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Lucy Gayheart

3.82 of 5 stars 3.82  ·  rating details  ·  931 ratings  ·  99 reviews
"Some people's lives are affected by what happens to their person or their property, but for others fate is what happens to their feelings and their thoughts—that and nothing more." In this haunting 1935 novel, the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of My Ántonia and Death Comes for the Archbishop performs a series of crystalline variations on the themes that preoccupy her grea ...more
Paperback, 208 pages
Published September 26th 1995 by Vintage (first published 1935)
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O Pioneers! by Willa CatherDeath Comes for the Archbishop by Willa CatherMy Ántonia by Willa CatherAlexander's Bridge by Willa CatherThe Professor's House by Willa Cather
Best of Willa Cather
20th out of 31 books — 4 voters
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My 52 Book Challenge 2015
67th out of 85 books — 2 voters

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Community Reviews

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Lucy Gayheart – unfortunate name nowadays – is a late novel by one of my favorite authors, Willa Cather. It follows a young piano student from her Nebraska home in the late 1800s to her study in Chicago and elsewhere. In Chicago, she meets a famous opera singer and becomes his rehearsal accompanist for a couple seasons; the experience changes her life. It also changes others’ lives.

I see what Cather was trying to do here. The opera singer changes young, steadfast Lucy. She also deeply affects hi
It's been literally years since I read a book this amazing. And I don't think I've ever read one as haunting, aching, or abrupt. It's painfully beautiful, reminds me of some of Edith Wharton's writing. There are elements of Willa Cather's better-known works here (My Antonia, The Professor's House come to mind) - the reverence of place, the creation of another world that fully draws you in, the characters who are so real that Cather paints their flaws with no excuses. But none of her other works ...more
My all-time favorite novel by Willa Cather, my all-time favorite novelist.

Probably not her critical best, but the images will stick with you for many years.
Robin Friedman
Willa Cather's short, poignant 1935 novel "Lucy Gayheart" is a story of music and dashed dreams. The story takes place in the early twentieth century and contrasts the American plains, in Haverford, Nebraska, with large urban America, with its promise and perils, in Chicago.

The heroine of the book, Lucy Gayheart, has great pianistic talent. She leaves Haverford at the age of 18 to study piano, and to give music lessons, in Chicago. She meets a great but disillusioned and world-weary singer, Cle
My Antonia and Song of the Lark are bigger books in scope and pages, but this one has my heart. A hardbound Knopf edition without this cover was on my parents' bookshelf for years before I found Cather; so, I clicked on that image. I've read the book at least five times in boards or in paper and given several copies to dear friends as a perfect introduction to Miss Cather.

One theme is "Youth and the Bright Medusa," which of course is the title of a book of Cather's short stories that includes t
As a Willa Cather fan I am reading all of her work. While it is a good book, Lucy Gayheart is not her best in my opinion. Cather contrasts the eternal optimism of youth and young love (first crush) with the realities and disappointments of middle age when one desires to recapture the magic of youth. Interesting subject matter to be sure.

Lucy Gayheart is the beautiful, musically talented and carefree daughter of a German watch repairman raised in the small town of Haverford, Nebraska. She draws t
Lucy Gayheart, the book's title character, is eighteen and headed to Chicago to study music. Beautiful, young and full of joy, Lucy is her town's sweetheart; so it's no wonder she catches the eye of Clement Sebastian, a singer her father's age.

Lucy Gayheart is written in that elegant and clear style of Cather's with the descriptions of the Nebraska plains she's well known for. Though not her *best* it's still really, really good. Just as in her book The Song of the Lark, we have a small town Ne
when I travel, I like to have lightweight, and now, I know, burnable books. So I grabbed this paperback for my plane rides, turbulent both ways, if you want to know. I stopped reading it in the hotel room because I‘ve read it a few times before and it is sad.

Lucy is an artist, growing up in small town on the prairie. She is a free spirit and, of course, needs to leave the isolation and ignorance of her home town. The town is near the Platte river, so I’m pretty sure that means Colorado. Lucy’s
A friend who is a college English professor seemed a bit dismayed that I was reading "Lucy Gayheart" so early in my exploration of Willa Cather.

