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My Ántonia (Great Plains Trilogy #3)

3.73 of 5 stars 3.73  ·  rating details  ·  75,081 ratings  ·  4,492 reviews
Willa Cather’s heartfelt novel is the unforgettable story of an immigrant woman’s life on the hardscrabble Nebraska plains. Through Jim Burden’s affectionate reminiscence of his childhood friend, the free-spirited Ántonia Shimerda, a larger, uniquely American portrait emerges, both of a community struggling with unforgiving terrain and of a woman who, amid great hardship,...more
Paperback, 238 pages
Published September 21st 1995 by Mariner Books (first published 1918)
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67th out of 657 books — 131 voters
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i read this book the same day i found out that sparkling ice had introduced two new flavors, pineapple coconut and lemonade.

what does this have to do with anything, you ask??

well, sparkling ice is sort of a religion with me, and this book was wonderful, so it was kind of a great day, is all. i don't have a lot of those.

why have i never read willa cather before? i'm not sure. i think i just always associated her with old ladies, and i figured i would read her on my deathbed or something. maybe it...more
Mar 10, 2011 Sparrow rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Hemingway fans, good people
Recommended to Sparrow by: nobody, and why?!
Maybe what I love about Willa Cather is all the kinds of love and belonging she writes. Her unhappy marriages and her comfortable ones; her volatile love and her unconsummated longing; and her lone, happy people, are all so different, but so how I see the world. I think the way she writes them is wise. Unreliable narrators are delightful to read because, in the sense that the author has shown me their unreliability, she has also shown me their uniqueness and humanity. I think Jim Burden, the nar...more
They came to the prairie because they wished to live deliberately. The flat and treeless land looked empty and unremarkable to those who could not see, but others envisioned a harvest of waving corn ready to burst forth from the sweat of their brow. Prairies teem with burrowing life and with blue dreams. The endless land absorbs those dreams, and the sheltering sky embraces the dreamers with its wide blue arms. Brave immigrants from Scandinavia and Central Europe who were searching for freedom a...more
Apr 14, 2014 Dolors rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Those wanting to get hold of an elusive past
Shelves: read-in-2014
“Some memories are realities, and are better than anything that can ever happen to one again.” (p.259)

More than a Wild West story about the adventurous frontier life in the Nebraska plains, I thought My Ántonia was a novel about red seas of prairie grass and hard blue skies and black ploughs outlined against crimson suns and adults chasing the casted shadows of their pasts. Prior to the comforting embrace of the Nebraskan landscape there was only the most profound homesickness. Homesickness for...more
To speak her name was to call up pictures of peoples and places, to set a quiet drama going in one’s brain.

‘My Antonia’ is a story of home and homesickness. Of the memories of a lost home that persist in the mindscape as the warm gusts of wind and the singing of the larks. The home of that golden sunshine and yellow leaves, red shaggy grass and blue skies. The images which make me think of home as the quietest, friendliest corner of a crowded and uncaring street, of that kind touch in midst of...more
The Book Maven
When I first arrived in Indiana in August 2004, I didn't know what I was expecting. My ancestors had first arrived in that Midwestern state in 1820, when it was still comparatively wild and unsettled. They were the true pioneers, but nonetheless, as I got out of my little Corolla to stretch my legs, I felt like I was a trailblazer, too.

We had stopped at a little gas station and truck stop just beyond the Indiana state line. I took a moment to call the relatives, let them know I was two hours aw...more
Perhaps an example of the danger of reading something before being intellectually or critically able to handle it. I wasn't "forced" to read this in high school but it was on a list of books an English teacher asked us to choose from and report on.

The experience was so awful that I've never cracked another Cather novel since.

Added 12/29/08: Apparently I was not the only young man "traumatized" by an early experience with Cather. In a completely serendipitous convergence I came across this paragr...more
Nov 27, 2011 John rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: who care about American literature
Recommended to John by: read it to teach it
My latest encounter with a masterwork -- a novel I just completed in order to teach, and one that seduced me wonderfully and quite unexpectedly. Cather's Nebraska story goes over ground that's never much mattered to me, Midwestern farm country. Yet she made made the experience ache and thrill marvelously, via her poetic command of landscape and season, her exactitude when it comes to tools and foods and skin texture, and above all her penetrating sympathy for every figure, from the venal to the...more
She makes me revel in the beauty of four seasons: burning summers when the world lies green and billowy beneath a brilliant sky...the color and smell of strong weeds and heavy harvests; blustery winters with little snow, when the whole country is stripped bare and gray as sheet-iron. I read her and I forsake all others, for she tells me that no one can give the sensation of place through narrative, and also deliver such soul-stirring and wistful storytelling quite like she can.

