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Lucy Gayheart

3.84  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,005 Ratings  ·  109 Reviews
In Lucy Gayheart, Willa Cather seems to be writing the lightest and slightest of records of a short life: the obscure life of a young girl in an American village who goes to Chicago to study music, falls in love with a middle-aged singer, knows a brief moment of deep contentment and then the pain of a separation that is final--but the impression left on the reader is not s ...more
Hardcover, 1st Edition, 231 pages
Published 1935 by Alfred A. Knopf
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(showing 1-30 of 1,795)
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Dec 14, 2012 Schmacko rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 23, 2011 Ashley rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 26, 2008 Beth rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 16, 2014 Robin Friedman rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 05, 2015 Debbie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novel
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
Nov 13, 2011 Ruth rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 22, 2010 Carol rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
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
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
Oct 02, 2014 Stephen rated it it was amazing
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
Devyn Duffy
Apr 09, 2015 Devyn Duffy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 09, 2016 Melinda rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was recommended to me by one of my favorite library patrons. It is, I'm fairly certain, the saddest book I've ever read. It is also absolutely beautiful, and shocking. And refreshingly concise.
Molly Sargent
Nov 29, 2015 Molly Sargent rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I was intrigued by Kate Walbert's recommendation in the Wall Street Journal of this little-known Willa Cather novel and so ordered it with the intention of reading it when I could. I picked it up just to peruse since I was reading a couple other books at the same time. I couldn't stop reading it despite the pull of other works, other tasks. As an ardent admirer of Cather's descriptive powers and insight into human experience, I was not surprised at this haunting story of youth and regret, but I ...more
Jack Perreault
Nov 28, 2015 Jack Perreault rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Lucy Gayheart is a different time of book. No car chases, nothing is blown up and no torrid affairs, no one is killed. Cather's writing is simple and elegant her characters are opened to us, and we see what we know, but ignore. Lucy is pretty, musically talented 18 yo girl living in small town rural Nebraska. She is a talented pianist, who is lively, impetuous and free spirited. Her father runs the local watch repair shop and also teaches music part time.
Lucy's mother dies when she is young, and
Jan 07, 2015 Emily rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: liked-it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jul 21, 2015 Carol rated it it was amazing
Shelves: willa-cather
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
Oct 30, 2015 Jacob Haller rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 30, 2012 Dan rated it it was amazing
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.
Willa Cather was an American treasure. What a great writer and story teller. This is another classic.
Aimee Kessell
First Willa Cather, and I loved it. Lucy Gayheart was a tragically beautiful character that is too young and too vivid to take the heartache that has been given to her. It's a great representation of the small life of the plains in Nebraska to the colorful and loud life of Chicago. And it's about hiding and finding yourself again and finding inspiration to keep going and improving. And it's about loss and the tragicness that can be dealt to one person. But it's so beautifully written that one ca ...more
Kate Picher
Feb 23, 2015 Kate Picher rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"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
Oct 26, 2014 Drew rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
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
Feb 20, 2010 Lee Anne rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorite-author
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
Jan 21, 2013 Judy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 17, 2013 Lowry rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 23, 2011 Judith rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 29, 2009 Claudia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics
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.
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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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“Since then she had changed so much in her thoughts, in her ways, even in her looks, that she might wonder she knew herself--except that the changes were all in the direction of becoming more and more herself.” 4 likes
“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
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