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The Song of the Lark

(Great Plains Trilogy #2)

3.90  ·  Rating details ·  8,150 ratings  ·  913 reviews
100th Anniversary Edition

“Miss Cather, indeed, here steps definitely into the small class of American novelists who are seriously to be reckoned with.”—H. L. Mencken
“To reread Cather is to rediscover an arresting chapter in the national past.”—Los Angeles Times

Feisty Thea Kronborg, with her rapturous singing voice, is headed for great things. But her upbringing in a raw,
Paperback, 100th Anniversary Edition, 480 pages
Published November 6th 2007 by Signet (first published 1915)
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Alison I wondered about that, too! Turns out chlorine gas was discovered a long time before it was weaponized—there’s a whole Wikipedia page about it.

I wondered about that, too! Turns out chlorine gas was discovered a long time before it was weaponized—there’s a whole Wikipedia page about it.

Cather would also have finished the manuscript at least months before the book was published. And that scene was supposed to take place in the 1890s. Thea wouldn’t have had any negative associations with chlorine gas, so I think it was intended as a positive metaphor. (less)
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Average rating 3.90  · 
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 ·  8,150 ratings  ·  913 reviews

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Feb 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: xx2018-completed
In this second of Willa Cather’s Great Plains Trilogy, we are taken on an adventure of a different kind. For those who are interested in how the creative process grows within a person from young childhood through to adulthood, this book is perfect.

Thea Kronborg is born in Moonstone, Colorado and is part of a large Swedish family of seven children and an Aunt who helps their mother maintain some semblance of order in their tiny, over-crowded home. It is her Aunt Tillie who first declares Thea to
Dec 08, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Lovers of art in all forms
Shelves: read-in-2015
Even though The Song of the Lark is the second installment in “The Prairie Trilogy”, I consider Thea, its strong minded protagonist, the culminating embodiment of the rest of Cather’s feisty heroines, the point where they end up converging to glow in full radiance.

(view spoiler)
Aug 31, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics-shelf
4.5 stars

"She used to drag her mattress beside her low window and lie awake for a long while, vibrating with excitement, as a machine vibrates from speed. Life rushed in upon her through that window - or so it seemed. In reality, of course, life rushes from within, not from without. There is no work of art so big or so beautiful that it was not once all contained in some youthful body, like this one which lay on the floor in the moonlight, pulsing with ardour and anticipation."

With exquisite pro
Most mornings I wake to the songs of larks, so when Christmas Eve found us stuck inside of our home because of flooding (my front and back yards were pines in ponds), I chose to hear The Song of the Lark in words. This is my third Cather book this year and after having been introduced to her works intimately, I can now safely say that curling up with a Cather book will always be a good choice.

However, this book is not about the song of birds. It is a book that celebrates finding one's muse; in f
Please, take the time to look at this painting by Jules Adolphe Aimé Louis Breton, a 19th-century French Naturalist painter:
Scroll down a bit to get to the image of the painting. It inspired both Cather's book and its title. Cather has in word's captured the feel of Breton's paining. Isn't it wonderful?

What do you see when you look at the painting? I see a woman with grit and determination. Look at the uplifted jaw line. Look at the tilt of the head. That
Jul 30, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Thea Kronborg, daughter of a minister in a small Colorado town, is discovered by the music teacher, a drunken German fellow, to have a rare gift. Sponsored by Archie, the town doctor and family friend, and Ray, a railroad man who intends to marry her but is killed, she travels to Chicago, then New Mexico, meeting more and more cosmopolitan people, until, at last, she is a star of the opera stage, and like a star radiant and very distant.

I found this book, at 420+ pages, quite a chore to get thro
Daniel Chaikin
Jun 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Cather wasn’t supposed to be my theme this year, but here I am finishing a third book and committed to reading more. I always imagined her as a prairie writer, but each book has covered a different kind of atmosphere. Here we begin on the plains, in the sand hills of Eastern Colorado, in a small railroad town where we follow one of the daughters of a local minister. But then we make our way to 1890’s Chicago, the Arizona desert and the opera world of New York City. A young Thea Kronberg stands o ...more
Feb 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Compelling and thorough, The Song of the Lark is the portrait of the awakening and development of an artist. Cather also brings along all of those who nurture Thea. This is not a "pulled herself up by her bootstraps" tale - but a story of persistence, luck and lots of help. I am ignorant about opera, but that didn't hinder my enjoyment.

