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O Pioneers!

(Great Plains Trilogy #1)

3.86  ·  Rating details ·  41,726 ratings  ·  2,731 reviews
O Pioneers! (1913) was Willa Cather's first great novel, and to many it remains her unchallenged masterpiece. No other work of fiction so faithfully conveys both the sharp physical realities and the mythic sweep of the transformation of the American frontier—and the transformation of the people who settled it. Cather's heroine is Alexandra Bergson, who arrives on the wind- ...more
Paperback, 159 pages
Published 1992 by Vintage (first published 1913)
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3.86  · 
Rating details
 ·  41,726 ratings  ·  2,731 reviews


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Henry Avila
Sep 19, 2014 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
Cecily

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
...more
Meredith Holley
Jul 07, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone
Recommended to Meredith 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
...more
Jaline
Aug 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: xx2017-completed
Can we even imagine what it was like for the early homesteaders and pioneers, arriving (most likely) from somewhere in Europe in a last-ditch effort to make something out of nothing? There it is before them – a vast, lonely, rolling plain of earth meeting a vast, lonely, infinite sky. Where does one even begin?

In this novel, Willa Cather takes us on a journey where we see exactly where it begins – with sod huts or log cabins or some form of shelter. Then comes the dawn to dark labour of breaking
...more
Elyse Walters
Dec 05, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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 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!
Diane
Jul 14, 2012 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
...more
Cheryl
Dec 16, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: northamerica, fiction
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
Feb 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
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
...more
Duane
Dec 11, 2013 rated it really liked it
This book gets high marks from the critics, and One of Ours won the Pulitzer Prize, but of all her prairie novels, My Ántoniais my favorite. But they are all well written, all very readable, all worth reading.
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
...more
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
Julie
Apr 15, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I've circumvented Willa Cather's works my entire reading life, and I don't know, at this moment if I was wrong, because I didn't much care for this novel. Rather than the "spare prose and brutal story lines" that I was promised, I found uneven prose and a story that bordered on the edge of tediousness. It danced so close to downright boring, that I found myself skipping entire passages, and then forcing myself to go back, just to be fair. At best, I would rate this one as a "good enough" story f ...more
Dolors
Sep 23, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2015, dost
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
Sue
Jul 05, 2010 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
...more
Britany
Aug 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2017, classics
Alexandra Bergson may just be my favorite female protagonist. Holy Moly was I impressed with the strength of this book - considering the time period that it was crafted in.

The Bergson's own a farm in Hanover, Nebraska and while most of the world is moving away from farmland and towards the new technology and quite literally moving closer to the river. Alex puts her foot down and takes control of her family's farm. Despite having 2 older brothers (Lou & Oscar- dimwits!) and 1 younger brother
...more
Kim
Aug 11, 2013 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
Magrat Ajostiernos
Jan 11, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017, club-pickwick
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).
Teresa
Apr 15, 2013 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
Sarah
Oct 22, 2007 rated it really liked it
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
...more
Matt
Jun 20, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
...more
Lisa
Mar 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
[4.5] Cather left me cold when I read her a few decades ago. I'm so glad I re-visited her! I love so much about this book. I'm not a fan of descriptive prose but Cather's words succinctly placed me in the Nebraska farmland. I understood how the power of the land motivated and inspired Alexandra.

O Pioneers is set in the late 19th and early 20th century and Alexandra, who grows to become an independent and intelligent businesswoman, has to fight against the restraints of her time. One of the most
...more
Steve
Dec 31, 2013 added it


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
Kathleen
5 shining stars.
O Pioneers is another beautifully written book by Willa Cather. I could see the fields, landscape, orchards, animals, nature and I could feel the cold winds and biting snow. I loved Alexandra and admired her kindness, intelligence, determination, dedication and hard work. Cather's writing took me back in time and the characters became my pioneer friends and neighbours.
As written on the back cover, 'One of the most important American writers of the twentieth century, Willa Cathe
...more
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
Diane S ☔
Mar 17, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
Scott Axsom
Feb 26, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
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
Celia
Willa Cather has written three books entitled The Great Plains Trilogy.

The first in the series is O Pioneers!
The second is Song of the Lark
The third is My Antonia

It is not important to read them in order. Their link is the Great Plains. The settings are Nebraska, Colorado and Nebraska.

I make this point because I read My Antonia first. I have now read O Pioneers! Nothing in Antonia prepared me for Pioneers. To me, they are THAT different. I was so touched by this book, I could barely write the r
...more
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
Trish
Jun 24, 2016 rated it liked it
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.
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  • Ethan Frome and Selected Stories
  • The Awakening and Selected Short Fiction
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  • Old Jules
  • The Virginian: A Horseman of the Plains
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  • Anna Karenina
  • The American
  • Babbitt
  • The Deerslayer (The Leatherstocking Tales, #1)
  • Founding America: Documents from the Revolution to the Bill of Rights
  • Le Morte D'Arthur - Volume I
  • Letters of a Woman Homesteader
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  • Winter Wheat
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1,353 followers
Wilella Sibert Cather was born in Back Creek Valley (Gore), Virginia, in December 7, 1873.

She grew up in Virginia and Nebraska. She then attended the University of Nebraska, initially planning to become a physician, but after writing an article for the Nebraska State Journal, she became a regular contributor to this journal. Because of this, she changed her major and graduated with a bachelor's d
...more

Other books in the series

Great Plains Trilogy (3 books)
  • The Song of the Lark (Great Plains Trilogy, #2)
  • My Ántonia (Great Plains Trilogy, #3)
“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.” 125 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.” 103 likes
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