Chris Wolak's Reviews > One of Ours

One of Ours by Willa Cather
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's review
May 21, 12

it was amazing
bookshelves: read-more-than-once, war-world-war-i
Read from April 30 to May 19, 2012 , read count: 3

** spoiler alert ** One of Ours has been my favorite Cather novel for some time now. I feel an affinity with Claude and admire how compassionately Cather details his feelings of discontentment, how she takes her time to show what it's like to feel like you don't fit in one's community, family, or even in one's own skin.

I don't know of another novel that so painstakingly and patiently presents the pain of a young person's struggle to find a place where he belongs and a sense of purpose. I was thinking that usually such characters end up becoming rebels without a cause. But Claude is certainly no rebel. He isn't strong enough or knowledgeable enough to break free of his family or community until the US enters the war. The war is raging for three years by the time the US enters and by then Claude has the familial and social backing to leave. He finds freedom in the military, as many young people still do today. Had Claude stayed in Frankfort, it's pretty clear he would have ended up one of the walking dead that Gladys describes. Or, perhaps he would have eventually committed suicide like his mother fears he would have had he come home from the war. He was already becoming disillusioned and had he not joined the military it's clear that life in Frankfort would have crushed his soul.

This is the first time I've read the novel since I started reading more about World War I. Several years ago a friend and I had our own WWI study group that grew out of our mutual appreciation for All Quiet on the Western Front. The first time I read One of Ours I had no reference point for the Claude's war experience other than having felt that sense of general excitement and sense of purpose that my own military service had given me back in the 80s. From talking with combat veterans, current service members, and reading military fiction and nonfiction, I know the excitement and sense of purpose is even more profound during a time of war. The reading I've done about WWI had made One of Ours seem even more realistic and "true" what the experience may have been like for some. But this is the only novel that I know of that details why the war could be so exciting and liberating.
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