Written in 1915, I am astonished at how Thea breaks through traditional gender roles. This novel feels timeless. And that is the power of a great classic!
Jun 10, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
At some point in this novel, I imagined a subtitle for it: "A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Woman," especially as I'm convinced (without any facts to back it up) that it contains many autobiographical elements. I imagined that Thea's being different from the rest of her family, and from the others in the area she grew up in and loved, to be similar to Cather's experience as a burgeoning writer, also feeling the creative urge when she was a young child in her heart, was it, or under her cheek ...more
3.5 stars

I love how this book portrays an empowered woman who achieves success as a singer though her talent, work ethnic, and independence. This type of coming-of-age story often only occurs with boys and men. Cather, however, follows her protagonist Thea throughout her childhood in eastern Colorado all the way up to her rising fame as an artist in New York. Thea defies the expectations placed on women to act docile and domestic; she prioritizes herself and her ambitions and thus has a happy en
Aug 20, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 stars.
Not often for me does a book's main character go from endearing at the beginning, to tiresome by the end of the book. I adored the young Thea Kronberg, even if playing piano and professional singing interest me not one iota. She was a bright, ambitious little thing and you knew she would make something of herself with those wonderful secondary characters to support and encourage her. But her inner drive and work ethic was what she, in the end, credits her success to; and her personali
We first meet Thea Kronborg through Dr Archie, the young doctor of Moonstone, Colorado. He would become the first of many to have hopes for Thea, Thea the outsider, who just didn't fit somehow in this small town or in the family of a pastor. Sometimes she didn't feel she fit in her own body.

The story of The Song of the Lark is Thea's growth from child to teen to young adult to adult and we, the readers, share in the saga along with those who are her champions. Cather provides such a beautiful, i
Clif Hostetler
Apr 13, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novel
This novel is set in the late 19th to early 20th century and tells the story of a girl named Thea Kronborg from a rural town in eastern Colorado who has musical talent that attracts the attention of a series of mentors and sponsors. Through their help and support she's able to advance in the world of Wagnerian opera to become a world renowned diva.

Willa Cather's skilled writing portrays Thea's inner ambitious aspirations as she leaves small town life behind and becomes exposed to the cosmopolit
Jun 13, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019
Thea Kronberg is the girl we all wish we could be.

She dreams of a bigger world, of traveling, and befriending all the interesting people she crosses. She develops her musical gift by first starting to play the piano and then continuing to sing. She crosses teachers and develops her craft. This novel follows Thea throughout her life, taking the reader along for the ride.

In the beginning, the ride was interesting and thrilling and dreamy. In the middle, it slowed down and started getting bogged d
Moonlight Reader
Jan 24, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: vintage-women

Richly imagined, Cather’s third novel is an exploration of the passion of the artist and the strength of youth. Her main character, Thea Kronborg, child of immigrants from Moonstone, Colorado, has all of the brazen energy and boundless potential of her prairie town. She is the exceptional child in a family of many children, the others quite ordinary, a girl so relentlessly herself that the triumphant arc of her life has a feeling of inevitability, in spite of the many obstacles that she must
Oct 20, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, own

I can't say this is my favorite Cather novel; My Antonia and Death Comes for the Archbishop are much better. Thea Kronborg is not the easiest character to live with for 400 pages. Not only is she tough and determined, but often sullen and defeatist. Even the sensitive, understanding man who falls in love with her thinks of her sometimes as "a little cold and empty, like a big room with no people in it." Nor is small-town, small-minded western America a place where I often like to hang out, liter
Jennifer Hughes
My Antonia is one of my favorite books, so I thought I'd revisit Willa Cather since it's been a long time. While I found myself savoring little morsels of prose here and there, overall this novel was too long, and frankly, I just didn't care that much about the main character. I think I would have enjoyed this book more if 200 pages had been edited out so that the story was tighter and there weren't so many descriptive passages that really weren't relevant in the long run.

Of course, in those ver
Aug 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Willa Cather has a way of creating characters and capturing the human experience that cuts to the core:

"There were other times when she was so shattered by ideas that she could do nothing worth while; when they trampled over her like an army and she felt as if she were bleeding to death under them."

"People live through such pain only once; pain comes again, but it finds a tougher surface."

