Shadows on the Rock
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Shadows on the Rock

3.89 of 5 stars 3.89  ·  rating details  ·  790 ratings  ·  92 reviews
"Superbly written, with that sensitivity to sunset and afterglow that has always been Miss Cather's."
The New York Times

Willa Cather wrote Shadows on the Rock immediately after her historical masterpiece, Death Comes for the Archbishop. Like its predecessor, this novel of seventeenth-century Quebec is a luminous evocation of North American origins, and of the men and women...more
Paperback, 240 pages
Published September 26th 1995 by Vintage (first published 1931)
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Being the third of the books I've read by Cather, I've come to expect a certain ecstatic experience from her work, and Shadows is no exception. In fact, compared to the other two, the utter simplicity and straightforwardness of the characters and emotions depicted has made this by far the most enjoyable of what I've read (the other two being My Antonia and Death Comes for the Archbishop). There is a rhythm to her composition, in which characters are introduced, back story is discovered, an inten...more

This quiet book captured me with the beauty of its writing, its description of an isolated pioneer life where people had to make the best of what they had, and some purely religious stories of a kind you rarely find in novels anymore.

In this novel of interconnected stories, Cather describes the promontory of "Kebec" in the late 1600s and early 1700s, primarily through the eyes of an apothecary who left France to follow the count who had lived next to his father's shop in Paris. Not long after he...more
I guess it’s no secret by now that I adore Willa Cather. Shadows on the Rock (1931) is one of her late novels, and I loved every minute of it. It’s an account of people living in colonial Quebec. There’s not much of a plot; this is all about character and place. In it, Cather fully shows her power of description and her awesome talent in presenting the spirit of a land.

This genius is no surprise; Cather captured life on the Nebraska plain in My Àntonia, O Pioneers, and My Mortal Enemy. She expl...more
Willa Cather is, hands down, one of the best authors there is. Her writing is poignant, beautiful, and simple, filled with terrific characters and lovely settings; yet it is quite real and sticks you right in amongst the story. This book is about the life of a France-born apothecary and his young daughter, as they face the colorful happenings of a "New France" or Canadian town. A must-read.
This was a pleasant book but not great and not exactly a page turner. But it's short enough and it might even make you cry as it did me, but if you're interested in Willa Cather try My Àntonia first.. That being said, there were lots of lovely and touching moments depicting the quaint life Québec offered within the framework of a calendar year in the last days of Frontenac at the end of the 17th century. The book details the life of Cécile and her apothecary father and their band of comrades in...more
This book was just charming. It doesn't really have a traditional "plot," as in a central conflict with setbacks, climax, denoument, etc. It's just a year in the life of a 12-year-old girl, her widower father, and their friends, making a life for themselves in Quebec in 1697.

In a way it's sort of a fairy tale. The good characters are pretty much thoroughly good, the evil characters are really not all that evil, and nothing very frightening ever happens. It's appeal lies in the likability of the...more
I really enjoyed this novel set in old "Kebec." I am familiar with some of Cather's other works, but particularly admired this surprise (I bought it for a nickel at a used book sale) with the vivid details of the 17th century, as Cecile, her apothecary father (Euclid), neglected Jaques, old Bishop Laval, etc. struggle in their daily lives. Lots of French (which I don't read), a perspective on Catholicism, and weather descriptions that made me despite November in PA wasn't that bad. Some great st...more
Cather's 1931 novel is historical fiction, blending real characters (the Count de Frontenac, late 17th-century Governor General of Quebec) with imagined. Although the story bored me at times, Cather's writing - especially her physical descriptions, which are on a par with Thomas Hardy - seems effortless and uncontrived. She creates beauty without grandiose flourishes. If I were going to write fiction, I would study Cather closely.
Cheryl Gatling
My family recently took a trip to Quebec, which brought to my mind this book that I had read years ago, and I re-read it. There is something stirring and dramatic about the geography of Old Quebec City. Buildings hover over the steep cliff faces, or huddle below them, and one feels (although one knows better) that the rock of the city stands there proudly or defiantly or watchfully over the rivers that roll below (rivers that, when we were there, were choked with ice, but still flowing). This ge...more
Indelible portrait of French settlers in Quebec in the 18th century. Vivid senic descriptions, strong sense of place, charming character portraits, love for nature and humanity. A treasure.
A- V and I read this for our book group. Lovely writing, and a great picture of colonial Quebec. I fell in love with the characters, and her language and writing is just so luscious.
Kelley Ceccato
A beautiful evocation, superbly detailed, of a time and place novelists generally ignore. I'd never even heard, let alone read, a novel set in colonial Quebec before.