"Lucy Gayheart" is the main character of the book, a lovely and naive girl who grows up in a small prairie town. Her father teaches music in his spare time and sends Lucy to Chicago to study piano there. Lucy meets an older musician there, a singer who in modern parlance might be having somemthing of a mid-life crisis. Lucy is hired to serve as his acco
Helen Kitson
This is an elegantly-written book, although I sensed almost from the start that Lucy's story would end unhappily. I kept hoping that she would find happiness, and I really, really wanted to be proved wrong with a conventionally happy ending.

Lucy Gayheart is a fascinating, beautiful young woman, and a talented pianist. At the age of eighteen she leaves her small town home to study in Chicago. When she has the opportunity to work as an accompanist for ageing but charismatic - and married - singer
This slender novel filled me with nostalgia and dread for a small town life I never even lived. This is Willa Cather at her best, in miniature. The story of Lucy Gayheart, a young woman who escapes from Nebraska to Chicago, and the tragedies that follow. It ends with a haunting epilogue that made me forgive (view spoiler). It's hard not to underline whole pages of the beautiful prose. Here's a sample:
In little towns, live
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Devyn Duffy
Apr 09, 2015 Devyn Duffy rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone
Recommended to Devyn by: it was on the library's classics shelf
I was lucky to read Lucy Gayheart without knowing a thing about it in advance. (The description on this page doesn't do it justice.) It's like a short cousin to Cather's great work The Song of the Lark; this time, Lucy admires greatness in art but has no such ambition for herself and is content to be reasonably good at playing the piano. This is a story of the ways that art can bring meaning to life and bring people together, and the ways in which a young person has to make her place in a world ...more
The heroine of the book, Lucy Gayheart, has great pianistic talent. She leaves Haverford at the age of 18 to study piano, and to give music lessons, in Chicago. There she meets Clement Sebastian, a great but disillusioned and world-weary singer. Lucy has an opportunity to work with him as an accompanist. Paul Auerbach, who is her professor introduces Lucy to a renowned singer from Europe, Clement Sebastian, a renowned singer from Europe, is everything representative of Lucy's vision of what an a ...more
Jacob Haller
I actually read this book because I interviewed songwriter Christine Lavin for my 'Tell Me About Your Song' podcast, and she wrote a song about it. The song discusses the plot of the first half of the book, up to just before a giant, surprising plot twist. (Or at least I thought it was surprising; others may not.) The song is at and our discussion of the song is at .

I liked the book, which follows the title charact
Haunting story. I finished the book several days ago, but I'm still thinking of Lucy and Sebastian. Cather wrote with a precise tenderness, a sad looking back. I'm making my way through the Cather catalog; four of her works down, more than a dozen to go.
Kate Picher
"Perhaps you will dream that we are both twenty, and are taking a walking trip in the French Alps. And I shall call to you at daybreak. from my balcony!"

What a treasure this book is. The story of a young woman gone off to Chicago to study piano who meets a professional tenor. He opens her eyes to a new world. Interspersed in the story are very germaine thoughts of the characters-- their self- justification for why they did certain actions. I could totally relate.

The only reason I gave 4, not 5 s
Great novels reward anew upon re-reading so while you might have moments of "I remember that part...," the greater part of the writing still has the power to surprise, to reveal, to expose, to stun. This admittedly minor work by Willa Cather still has a major impact on me. Cather's simple tale, of a small-town accompanist whose short life feels nevertheless full, acted as a "Seize the day!" call-to-action within my own equally small life. I too am a person for whom the great and the calamitous a ...more
Lee Anne
Lucy Gayheart is bored in her small town, so she moves to Chicago to teach/study music. She sees a performance by a famous tenor, becomes fascinated with him, becomes his rehearsal accompanist and falls in love with him.

