Lucy Gayheart
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
read book

Lucy Gayheart

3.78 of 5 stars 3.78  ·  rating details  ·  733 ratings  ·  77 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)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.
Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier84, Charing Cross Road by Helene HanffThe Enchanted April by Elizabeth von ArnimThe House of Mirth by Edith WhartonThe Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
Favorite Virago Modern Classics
70th out of 170 books — 78 voters
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. RowlingHarry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. RowlingDear John by Nicholas SparksThe Secret Life of Sparrow Delaney by Suzanne HarperUndead Much by Stacey Jay
Unread Books I Own
60th out of 148 books — 20 voters

More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,243)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
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...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.
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
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...more
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...more
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...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
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
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.
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 good. Just as in her book The Song of the Lark, we have a small town Nebraska g...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...more
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
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...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
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
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.
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...more
Gwen Thompson
Apr 04, 2014 Gwen Thompson rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Gwen by: Alison Damast, Martha Sullivan
Shelves: fiction
I liked this novel the least of any I've read by Willa Cather. I never warmed to the characters enough to care that much about the outcome, and because they did not seem hopelessly stuck in their situations, the ending felt more contrived than tragic. Cather treats her favorite theme of The Development of the Young Artist much more successfully in The Song of the Lark, one of my all-time favorite books.
I love Willa Cather. I love the way she writes. I love her characters. I love reading what she had to say.

Gorgeous read, heart-tugging, and, as one reviewer on this site put it, "achingly lovely." Not often do I get so engrossed in a more 'serious' book (I'm talking in comparison to something like a thriller, which is, as commonly understood, the literary equivalent to junk food--bolted quickly, sugared up, with the bonus of giving you a squishy head).

Yes, her characters are (at least in the bo...more
Willa Cather was an American treasure. What a great writer and story teller. This is another classic.
Jessica Anne
In which Willa Cather tries to be Edith Wharton, when she should really just stick to being Willa Cather.
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
What is it about 11th novels?

I'm kidding. I have no clue if there is a common thread in the 11th novels prolific authors get around to writing. But I do know that I found Willa Cather's 11th accessible, direct, and appropriately saddening. As someone who minored in music, and became acquainted with the culture of vocal music recitals, I was deeply affected by Lucy's relationship with the baritone Sebastian.

This is one of several works that has made me a big Willa Cather fan.
On par with _One of Ours_ -- not one of my favorites, but strong and elegant and well written. Another tragedy stemming from life in a place that is no longer a frontier, a small town juxtaposed with sprawling Chicago, and the differences between life in both of them. Lucy was both strong and naive, beautiful and sad, and a quintessential hero with her inherent flaws. I wish that Cather had developed Harry a little bit more, early on .... Maybe not.
I really can't give Willa Cather anything less than three stars because she is such a wonderful writer. However, this was not my favorite book of hers. I love her characters and how she evokes a time and place. I love how everything isn't 'perfect'. With this book I just didn't see what Lucy saw in the man she loved, which made it hard for me to be as sympathetic as I wanted to be.
I think Cather wrote this to make up for the last few sections of Song of the Lark. I don't know this for sure, but that is how it feels. It starts like a condensed version of Lark, with Lucy replacing Thea... in a way... but it seems Cather's beliefs shifted a bit, or at least came to the front more... This book surprised and pissed me off... but I guess I like it.
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Ann Marie
Little-known Cather novel, written late in her career, and out of print for a while. Just loved it! I teach her short story "A Wagner Matinee" every year and this novel has some of the same themes, contrasting the plains with the big city, using classical music as a backdrop, etc. What a lovely, sad novel. The ending is perfect. You should read it.
The main character, Lucy Gayheart was a strong, independent young woman. Her family dealt with a lot of financial hardships and had to find ways to survive while supporting Lucy. Harris regretted not being able to follow his heart and marry Lucy but still remained a friend of the Gayheart family. I enjoyed the twists and turns of this novel.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 41 42 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Madame de Treymes and Three Novellas
  • In a Summer Season
  • Dodsworth
  • Hester
  • The Semi-Attached Couple and the Semi-Detached House
  • Miss Mole (A Virago modern classic)
  • Nuns and Soldiers
  • The Constant Nymph
  • The Echoing Grove
  • Pilgrimage, Volume 1: Pointed Roofs, Backwater, Honeycomb
  • Losing Battles
  • The Land of Spices
  • All Passion Spent
  • Gone to Earth
  • One Fine Day
  • Vera
  • Novel on Yellow Paper (Revived Modern Classic)
Wilella Sibert Cather is an eminent author from the United States. She is perhaps best known for her depictions of U.S. life in novels such as O Pioneers!, My Ántonia, and Death Comes for the Archbishop.

More about Willa Cather...
My Ántonia O Pioneers! (Great Plains Trilogy, #1) Death Comes for the Archbishop The Song of the Lark The Professor's House

Share This Book

“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.” 1 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.” 1 likes
More quotes…