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The Professor's House

3.73 of 5 stars 3.73  ·  rating details  ·  3,561 ratings  ·  301 reviews
On the eve of his move to a new, more desirable residence, Professor Godfrey St Peter finds himself in the shabby study of his former home. Surrounded by the comforting, familiar sights of his past, he surveys his life and the people he has loved—his wife Lillian, his daughters, and Tom Outland, his most outstanding student and once, his son-in-law to be. Enigmatic and cou ...more
Paperback, 288 pages
Published 2006 by Virago UK (first published 1925)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Sue
Willa Cather has moved into my group of favorite authors: those who create characters and worlds that are consistently intriguing, human, interesting--in the best sense of the word, and real. She also writes in a way that is both simple and beautiful. The Professor's House is my third of her books, after Death Comes for the Archbishop and, more recently, O Pioneers!.

In this novel, the titled Professor is actually conflicted, caught between two worlds, that of his old house with the study he has
...more
Joselito Honestly and Brilliantly
I would say that this is a very "clean" novel. The characters are respectful, their dialogues are polished, and there's not a hint of any major mischief in the plot. Professor Godfrey St. Peter is fifty-two. He has two married daughters and a wife (Lillian) of many years. He teaches and writes history books. His family is financially secure, one of his daughters is even rich, having been the beneficiary of his (St.Peter's) former student's posthumous wealth from a gas-related invention. this for ...more
Tom
I actually read this before. I have a habit of re-reading books I like during the summer. Why? Who knows?

I read this for a grad class on Cather and it blew me away. Strangely intense little book. At first, it doesn't seem to be about much, but it's worth a close reading.

Her best known books (O Pioneers, My Antonia) aren't really her best. They are often taught at the high school level, and I think people often think of her as slight. But some of her books, like The Professor's House, pack a real
...more
Roberta
On the face of it, Professor Godfrey St. Peter has a good life. As Cather’s novel opens, he is married, with two grown daughters, Rosamund and Kathleen, who are also married. He has for many years taught at a small college in Ohio, where he is respected and esteemed. He has produced his magnum opus – a multi-volume work on the Spanish explorers of North America – which has won him a distinguished literary prize. With the money from that prize, St. Peter has built his wife Lillian a grand new hom ...more
Jim
Geoffery St. Peter (professor) moves into a new house, but keeps the old house as a study. A brilliant student, Tom Outland, invents a new engine that makes a lot of money. Tom dies in WWI, leaving his fortune to his fiance, Rosamond, one of the professor's daughters. Rosamond and her new husband become parvenus.

The book is half about primoral America - the Blue Mesa in New Mexico, swimming in delicious Lake Michigan and half about the transition from middle age to old age and wanting to sleep,
...more
Alex
Jun 26, 2012 Alex rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: pedantic university professors with disappointing careers and unhappy marriages
Well, this was very pleasant and all, but...have you ever heard of a bridge version of a book? Don't feel bad if you haven't; I just made it up. What it is is you know how there are abridged versions of books, where they include the important and exciting parts and chop out some of the meandering and tangential stuff? Have you ever wondered what happens to that stuff they chop out? Well, that ends up in a bridge version of the book, and that must be the version I read because nothing fucking hap ...more
Sketchbook
Willa Cather pops the big question : How do we
keep living when there's nothing to look forward to?

Midwest prof in his 50s has finished his book.
With 2 married daughters, a bizee wife and the
memory of a prized student killed in WW1, he
scalpels his soul.

"He knew that life is possible, may even be
pleasant, without joy, without passionate griefs.
But it had never occurred to him that he might have
to live like that."

Carol Moffat
Willa Cather is always one of my favorites. Her reverence for the land, the colors,the textures, the vistas and the minutiae,especially of the West always stuns me. The story of Tom Outland's discovery and exploration of one of the mesa dwellings in the Southwest was exquisite. I read that part twice and was smitten with a capturing luminescence.

That Tom Outland, coming from some obscure beginnings, eventually finds his way to The Professor, and becomes a pivotal character in The Professor's li
...more
Chris
I'm having a hard time deciding how to review The Professor's House. The plot itself is very straightforward and easy to describe. The characters are vivid and well-defined which adds to the realism of the novel. But it seems to me that the meat of this novel is in the themes and nuances.