This book doesn't have much of a plot; rather, it's a series of episodes and set-pieces, with vivid character portraits. Cecile is a likable figure, a curious, observant, good-hearted child in the same mold as Francie Nolan from "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn," albeit less ambitious (but then, this difference makes sense when we conside...more
Cather has really grown on me. I love how she makes her prose so simple, yet so insightful. I love the way she captures the tension between old and new worlds, and what the old traditions and new freedoms mean to the people that are caught in between. I love the depth of her characters. And I love how the land shapes the people that live in it.

This isn't the right book for Cather novices - it has even less of a plot than her books usually do (and she's isn't much of a page turner). But if you al...more
Paul Bartusiak
Being a fan of Willa Cather, it was quite exciting when I found a copy of Shadows on the Rock at a used book fair (a 1931 first edition, no less). As a frame of reference, I thoroughly enjoyed some of her other works: My Antonia , O Pioneers! , The Professor's House ,and my personal favorite, Death Comes for the Archbishop . Not being familiar with Shadows , I started it with cautious optimism.

Unfortunately, in my opinion Shadows does not compare to those listed above. It's a great character...more
Oct 31, 2008 Jukka added it
Shelves: cather-books
Shadow on the Rock - Willa Cather
I treasured this! Cécile and her father touched my heart. And Jacques. For me this book brings together some of Cather's earlier plains pioneer books with the form of her later works. I love Cather's creation of both place and time and her characters -- i fell in love with Quebec (now Quebec city) of 1700 and the folk there then. It does get a little slow at parts in 'The Long Winter' but i suppose it really would. Reminds me some of the magic in Year of Wonders...more
A great read for a long winter. Here's another Willa Cather historical fiction about an aging man in exile in the New World. This time we are in 1690s Quebec, a French colony "on the rock,"--seemingly cut off from Europe for eight months of the year but still bound to European culture and influence. The apothecary Euclide Auclair and his young daughter Cécile are the novel's focus. Euclide is meant to be the hero, with his obsession with dinner, "as the thing that kept him civilized man and a Fr...more
Willa Cather has a way of suffusing the most mundane and domestic activities with a sense of mysticism and marvel. Shadows of the Rock is no exception. Through the day-to-day, relatively ordinary experiences of a 12 year-old girl in 1697 Quebec, we develop a sense of the origins of a people. Within the fog enshrining 'The Rock', these early settlers seem hewn from the very fabric of the elements themselves. Cather is able to capture the estrangement and isolation of these early settlers through...more
I gave this book 3 stars because of how well Cather portrays 17th century Quebec and she obviously put a lot of effort into research to make this book as accurate as possible. However, it had basically no plot and nothing really interesting happened so it was nowhere near a page-turner for me. I also found that the author could've developed the characters a lot more, I didn't really feel emotionally attached to any of them and I usually like to have ones that I can root for, or pity, etc. One th...more
J. Alfred
Cather has a pretty cool niche in Literature: at least three of her novels (this one, Death Comes to the Archbishop, and O Pioneers!) deal with first or second generation European immigrants trying to civilize what had previously been wilderness. She has a serene style that impresses one with its weight and doesn't rely whatsoever on Romantic emotional appeals. For some reason, I always feel stronger and sort of cleaner-- in a word, happier-- after I read her books.
I read this immediately after Death Comes for the Archbishop and was interested to learn that Cather also wrote it immediately afterward. If you like one, you will like the other. Both are character-driven, built up by short vignettes only lightly related to each other chronologically. Both have breathtaking and unforgettable descriptions of the beauties of nature, this one of the light and colors of Old Quebec City at various times of day and year. Both have thoroughly good people coping with d...more
I picked up this book for a few cents at a used bookstore, then set it aside for a while. I actually thought I might be bored; it isn't the sort of historical fiction I normally read. There are no major political characters in starring roles, there are no wars or action scenes, and there really isn't any big, history changing event things center around. However, I loved this book. The author's voice, her depiction of life for the period, and the interaction of the characters charmed me. I could...more
Katie Hilton
A very colorful portrait of early Quebec, seen through the eyes of a French apothecary and his daughter, residents of the province at the end of the 17th century. As usual, Cather paints pioneer life with its difficulties and triumphs.
Maria Geiger
Set in Quebec in the seventeenth century, Shadows on the Rock tells the story of young Cecile Auclair and her father, the well-respected apothecary of the growing French city. While Cecile is proud of her French heritage, she also embraces the freedoms and opportunities that Quebec offers. Both Cecile and her father live under the protection of the powerful Count de Frontenac; the novel often reflects back to the origins of that storied relationship involving many generations of their respective...more
Ric deMeulles
A great historical view of Quebec, the clergy and everyday life in the early days of settlement. However you don't have to be a history wonk to get this book or to be enchanted by it.

