Mimi's Reviews > Song of the Lark

Song of the Lark by Willa Cather
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's review
Aug 27, 2012

liked it
bookshelves: adult
Read in April, 2010

This book . . . well, it's the third Cather novel I have read, and I think I like it the least. That said, you can see I still gave it three stars, because just because I like it the least, does not mean that it is not a good novel and well written.

The book follows the life of Thea Kronborg, a Swedish-American who grows up in a small town in Colorado and ends up studying voice in Germany and becoming a famous opera star.

My main complaint is that the beginning of the book was much better than the end of the book. The beginning and middle are almost entirely written in the perspective of Thea, and it's fascinating. The latter portion of the book is mostly written in the perspective of others (Fred Ottenberg, Dr. Archie, Tillie), and all they do is really talk about how Thea has grown and how amazing she is. That isn't as interesting, or at least wasn't to me.

I also felt that the discovery of Fred's disagreeable and later insane wife felt like a pure machination. How common could that really be? It just feel like Cather had to have some reason why Thea and Fred couldn't be together at that point of time. I don't know why Thea couldn't have grown as an artist if she were happy and married. It just seemed like Cather wanted to say that women, to grow artistically, had to be single.

I also didn't like the disparaging commentary about Methodists and Christians, or religious people, in general. Thea had no use for it in her life, and it seemed that the only influence it had on her was to make her feel guilty about things.

Thea has this great awakening while in the southwest, and she was fueled by the connection she felt to the "Ancient People," the native Americans that had lived there before. It really seemed kind of . . . superficial? Unnatural? I know that Cather herself had an experience like that, but that doesn't make it more natural in my eyes.

This book is reportedly the most autobiographical of anything she wrote. I read that the first edition was much to personal, and Cather later went back and edited a lot of it out, so as to not share too much of her private feelings with the world. (And I can respect that.) It definitely made it interesting to read thinking that Thea was really Cather.

I enjoyed the insight into what life was like back then (sometime in the 1800s, I don't remember exactly which decades). I hadn't realized that so many issues we deal with today were already prevalent then.

It was clear why the book is a classic, and you would not be wasting your time if you read it. It is an interesting read on the rise of an artist and the difficulties in desiring to be popular with the public and the educated critics as well. In the end, it seemed to me that the underlying message was that artists must be selfish and live only for themselves and for their goals of becoming the best they can be. That seems lonely to me.
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Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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message 1: by Ally (new)

Ally The Bright Young Things are reading this book in August 2010 - if you haven't already checked us out we'd love to see you there soon...

Please use this link to join us... http://www.goodreads.com/group/invite...

message 2: by Jim (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jim I felt the same way, more or less. I wouldn't have minded the message if the presentation of the character wasn't so frustrating. As she became famous she became opaque, and not very interesting...

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