I have read some of Cather's short stories many years ago and only have vague memories of them other than a memory that she had exquisite attention to detail. As I read this book I found that memory to be true.
...more
Christian Engler
I came to the works of Willa Cather by way of my father, who was a deep admirer of her books, especially after he read The Song of the Lark. I knew that Cather wrote about the immigrant experience, but after having finished The Professor's House, I realized that her talent in capturing the nuances of the human experience was not solely limited to the immigrant life. It was just one slice of the pie that she happened to address. There is so much more to her books than I had judged, and admittedly ...more
Susan from MD
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
David
A little, simple piece of Americana that has as much beauty and depth as you might find in a sprawling russian novel. While Cather may have produced some of the greatest American historical fiction in 'My Antonia', 'O' Pioneers' and "Death Comes for the Archbishop', this little gem has a more timeless quality; has a pressing relevance in today's world.

We are introduced to a man who has become increasingly apathetic in his years; frustrated at the materialism he sees around him. He is an idealist
...more
Bev Hankins
I enjoyed this story of a professor facing middle age who discovers that he has quite a disconnect with most of the people in his life. He thought he understood them all...his wife, his daughters, his friends and colleagues at the university--and even himself. But a period of solitary living in his old house makes him see that while he had what he calls a pleasant life, it wasn't what the "real" professor wanted and that he doesn't really want to reconnect (or ever live) with his family once the ...more
Judith
Like so many of my generation, i read Willa Cather's "My Antonia" when i was in 8th grade, around the age of the heroine of the story. I loved it, and through the years, I tried "Death Comes to the Archbishop" and "O Pioneers", and found them so boring that i couldn't get past the first few pages. Now in my late 50's i find "The Professor's House", the story of a professor in his 50's looking back on his career, his travels, and his family, and I love it as much as i loved "My Antonia". Included ...more
daniela
The clash of impending man-made modernity and the by-gone beauty of the natural American West create a narrative full of metaphor and imagery. This theme of dimishing natural wild is certainly current today. The book is characterized by its dichotomy - new "things" changing the way we live and the mysteries of an ancient Mesa and its early American inhabitants. Rich language create lush visuals - an interesting read from an iconic American author.
Mrose46
I loved this book. It shows how a man who is nearing retirement looks back on his life and wants to start life anew without his family and without all of the success and reputation that he has earned--in other words he faces a late stage rebellion. A sub-plot in the book introduces the reader to the pueblo dwellings of the early Indians in the Southwest. I gained a renewed appreciation for Willa Cather.
Suzzanne Kelley
I listened to this book going to and from work the past few days, glad to have construction along the way to slow me down so I could savor the rich wording and smooth segues. This is not a cheerful story, but I'm better for having heard it, and I'll be poking around in the paper version to sound out again some of those phrases that made me want to stop the car.
Ayesha
Some of my favourite thoughts from this book include:
"Wherever sun sunned, rain rained and snow snowed, wherever life sprouted and decayed, places were alike to him. He was not nearly as cultivated as... - and yet he was terribly wise"

"A man long accustomed to admire his wife in general, seldom pauses to admire her in a particular gown or attitude, unless his attention is directed to her by the appreciative gaze of another man"

"Theoretically he knew that life is possible, may be even pleasant, w
...more
Callie
Read this in college, but this time it's for book club. I love Willa Cather! That said, I am a bit conflicted about this book. She had a plot line developing, revolving around some tensions between the two daughters of the professor, a potential lawsuit over the fortune amassed by Rosamund(or was it Rosalind?) And then she interrupts this developing plot to go into some background about Tom Outland, which I didn't mind but when she took up telling about life in Hamilton again she decided NOT to ...more
SwensonBooks
I wanted to read something I hadn't read before and didn't already know as a fan of Willa Cather's writing. Call it the intellectual stretch. The Professor's House (1925) is a short book with only three chapters. Now that I read the book I recognize it as three pieces written separate and apart from one another.

The second chapter, "Tom Outland's Story," stood alone for many years as an unfinished work. Today it would stand alone as a captivating short story about the Southwest during the fronti
...more
Lydia
I admired the writing in this novel but never warmed to the main character. The Professor is in the process of changing houses, when he stubbornly decides to hole up in his old office, and becomes an unlikeable curmudgeon. The Professor is obsessed with his annoying son-in-laws and squabbling daughters. He also blames his wife as they drift apart and laments the loss of his true soulmate and favorite student, Tom Outland.

