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O Pioneers! (Great Plains Trilogy #1)

3.84  ·  Rating Details ·  35,175 Ratings  ·  2,209 Reviews
O Pioneers! was Willa Cather's first important novel. Published in 1913, it introduced the Bohemian and Swedish immigrants of the Nebraska Prairies to readers of serious literature. Alexandra Bergson assumes responsibility for running the family farm after her father's death. She possesses the strength of the pioneers that the author knew in her midwestern youth. Writing O ...more
Paperback, 295 pages
Published March 1st 1997 by University of Nebraska Press (first published 1913)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Cecily

description

I was entranced by the Nebraska prairie and a wonderful leading woman, living a century ago: a time and place I have never been, but which leaped from the pages, with simple craftsmanship, to sculpt the landscape of my mind’s eye, as Alexandra transformed both her fields and the lives of those around her.

The final thirteen pages felt written by or about a different person, not the author and protagonist I thought I knew.

Prairie Spring

The novel opens with a poem contrasting the harsh landscape w
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Henry Avila
Sep 19, 2014 Henry Avila rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Alexandra Bergson, at a young age , has to take care of her family and farm, in Nebraska, with the untimely death of their father John, he wished his oldest child ( and smartest ), to guide the poor immigrants from Sweden in the 1880's, everyone agrees at first, struggling on the harsh prairie, are also brothers Lou, Oscar and five year old Emil, her pet, the mother knows little about farming... An endless drought soon after begins , the Sun baking the soil , the crops withering for lack of rain ...more
Sparrow
Jul 07, 2008 Sparrow rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
Recommended to Sparrow by: sadly, I think no one did
Alexandra looked at him mournfully. “I try to be more liberal about such things than I used to be. I try to realize that we are not all made alike.”

Everything in O Pioneers! is beauty to me. I am so in love with this book. Maybe it is because I have it in my brain that pioneers by definition suck that Willa Cather always catches me by surprise and turns me upside down. It’s like walking through an alien landscape and then running into my best friend. I thought what I would find was Michael Lando
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Diane
Jul 14, 2012 Diane rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"The history of every country begins in the heart of a man or a woman."

I don't know why I haven't read this before -- it seems like the kind of novel I should have been assigned in 9th grade -- but I'm glad I read it as an adult because I wouldn't have appreciated it as much when I was younger. I am from the Midwest and my grandparents were farmers, and I loved Willa Cather's stories about what it was like for the pioneers in Nebraska. I liked Cather's spare writing style; she gives just the rig
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Margitte
Once again, a second time, I was at the mercy of Willa Cather's writing, and closed this book with a feeling of accomplishment: as a reader as well as a human being.

In my world, more than a century after this novel was written, we still battle nature on a daily basis and we are aware that nature will return the moment we leave this little piece of earth for a respite. With seed, roots and rain, the stories of ages of human history will be covered in an instant, wiped away as though we never walk
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Cheryl
Dec 16, 2015 Cheryl rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, america
Isn't it queer: there are only two or three human stories, and they go on repeating themselves as fiercely as if they had never happened before; like the larks in this country, that have been singing the same five notes over for thousands of years.

If you've read Willa Cather's famous My Antonia, you're already aware of the Bohemian community, those farming pioneers of the American frontier she writes about. The young Swede protagonist of this novel, Alexandra Bergson, is familiar; she grows up
...more
Jason Koivu
Beginning with simplicity, innocence and hope, Willa Cather runs her pioneers through the ring of fire that is the hallmark of the pioneer's life and only some of them survive.

Perhaps I've made that sound more exciting than O Pioneers! actually is. There are far too many dull scenes in this book for me to call it a perfect classic, but it is a solid addition to American western frontier literature.

Writing from her experiences, Cather populated her novel with Scandinavian immigrants, gave them b
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Richard Derus
Rating: 3.75* of five

The Publisher Says: Set on the Nebraska prairie where Willa Cather (1873–1947) grew up, this powerful early novel tells the story of the young Alexandra Bergson, whose dying father leaves her in charge of the family and of the lands they have struggled to farm. In Alexandra's long flight to survive and succeed, O Pioneers! relates an important chapter in the history of the American frontier.

Evoking the harsh grandeur of the prairie, this landmark of American fiction unfurls
...more
Teresa
Apr 15, 2013 Teresa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I remember putting Death Comes for the Archbishop back on the library shelf when I was kid, thinking it sounded boring. Perhaps that preconception stuck with me, because this is the first Cather I've read. It is far from boring. The prose seems effortless, the pages turn quickly and I became invested in the characters.

Over the weekend, while in Jackson, Mississippi, I came across a quoted conversation (in the Mississippi Writers Exhibit in the public library renamed the Eudora Welty Library) tha
...more
Kim
Aug 11, 2013 Kim rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kindle

Where has Willa Cather been all my reading life? Until fairly recently, I'd never heard of her. Now that I've read just one of her novels, I want to read more.