She gives me quiet...more
Ben Winch
I'm not sure I can tell you what's so great about My Antonia, except that you can't read it without loving its subject, or at least I couldn't. And that it's transparent - miraculously so - as without flash or ego as anything I've read in a long time. But ironically, this rare attribute may help conceal Cather's artistry. In her earlier O Pioneers!, from the first line her virtuosity was evident, but perhaps if I hadn't been so impressed by it there I wouldn't so instinctively have grasped it he...more
Like many kids, the first “real” books I loved were Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House on the Prairie series. Their great and continuing popularity makes perfect sense. Kids crave security and a sense of protection; Little House on the Prairie hammered on that theme repeatedly, while only giving the reader a frisson of the actual dangers and hardships of frontier life. There was never any explicit threat in any of the books, with the exception of the near fatal cold in The Long Winter (the one...more
Cather's beloved work is an nostalgic paean to her past, the prose even more assured than in her previous two novels. But whether it's because this one lacks the straightforwardness of O Pioneers! or the character arc in The Song of the Lark, its episodic structure failed to pull me in.

The most important element for me is the historical one that Cather has left us, the focus on the hard-working immigrant women who made a life for their families on the prairie despite extreme hardships, including...more
"The trouble with you, Jim, is that you're romantic."
(p 138)
And for me this may have been the crux of my problem with this novel in spite of Cather's usual wonderful writing. Having read the books of The Great Plains Trilogy in the order they were written, My Antonia has to compete for attention in my mind with O Pioneers! and The Song of the Lark, neither of which has a narrator who would be termed a romantic in their view of life.

Jim's memoir of life on the prairie begins when he is a child...more
A couple of years ago, Motion City Soundtrack came out with an album called Even if it Kills Me. One of the tracks on that album was called My Antonia. The song isn’t their best, but it has qualities that make it special to me. The song describes the unique characteristics of a person that make her interesting. I’d be willing to say that the vast majority of “love” songs I’ve heard (from male artists, anyway) focus on how the object of affection looks. The gents seem to be able to go on and on a...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
***3.5 Stars*** Vignettes of the Nebraska prairie, illustrated with lyrical prose. It is written as a memoir of the narrator, Jim Burden as he reflects on his early childhood when he was an orphan living with his grandparents on a farm near Black Hawk Nebraska (around the 1880s). Above all, he reminisces about a Bohemian immigrant girl named Antonia Shimerda.

Her novel has been dissected and analyzed by far more talented reviewers and critics than I’ll ever be so there is no need for me to be rep...more
Apr 06, 2012 Werner rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Fans of serious, clean mainstream fiction; fans of historical fiction
Shelves: classics
Since about 1980, I've tended to read much more speculative and "genre" than descriptive, mainstream fiction; but that's partly a result of quirks of circumstance, and in my younger days that proportion was very much the reverse. This novel is one I read during my high school days (but on my own, not for a class) and remains an enduring favorite; it's a monument of the Realist tradition that exemplifies what "mainstream" or "general" (what I like to call "everyday" fiction, in no snide sense) ca...more
I was expecting this book to be a hard classic to read. But I quite enjoyed it. I think it offers one a lot to consider and discuss....immigration, schooling, farm life, change of life, friendships, the list goes on. I enjoyed the painting that I felt Willa Cather painted as I was reading. It was peaceful to read and almost made me wish I had lived back in the day when life was somewhat simpler.
Some beautiful writing about early farmers in Nebraska, but for me, this novel pales in comparison to "O Pioneers," which I loved. My main complaint about "My Antonia" is that the narrator, Jim, isn't very interesting. He is sharing his memories and stories about an immigrant girl, Antonia, who grew up on a neighboring farm. But Jim is a lifeless narrator; I think the novel would have been more compelling if it had been told from Antonia's point of view.

For instance, Antonia told two of the most...more
"The miracle happened; one of those quiet moments that clutch the heart, and take more courage than the noisy, excited passages in life."

--Willa Cather, My Antonia

I first read my parents’ copy of Willa Cather’s 1918 novel “My Antonia” when I was 11. At the time, my mom described it as “Laura Ingalls Wilder for grown-ups.” Over 30 years later, I’ve read it again and fully understand what she meant. On the first reading, I had felt a vague bittersweetness, but not with the benefit of maturity and...more
i've been rating a lot of books with "it was ok" lately - that phrase seems to cover a wide range for me. for this book i considered giving it a third star ("liked it").

i enjoyed reading about country life and then life in town. while i didn't necessarily feel the same love for Antonia that the narrator felt she was certainly key to the story & an enjoyable character. i certainly enjoyed the interesting mix of characters on the sideline of the story - in fact i think they are what kept me re...more
"Nothing happened. I did not expect anything to happen. I was something that lay under the sun and felt it, like the pumpkins, and I did not want to be anything more. I was entirely happy. Perhaps we feel like that when we die and become a part of something entire, whether it is sun and air, or goodness and knowledge. At any rate, that is happiness; to be dissolved into something complete and great. When it comes to one, it comes as naturally as sleep."