As a parent, I especially related to this:

"You and Thea will likely follow different lines, and I don't see
Jul 16, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I loved Book 2 of this trilogy, however stories are connected only by the author’s talent to write about these wonderful immigrant families making it in the midwest in the late 1800’s . The Kronberg family and the talented Thea won my heart.
Feb 20, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Winston Ong

“Nothing is far and nothing is near, if one desires. The world is little, people are little, human life is little. There is only one big thing - desire. And before it, when it is big, all is little." – Willa Cather

“The Song of the Lark” by Willa Cather is a novel after my own heart. When I stumbled on Dolors' beautifully crafted review of this book by an author I have never read, I felt that knowing tug that signaled pleasure and promise. I was right but I had not expected to feel a familiar con
Nov 20, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Well, I know I'll be called a heretic for giving Willa Cather two stars, but I can't help it. I almost gave this book one star but just.couldn'

The book started off in fantastic Cather style which included some strong, likeable, flawed characters and a shining protagonist intertwined with beautiful imagery and phrases. Unfortunately these qualities expired by the latter half of the book, where I found myself just willing it all to end. Thea became self absorbed and boring, the male charac
Jul 20, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This isn't Willa Cather's best known work, but it's the one that most speaks to me, possibly because it's her most autobiographical novel and her life was so darned interesting. SOTL could be subtitled A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Woman. Thea almost reluctantly comes out as an artist, gradually admitting to her artistic vocation. SOTL also shows how important German culture was in America at the turn of the century. Cather doesn't bother translating the numerous German passages, as if ass ...more
Jan 14, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people with big dreams living in small towns, or any constricting environment
This is a gorgeous book, one of my all-time favorites. I've read it twice and taken from it numerous inspiring quotes that guide my life. "But if you decide what it is you want most, you can get it. Not everybody can, but you can. Only, if you want a big dream, you've got to have nerve enough to cut out all that's easy, everything that's to be had cheap."
Jul 28, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics
Artists are sometimes wonderfully selfish individuals. What is one willing to give up? Friends, love, family? Fame comes at a high cost. I don't know if Cather intended for the reader to LOVE Thea...but I didn't. I came to LOVE the dear friends that helped her get to where she was.
I yet again managed to lose my entire effing review before I could post it. Sometimes I really hate you, GR.

I'm sure someday I will not rewrite the stupid review. In the meantime I'm going to pretend like I'm punching GR in the face.
Katie Schuermann
Jun 06, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I entered into this story knowing absolutely nothing about it, and I thrilled at the very first bit of foreshadowing that pointed toward this tale being about the making of a great musician, and a serious singer nonetheless. Cather's observations about the ideology (and too often idolatry) that drives artists to pursue the creation of great art are candid and astute, most likely grounded in an understanding of herself and creative people in general.

I wanted to love this story, but I found it ha
Apr 24, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: listened-to
Growing up, Willa Cather was my favorite author but it had been FAR too long since I'd read anything by her and so when I saw this on the shelf at my local library, I snapped it right up. "The Song of the Lark" is Willa Cather's take on the "Brain Drain." For those not from the Midwest, the "Brain Drain" is the phenomenon of the best and the brightest of a small town/state moving away to a larger city/state. It's clear from this book that this issue isn't new and isn't likely to go away in the f ...more
Jason Koivu
May 05, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Portrait of an ambitious midwestern girl created by a master on the subject.
David B
Sep 21, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Thea Kronborg grows up in the remote frontier town of Moonstone in the 1890s. As her artistic nature awakens, her hometown and the people she grew up with become the cocoon she must shed in order to realize her potential as a great opera singer.

Thea sometimes seems cold in the way she distances herself from family and friends in order to further her education, inviting us to contemplate the conflicted nature of the artist. At times Thea seems to feel torn and melancholy about cutting ties and at
Feb 23, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobooks
Wasn't really into it, but some of that might be because some of the readers were not the best. There is a little more racism and sexism in this one too. Also, Archie and Ray are kind of creepy. I realize people were allowed to talk about children like that in 1915, but it's still creepy. It kind of felt like Wuthering Heights, in that I didn't care about any of the characters, but without the drama. Some of the prose was beautiful, but I don't know. Maybe one day I'll re-read it in text rather ...more
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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

Other books in the series

Great Plains Trilogy (3 books)
  • O Pioneers! (Great Plains Trilogy, #1)
  • My Ántonia (Great Plains Trilogy, #3)

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