I'm not sure why I liked this so much - partly, I think, it was just the right book at the right time. Cather's voice is so unassuming and straightforward, and she builds her characters so carefully that it seems effortless, which I'm sure it was not. I have no idea how I got this far through my life not having read anything by her except a couple of short stories at uni. Such a fascinating period to write about too. I think I can say, with certainty, that this is the only book I have ever read...more
I love this book because it takes place in old Quebec in the 1700s. The story is told about Cecile Auclair, a girl of 12, who lives with her widowed father, the town pharmacist. Each character in the story has weaknesses and challenges but rises above them with help from those around them. It makes me want to live back in the olden days when the wilderness was still wild and letters came on ships from Europe and family and community were the foundation of society.

There is a fair amount of Frenc...more
Liking Willa Cather and having lived in QC, I really enjoyed this book!
I hope to read this Willa Cather novel again someday. Most of all, I enjoyed the sense of place it offered. I really felt I was not just in the physical location, but also in the cultural one. I am a big fan of Cather's narrative style, with its focus on aesthetics. The novel lacks the overt drama many stories contain, but allowed me to really go somewhere, to this land where old and new tug away at the protagonist's soul. That's what Cather writes best, and I feel at home when I read her.
This book was slow in plot but surprisingly pleasing in the end. The main characters are endearing and real. Willa captures a place (Quebec) and time in a full and transporting way. It was heavy at times with Catholicism and idol worship but that was such a large part of the culture at the time. Willa also wrote Death Comes for the Archbishop which was a good book. I'm left liking this book much more than I thought I would when I was still in the first few chapters - a satisfying read.
Jul 12, 2008 Hallie rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Kelley
A rather sweet story of a little Catholic girl in the 17th-century French settlement that would become Quebec City. There aren't a lot of stories set in colonial Canada, so that's kind of fun. It's pretty heavy on the moralizing (i.e. a Catholic education website says "This is a wonderful story to study with young girls giving them an example of a truly Catholic girlhood where simple pleasures provide happiness and the importance of family is emphasized.") but nonetheless charming.
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Shadows on the Rock 1 5 Nov 12, 2013 07:56PM  
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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

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“Only solitary men know the full joys of friendship. Others have their family; but to a solitary and an exile his friends are everything.” 20 likes
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