Outland seems to have wandered in from a different book altogether. This b
...more
Schmacko
Sometimes, for no good reason whatsoever, a book gets lost to history. And it’s not only novels by unknown authors; sometimes it’s a book by a prominent Pulitzer Prize winner like Willa Cather (My Àntonia, O Pioneers, One of Ours). She is one of my favorite writers, but I just didn’t get to the 1925 novel The Professor’s House until recently. It’s a delay I’m now somewhat ashamed of.

Godfrey St. Peter is a handsome but aging history professor in a small Midwestern town. He once struggled through
...more
Cecilia
As a fan of urban literature, never did I imagine I would enjoy a novel by Willa Cather. Famous for her long books about the Midwest and controversial in regards to her personal life, Cather has been touted by professors and classmates as the quintessential mother of American frontier literature -- next to Laura Ingalls, of course.

The Professor's House isn't one of her most well-known pieces but no doubt captures the Midwest in its breakdown of community and family life: wholesome and loving, bu
...more
Colleen
What is Willa Cather's secret? How does she take a subject that sounds boring and create a poetic study of a life? She accomplished this with Death Comes for the Archbishop and here with The Professor's House. The protagonist is Godfrey St. Peter, a professor at a midwestern university. His life has proceeded along the projected trajectory--education, marriage, children, and a continual climb up the tenured ladder. So far he has willingly gone along with that trajectory. Then, one day, as he and ...more
Dagný
Desire, is what this book is about. Desire and the loss of it. Borne along in the desire to create ("desire is creation") , Professor St.Peter writes his masterwork in an attic room of an old house where he and his wife have raised two daughters. Now, for the fruit of his labor they have built an new house and the daughters are married. The Professor insists he still will work in the badly ventilated, perilously gas heated and cramped attic room that is really the "sewing" room of Augusta, a lif ...more
Alan
The Professor’s House explores a relationship between an older professor and a young, inspired student (Tom Outland), who tells a story of discovering a lost canyon leading to ancient cliff dwellings. In the last short chapter, the professor muses about how his travels with Outland improved his writing and led to his late-in-life success. With his family in Europe the professor rediscovers the essence of his childhood, his independence and excitement about learning. One reviewer I found online n ...more
Kamila Forson
The Professor's House is composed of three books, but it is the second one, "Tom Outland's Story," that truly shines. The story slowly gains momentum and tension throughout the first book -- at times too slowly, so by the time you reach the second book, and the point of view shifts to the mysterious Tom Outland, it's as though someone had suddenly opened the window in a stuffy room. I read that Willa Cather wrote the second book first, and built the rest of the story around it, which is (unfortu ...more
Scott
Based on this one book - my introduction to Willa Cather - I'm really looking forward to reading more by her. Although this book is a simple story about a professor who is in the process of moving from the old house, where he raised his two daughters and made his career, into the new one that his recent success has enabled the purchase of, it contains surprisingly powerful insights.

Compared to the professor, I'm on the opposite spectrum in my life and career cycle, but I can appreciate the theme
...more
bookczuk
I just finished with Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis, another post war story-- but what a difference! This was much bleaker compared to Jim. I think it hit me especially hard as I am watching my 86 year old mother adapt to a world that holds fewer and fewer people she knew and loved in her youth. There is a sadness in old age as well as a resiliency (did I spell that right?) Plus, I'm moving into a time in my own life when I am trying to pare down and shed the trappings of materialism. Leave a smalle ...more
Oleg Kagan
"The Professor's House" combines Willa Cather's penchant for understated character studies of isolated protagonists with two distinct settings - a quiet mid-western university town is the background for Professor St. Peter's emotional turmoil while the New Mexico desert is almost a character in the story of young Tom Outland. Though short in length, the novel proceeds at a comfortable pace winding the simple plot until it peters out in a disappointing whisper of an ending.

"The Professor's House"
...more
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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...
My Ántonia O Pioneers! (Great Plains Trilogy, #1) Death Comes for the Archbishop The Song of the Lark One of Ours

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“In great misfortunes, people want to be alone. They have a right to be. And the misfortunes that occur within one are the greatest. Surely the saddest thing in the world is falling out of love--if once one has ever fallen in.” 21 likes
“And that's what makes men happy, believing in the mystery and importance of their own individual lives.” 9 likes
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