Willa Cather is one of my favorite authors because she can flesh out so many characters in the briefest of novels. Lucy is young, impetuous, foolish. Clement Sebastian is brilliant, yet profoundly sad and world-weary. Pauline, Lucy's much-older sister, has spent most of her life
As a college English major, reading Cather's 'Pauls's Case' was required and I had to write a paper on it, which was tricky since I had no idea what Cather was talking about. I thereafter avoided her books until 25 years later I read in 'Trio', a biography about Gloria Vanderbilt, how she and her 2 girlfriends read "Lucy" when it was first published in 1935 (when Gloria was 11) and how they huddled in her bedroom ardently discussing the story. As an admirer of GV, this was enough to send me to t ...more
Christian Engler
There is something about a Willa Cather novel that has a long lasting affect, even after the last page has been read. Perhaps it is the joyful and vibrant expectancy of what idealism and hard work can yield. Or, perhaps, it is the cutting dagger of truth that bring her characters back to reality. Whatever it is, months and years can pass by, and for me, in the quiet stillness of reflection, pondering all the books that I've read, Willa Cather's plots and themes and language always ring supreme. ...more
Lucy Gayheart is in a way the companion piece to A Lost Lady. In A Lost Lady the narrative never leaves the small town; the city remains unseen, though powerful, throughout. In Lucy Gayheart, the narrative goes to Chicago, and the central action happens there. The same dynamic is at work as in A Lost Lady, but it plays out in a very different way. This time the contrast between the city and the hinterland is not so much about capitalism and wealth (though there is that) as it is about room for t ...more
I love Willa Cather, and although this is clearly not her best work, it had some redeeming qualities. Lucy is a small town mid-western girl who is the pride and beauty of the town. Her best friend is the handsomest, richest boy in town. Lucy goes off to Chicago after graduation and studies music. There she meets an older famous sophisticated musician who takes her under his wing. I cannot tell what happens next as it will spoil the story. But what I really enjoyed about this book is that it is s ...more
When Emmylou Harris and Dave Matthews sang a duet in the late 90s/early 00s about "My Antonia," it was pretty clear to me that Willa Cather had become a sort of pop culture icon. Of course, in the literary world "My Antonia" ranks right up there with the more modern Midwestern classics, but little had I heard of Cather's "Lucy Gayheart." Again, set in part in Cather's beloved prairie, Cather tells a third-person story of a young lady who grows up in a small town and then moves to Chicago for mus ...more
Fred Ann
A love that enpasses her entire soul, an experience that had excluded all that was and had been her being. Alternately the man she rejected, Harry concluded his life with such an unrequited love for Lucy as Lucy had jad for Clement. A study of love and life. A revealing insight into the possibilities of life and love. A quiet , solemn, serious,glimpse.
Found this in a hotel in Taormina, Sicily. Not my favorite of Cather's, mostly because of the story and characters, not because of the writing (which was, as usual, strong and plain). I liked Lucy, Clement and Harry just fine, and I appreciated the tragedy they suffered. I just didn't feel invested in their stories or development.
Jane Wolfe
This is another well written novel by Cather. The novel is an example of good writing with themes that wind through the story, tying it together. I loved the beginning as Cather begins immediately with the description of her main character and the setting of the small town.
Claudia Mundell
Like the book...the ending snuck up on me. Cather is always a delightful read, although I did like some of her others slightly better than this story of a young gal going to the big city from the prairies.
Lucy Gayheart grew up in the midwest and was a fixture around her town of Hungerford, Illinois. She was seen walking around town and generally brought a smile to those who encountered her.

When she turned eighteen she went to Chicago to study music. There she became involved as an accompanist to a singer who she later developed feelings for.

In reading this book, it seemed as if I was re-encountering characters from "It's a Wonderful Life" but with Lucy as the main character.

In Chicago, Lucy meets
An old fashioned good read. Some might see as a simple love story but it does pull your heartstrings. 100% different from her Death Comes for the Archbishop.
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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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“He had missed the deepest of all companionships, a relation with the earth itself, with a countryside and a people. That relationship he knew cannot be gone after and found; it must be long and deliberate, unconscious. It must, indeed, be a way of living.” 3 likes
“Yesterday's rain had left a bitter, springlike smell in the air; the vehemence that beat against her in the street and hummed above her had something a little wistful in it tonight, like a plaintive hand-organ tune. All the lovely things in the shop windows, the furs and jewels, roses and orchids, seemed to belong to her as she passed them. Not to have wrapped up and sent home, certainly; where would she put them? But they were hers to live among.” 3 likes
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