My friend Blueberry lent me this book over...more
Quite simply, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. This book was a real breath of fresh air given the plain no-nonsense style of Ms. Cather, especially when contrasted with that of Henry James, whom I had just finished reading.

My favorite aspect of the novel was in its vivid descriptions of the setting. My knowledge of the State of Nebraska was basically limited to thinking of it as a place where corn is grown, where the option offense was close to unstopable, where Warren Buffet calls home, and wher...more
Jennifer (aka EM)
Gorgeous slice of life on the Nebraska prairie. Sometimes you just need something like this, y'know? Where it is about characters' essential humanity; where story comes from the slow unfolding of time and place, and from the people living then and there: lives of richness and depth, but no overwrought drama, no complex plotting, no dark suspense. Simple, sweet and lovely.
Words like "elegiac" make this novel sound profoundly cliched when the reality is that it's anything but. However, it's a novel about the past, about memory, loss and love and all those things you think you know perfectly well about until you approach them again in a fresh way in a novel as profoundly original and uniquely engaging as this one.

On the surface, My Antonia is a deceptively simple book. The narrator, Jim Burden, writes down (in deceptively simple, but completely evocative prose) his...more
Sep 02, 2011 Maureen rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Maureen by: Patty
Shelves: 2011
okay, i'm done!

there's not really a plot.

i really liked the book -- i wasn't sure if crying by page fifteen was going to bear out, but i found i really like cather's writing, period. she accomplishes a lot in straight forward memoir as narrative, and i like the sense of nostalgia that permeates the book. i have read that cather was friends with sarah orne jewett, author of the country of the pointed firs (fantastic book - thanks ben? patty?) and the two share a lot in style and approach with v...more
Jan 30, 2011 Lobstergirl rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Bill Daley
Shelves: fiction
Like Death Comes for the Archbishop, this is more a series of vignettes than a story with an arcing plotline. As with Death, Cather's writing here is exquisite; I don't know anyone else who describes a landscape in a way that is prose and poetry at the same time quite the way she does. Here, in the novel's first paragraph, an unknown female friend is traveling by train through Nebraska with Jim Burden, who becomes the novel's first person narrator a few pages later. Jim has now moved to New York...more
I don't think there is another book quite like My Antonia out there. I read this book when I was fifteen and the result was I that I developed a strong appreciation for the beauty of women. I consider the book to be a tribute to the many forms of beauty of types of women. Besides Antonia, who is a lovely older bohemian woman, we have Lina, who is at one time a country sprite, then later an elegant city woman. Written from the point of view of a young man, being a child, coming of age, being adul...more
Marcus calls the protaganist "neutered". While Jim may not have been assertive, the men who were in the story were fatally flawed for that reason. Their assertiveness was self-destructive. The assertiveness seemed to come from their demons. For example, Mr. Cutter was assertive. His spite tortured his marriage and reached beyond his life. He insisted to control the destiny of not just himself but his miserable wife ending both with violence. In contrast, A man whose life and death just "happened...more
Jill Jackson
Oct 07, 2012 Jill Jackson rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Lovers of historical fiction
An entertaining and intimate glimpse into the lives of ordinary people of the late 1800's, who reside on the farms and settlements of a windswept Nebraska prairie. Written for the grown-ups in the room, this is less Little House and more like prime-time soap opera. And a fun ride it is for the reader.

The story begins with a 10 year old boy, newly orphaned, journeying by train to the Nebraska hinterlands. It is here that he will start a new life on his grandparents' farm. The theme closely paral...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...
O Pioneers! (Great Plains Trilogy, #1) Death Comes for the Archbishop The Song of the Lark The Professor's House One of Ours

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“The earth was warm under me, and warm as I crumbled it through my fingers...I kept as still as I could. Nothing happened. I did not expect anything to happen. I was something that lay under the sun and felt it, like the pumpkins, and I did not want to be anything more. I was entirely happy. Perhaps we feel like that when we die and become a part of something entire, whether it is sun and air, or goodness and knowledge. At any rate, that is happiness; to be dissolved into something complete and great. When it comes to one, it comes as naturally as sleep.” 136 likes
“That is happiness; to be dissolved into something complete and great. When it comes to one, it comes as naturally as sleep.” 85 likes
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