library Association's list of most frequently banned or challenged books.

O Pioneers! tells the story of the Bergsons, a fami
Paperback, 176 pages
Published December 1st 1992 by Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group (first published 1913)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Steve Sckenda
Sep 28, 2015 Steve Sckenda rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Lovers of Land
Recommended to Steve by: Mr. Biggers
Shelves: women, nebraska
Dawn breaks over Nebraska’s Divide. The sun leaps above the prairie. Small creatures tune their instruments. Everywhere the grain stands ripe, and the morning smells of wheat, “like bread baking in the oven.” Lovers frolic under the white mulberry trees, while butterflies dance in the orchard. Hunters dangle ducks by their necks as crimson blood stains the white plumage. “Sullen fires of sunset fading, the eternal, unresponsive sky”-- darkness now descends, a guillotine upon the earth.

The hard
Jun 16, 2010 Sparrow rated it 5 of 5 stars
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
"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
Richard Reviles Censorship Always in All Ways
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
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
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

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
Scott Axsom
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
"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
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
Apr 17, 2013 Sue rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  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
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
Nov 25, 2011 Mark rated it 4 of 5 stars
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
"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
3.5 Stars. Review to follow.
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
Diane S ❄
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
Ben Winch
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
This is another book I somehow neglected to read during high school and college. High school is excusable, as the school I attended had a joke of an English curriculum. But I'm rather surprised that I never had to read this in any of my American Literature classes at UWM.

I was hooked after reading the poem that precedes Part I, (The Wild Land). She combines lyricism and spareness of prose in a way that I've always admired. My friend Kate told me that F. Scott Fitzgerald was actually so concerned
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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
Tia Hall
How on earth did I get to be 36 without reading a word of Willa Cather? I really fell in love with this book. I love the way she talks about the land, as if it were a character in the book. It was so interesting how all of the different immigrant groups interacted, yet relied so heavily on each other, particularly in hard times. I found Alexandra to be a powerful force as a woman in a time when women were rarely seen in the role that she had. I agree that women of that time shaped our nation thr ...more
Nov 28, 2007 Brandon rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Laura Ingalls Wilder
Shelves: librivox
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Lisa See
Brilliant, brilliant writing.
May 26, 2008 Brian rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone interested in American literature and American history
This book really is a classic and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I think the book has some flaws (e.g., I found the dialogue to often be stilted), but I still think it is a excellent example of a great American novel. It wa written in the year 1913, before the world and even America loss some of its innocence with the advent of the Great War.

I have not read any of the literary criticism of this book or Willa Cather, but from what I know about U.S. history about America at this time, this book had to b
Willa Cather introduces the reader to first and second (and a few later) generation immigrants to Nebraska. Some came for adventure, others came due to family misfortune, others came for domestic jobs. They were from Sweden, Norway, France, Bohemia and Germany and probably representative of the people Cather knew growing up in this place and time.

In the long build up to the story, you see the hard work and the loneliness of life on these plains. Like families everywhere, there are differences. I
Four and half stars and maybe I'll round up after I've thought about this one some more. I had some doubts about the way the book ended and I never felt able to get close to Alexandra Bergson, but she was a remarkable character and the descriptions of the land and the people it birthed were extraordinary.

I can't believe it has taken me fifty years of reading to get around to Willa Cather! I think I might give this one a second reading soon, with my Kindle highlighting feature to help me better
I love Willa Cather, but I found O Pioneers! is a bit melodramatic and calculated -- too earnest and sentimental, and the characters rather one-dimensional compared to her other novels and stories.

The hot spots in Cather: when the sophisticated (effete) urban man returns to confront the (butch) woman of the earth. I like thinking about how the Nebraska-born, Greenwich-Village-living Cather would identified and disidentified with these characters. Why does the intellectual/dandy come to harm?

Sep 25, 2007 Hillary rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: romantics
Why should romantics read this book? Because it might slap a little sense into them. Of all the Cather I've read, this is her book that's most in love with the land, while recognizing that it is not anthropomorphic, or even like an animal. The land does not love you back. It's much bigger than you are, sort of like God, only, of course, minus the love thing. This doesn't mean you shouldn't invest yourself in it. It only means that you may not get anything back. Which is, again, a fairly religiou ...more
I was disappointed with this book, as I think I had expected more depth than I found in it. That of course is probably my fault rather than Willa Cather's! I felt the characters didn't really grow and develop at all, and I found Alexandra's forgiveness and sympathy for Frank very hard to believe.

I shall try some of Cather's other books to see if I prefer them.
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Just like the little town i never grew up in! 4 35 Nov 25, 2013 10:35PM  
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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.” 87 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.” 75 likes
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