Dan's Reviews > Death Comes for the Archbishop

Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather
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Mar 02, 11


A month or two ago New Mexico magazine ran a feature about fiction set in, uhm, New Mexico. There were excerpts from "Death Comes for the Archbishop" in the margins, and I really liked the tone of them, so I picked up a copy. I wouldn't have thought I'd like a historical novel about a Catholic priest on way to becoming a Bishop on way to becoming an Archbishop, but the writing sold me. Cather's voice is sparce without being quiet, ideal for describing the stark southwestern lanscapes in which the story is set. I read many of the physical descriptions twice, just 'cause they were so darn pretty. Overall I found it to be a fine piece of historical fiction: well informed, full of dates and place names, drawing as often as possible from the journals and letters of the main characters, but also speculative, daring to illuminate the intimate moments too subtle for the sweep of history. I especiialy recommend it to anyone who lives or has lived in or around Santa Fe. You'll recognize places like San Miguel Chapel and the Cathedral, Chimayo, Pecos, Taos, Tesuque, certain trails through the Sandia and Sangre de Cristo Mountains, Bishop's Lodge... actually, you'll recognize pretty much every place the story weaves through, which is cool.
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