This short novel is centred on Alexandra Bergson, the daughter of Swedish immigrants whose intelligence and hard work brings her success as a farmer in a rural area of early 20th century Nebraska. It's a deceptively simple novel, with a third person narrative progressed in chronological order. However, even though Cather's narrative style
...more
Dolors
Sep 23, 2015 Dolors rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2015
I was enraptured by Cather's smooth prose, the beautifully woven descriptions of the land with its double facet; hostile wilderness and source of livelihood; I warmed to all the characters, who were exquisitely painted in relation to the different degrees of understanding of the land, I fell prey to the nostalgic hues that tinted the story, its cinematic texture; but when I turned the last page of the book, I felt part of the magic disappeared by Alexandra's conservative morals. (view spoiler) ...more
Magrat Ajostiernos
Jan 11, 2017 Magrat Ajostiernos rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: club-pickwick, 2017
Este es otro libro para sentir más que para dejarse llevar por la trama, es muy cortito, sencillo pero TAN evocador. Habla de gente corriente, de trabajadores y de mujeres emprendedoras a más no poder. El final me ha desconcertado un poco pero en general me ha parecido una delicida de lectura (y además me ha enganchado muchísimo, justo lo que necesitaba).
Sarah
Oct 22, 2007 Sarah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I don’t know how, but I got through all of high school and college in America without reading a word of Willa Cather. It all worked out for the best though, since ten years ago I would have probably found her work like, totally boring and about farming and the human condition, or whatever.

I picked up My Antonia a few months ago and loved it to bits - to me, nothing beats stories written in ordinary language about ordinary people. Mix in some bleak, sweeping plains, some overtly lesbian action, a
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Carol Rodríguez
Aunque al principio se me hizo algo lento, hubo un punto en que el libro despegó y no pude parar de leer, pero el final me volvió a desinflar. Algunos personajes me han caído terriblemente mal, por ejemplo los hermanos de Alexandra (excepto Emil), y hay otros que me han encandilado, como Carl, Ivar o Marie. Me ha gustado también que se deje ver la revolución tecnológica de aquellos tiempos y la gestión de las tierras, así como la diferencia entre los puntos de vista de la gente de campo y la gen ...more
Sue
Jul 05, 2010 Sue rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: readers of classic American fiction
Willa Cather appears to write so effortlessly or, perhaps, I should say, her prose reads so effortlessly. Her characters ring true and the land looms over them all. Of course Cather lived on that prairie and knew that land. Cather knew farm families like the Bergsons and possibly a woman like Alexandra Bergson, whose life was fully formed and influenced by the land.

There are different views of the land's influence on its people:


"John Bergson had the Old-World belief that land, in
itself, is des
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Steve


Willa Cather (1873-1947)

Isn't it queer: there are only two or three human stories, and they go on repeating themselves as fiercely as if they had never happened before; like the larks in this country, that have been singing the same five notes over for thousands of years.


A curious chance it is that in the midst of bitter efforts by Republican legislators in the American South to protect us all from the terrifying possibility that someone with different sexual equipment might have the temerity to
...more
Scott Axsom
Feb 26, 2013 Scott Axsom rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Willa Cather is a genius. There, I said it. It’s out of the way. O Pioneers! was published in 1913 and I’m convinced, had it been published just a few years later, she would’ve won the Pulitzer for it. Sadly, the prize had yet to be established when O Pioneers! was published. (It was established for fiction 5 years later, and she received it, anyway, in 1922 for One of Ours).

Many factors go into making Cather such a brilliant writer but foremost, in my mind, is her ability to effortlessly descri
...more
Matt
Jun 20, 2010 Matt rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classic-novels
"Hell, I even thought I was dead 'til I found out it was just that I was in Nebraska."
-- Gene Hackman as Little Bill Daggett, Unforgiven

Willa Cather's opening description of Nebraska is unlikely to find its way into the Cornhusker State's tourism bureau pamphlets. She describes the fictional town of Hanover as near to being blown away by a howling wind; she describes low drab buildings; a gray sky; a gray prairie. The Nebraska of O Pioneers! is hard, unforgiving, yet tempting; it is a land that
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Diane S ☔
Mar 17, 2014 Diane S ☔ rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The prairie land of Nebraska, many immigrants from other countries flocked to the wide open spaces and land for the taking, many were defeated by the harsh conditions. Where the weather could make or break one, were intakes were most often re-paid in misfortune. Many would leave, go back to the cities and jobs in factories, but for those who stayed, made wise decisions the land would yield much.

A wonderful story, beautiful but plain prose, descriptive writing, one can feel the beauty and alterna
...more
Trish
Jun 24, 2016 Trish rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
more like 3.5 stars

I saw some reviews where people claimed this novel of Willa Cather's made more of an impression on them than My Antonia... I can't say I agree or disagree. Both novels have their strengths in characters and plot, but Cather's writing in My Antonia simply blows O Pioneers! out of the water. Nonetheless, I thoroughly enjoyed escaping to this countryside world that Cather so colorfully described and I look forward to returning to it soon.
Jim
I've heard about this for years. It's supposed to be a classic & I don't know exactly what I expected, but this wasn't it. There wasn't enough detail to really catch my attention. It was a bit of a character study of the strong people that built our country, but they were all caricatures. Silly, virginal love threads intertwined with tough characters in a really interesting landscape & time that didn't get nearly enough attention. A lot of good elements, but it just didn't do much for me ...more
Mark
Nov 25, 2011 Mark rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: commuters
Recommended to Mark by: Ivan
My journey from Poole in Dorset up to London on the train and then back again yesterday was made so easy by virtue of reading this book that I did not even notice that i was 20 mins late into London in the morning and 40 mins late back into Poole last night. Well maybe a little but it was certainly made less frustrating. This was a quite wonderful novel in so many ways and the danger would be that I could collapse into cliche but I shall try to restrain myself.

You know how often people talk of
...more
LectoraEstherica
Un libro muy tranquilo, amable que me estaba encantando hasta que llega la parte del drama que desequilibra el resto de la historia porque hasta entonces había evitado expresarlo abiertamente, se veían las rencillas y que podía "explotar" de un momento a otro, pero vamos que pensaba que iba a ser con los hermanos mayores. El final-final sí que me ha gustado, ^^.

Creo que le hubiera ido mejor a la historia si se hubiera contado todo mientras Emil era pequeño, una de mis partes favoritas sin duda,
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Elyse
Dec 05, 2012 Elyse rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read this book many times. Why? Its a beautiful book (and georgous stage play).
This was the first professional-'Equity'- play our daughter was in (at the age of 9).

I've want to read another Willa Cather book soon.

"My Antonia" was also wonderful.

A book I haven't read yet ---and would like to is: "The Professor's House".

Willa Cather is a beautiful writer!
Jane
Coming back to read this book for a second time reminded me that when I first read Willa Cather – many years ago – she took me to a time and place I had known nothing about and she made me realise that there were more sides to classic writing than I had realised.

Before I read her books the only American woman author I knew was Louisa May Alcott ….

Enthused by my new discovery I read every single book I could find in a short space of time, not really stopping to think about the arc of her storytel
...more
Paula
Jan 07, 2017 Paula rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2017
Me ha gustado mucho y se me ha hecho un suspiro, pero algunas partes las podía haber desarrollado un poco más. Willa Cather escribe maravillosamente, pero no regala más palabras que las justas y necesarias. Como su protagonista principal Alexandra, la autora es precisa, práctica y directa, lo que no es malo en sí, tan sólo que en ocasiones la falta de desarrollo en momentos en los que me gustaría haber sabido más, me parecía que daba a la narración cierta brusquedad.
Dem
Sep 14, 2015 Dem rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 Stars. Review to follow.
Moonlight Reader
H-o-l-y s-h-i-t.

Willa Cather was the real deal.

Lisa Kay
★★★★✩

4/8/16 - Update. Okay, quite liking this one. Realized I've read it before, but not sure when. Possibly in high school? Also, realized I've seen the Hallmark movie of it, staring Jessica Lange.
Okay, finished this one. Well written, and a good example of life in Nebraska in the early part of the 20th Century. A little unrealistic, as far as a woman being able to be this successful, but still very good with regards to the mores of the time. The author makes you feel as if your in that time
...more
Dorine
May 12, 2016 Dorine rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those who love family saga surprises in a small package
O PIONEERS! by Willa Cather was my choice for “something different,” our theme this month in SuperWendy’s TBR Challenge 2016. I succeeded in finding a book that’s a different style, as well as a classic from 1913 that focuses on the history of the prairie pioneers of North America, as well as examples of historic literature reviews and commentary. Willa Cather was an amazing woman very in touch with her talent and I can’t wait to read the rest of the GREAT PLAINS TRILOGY.

Why was it in Dorine’s T
...more
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  • The Virginian: A Horseman of the Plains
  • The Bostonians
  • Maggie: A Girl of the Streets and Other Tales of New York
  • The Country of the Pointed Firs and Other Stories
  • Babbitt
  • Old Jules
  • Giants in the Earth
  • Founding America: Documents from the Revolution to the Bill of Rights
  • Night and Day
  • The Moon Pool
  • Sister Carrie
  • The Glimpses of the Moon
  • The Ox-Bow Incident
  • The Awakening and Selected Stories
  • Great American Short Stories: From Hawthorne to Hemingway
  • Where Angels Fear to Tread
  • The Robber Bridegroom
  • After All These Years
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Wilella Sibert Cather was born in Back Creek Valley (Gore), Virginia, 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 writin ...more
More about Willa Cather...

Other Books in the Series

Great Plains Trilogy (3 books)
  • The Song of the Lark
  • My Ántonia

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“Isn’t it queer: there are only two or three human stories, and they go on repeating themselves as fiercely as if they had never happened before; like the larks in this country, that have been singing the same five notes over for thousands of years.” 114 likes
“I like trees because they seem more resigned to the way they have to live than other things do. I feel as if this tree knows everything I ever think of when I sit here. When I come back to it, I never have to remind it of anything; I begin just where I left off.” 97 likes
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