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My Mortal Enemy

3.63  ·  Rating details ·  1,928 ratings  ·  228 reviews
"Sometimes, when I have watched the bright beginning of a love story, when I have seen a common feeling exalted into beauty by imagination, generosity, and the flaming courage of youth, I have heard again that strange complaint breathed by a dying woman into the stillness of night, like a confession of the soul:

'Why must I die like this, alone with my mortal enemy.' "

ebook, 84 pages
Published January 21st 2019 by E-Kitap Projesi & Cheapest Books (first published 1926)
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Average rating 3.63  · 
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 ·  1,928 ratings  ·  228 reviews

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mark monday
oh Mother, oh Father! I sorta get you now, thanks to My Mortal Enemy. such a short little piece but such a powerful punch. I'd give this 5 stars for personal impact, but the impact was so painful and intense, I could never consider this a favorite.

once upon a time, Myra and Oswald eloped. they were, and are, the love of each other's life. such are the things of happily ever afters! but such is not reality; it is certainly not the reality I've experienced.

their lives are witnessed by a niece -
Dhanaraj Rajan
An excellent book.

This is a story about Love.
This is a story about marriage.
This is a story about redemption.
This is a story about forgiveness.

The story is really short. The prose is economical. The impact, I got, was tremendous.

The story is about a rich girl deserting her riches for the love of her life. She is an Irish Catholic and the boy for whom she leaves everything is related to German Protestantism. The life seems to be good. But when at the end of her life as the couple is reduced to
Aug 24, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 stars

When kindness has left people, even for a few moments, we become afraid of them, as if their reason had left them. When it has left a place where we have always found it, it is like shipwreck; we drop from security into something malevolent and bottomless. (pg. 51)

This novella reads easily, with some beautiful passages, like the one above. It is quite intense, as perhaps a short work should be.

I struggle a bit with characters, portrayed from the outside, who seem to be universally
A short story with a moral, so let's call it a parable.

A bitter old woman lies dying. She blames others for how she has chosen to live her life. She feels no regret and fails to acknowledge her own mistakes. I get annoyed. I cannot relate to Myra, the central character, neither when she is young and healthy nor when she is old and sick. The mortal enemy of the title is her husband Oswald.

(view spoiler)
Mar 23, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Who is the "Mortal Enemy" ? Oh, yes, it's "My..." Willa Cather is not writing about a disappointing marriage, or any marriage. In a moment of personal crisis (what, why, we don't know), she's writing about the damage done to ourselves by making one mistake that alters our life, the damage done by optimistically letting any passion guide us. Here, Cather explores what a bad decision can cost us, but -- we don't realize it at the time. Do what you want, but be prepared, always, for wreckage. ...more
Lark Benobi
Aug 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Nellie, young and inexperienced, tells the story of Myra, an older woman from her town who gives up a fortune to elope with Oswald, the man she loves. Nellie begins by relating the stories and gossip of her Aunt Lydia, who had once helped Myra elope. Then she relates three meetings with Myra in the course of Myra's life and marriage, and each meeting is filled with both mystery and with accurate, aching details of a life that has not gone according to plan. In a way the novel is a slight ...more
Chris Wolak
Aug 22, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Kate by: Chris Wolak
Shelves: 2019-read, classics, acob
I really liked this, perhaps the most unlikable of Cather's novels. This very brief book tells the story of Myra Henshawe who chose love over money and seemingly has regretted it ever since. Willa Cather writes unsparingly about this mess of a marriage, making you feel sad for both parties, although my allegiance was with the husband, Oswald. The best part of the novel, for me, was the description of New York City at Christmas time. I had not heard of this novel and I am glad Chris Wolak of The ...more
Mary Durrant
Apr 13, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A wonderful novella which tells the story of Myra Driscoll who elopes with the impoverished Oswald Henshawe.
We meet them twenty-five years later living in poverty.

'People can be lovers and enemies at the same time, you know. We Were...A man and a woman draw apart from that long embrace, and see what they have done to each other. Perhaps I can't forgive him for the harm I did him. Perhaps that's it'

Beautifully written.
Mar 24, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
’ve had this strange, sad little novella for some time, the trouble with tiny little books is that they are easy to overlook. I do love Willa Cather’s writing, there’s a sense of place in her novels I feel right at home in. Her characters step from the pages fully formed and believable – as if from life. My Mortal Enemy was written during Willa Cather’s most creative period, I’m surprised it isn’t better known. One can’t help but feel that in the character of Myra Henshawe we must have someone ...more
May 15, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013, classics
There's a hidden authorial pain and anguish laced through this book and hidden in the character of Myra. Having read through Cather's works chronologically to this point, I sense an underlying conflict and despair that is somewhat obfuscated by the plot in this love/fate/hate story. It is short and succinct like Alexander's Bridge, and it is about a strong woman who forges her own trail like A Lost Lady, but even though it reads simply and holds you at a distance from its characters, this book ...more
Maria Fernanda Gama
This is the second book I've read by Willa Cather and I think I can fairly say she is one of my very favourite authors. This is a small little gem of a story, so beautiful and yet so sharp. And the way she tells it, the words she chooses, it's all pure beauty. I'm so thankful that I found her and her work. It's always wonderful to meet a kindred spirit, even though a couple of centuries lie between us.
Nov 06, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Very interesting to see other readers' responses to this book. It seems we sometimes begin a new work by an author we've read with an expectation that can be almost a limitation in our reading of the new work. If you've read My Antonia or Song of the Lark, and hold an expectation of the radiant hopefulness, the wide western landscape, of those other works by Cather, then My Mortal Enemy might disappoint you. If you can put those other books out of your mind, you may find My Mortal Enemy truly ...more
Joyce Lian
Oct 07, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a good novel, and particularly spectacular towards the last 20-odd pages. This book is mainly a cautionary tale about youth and marriage. It is also similar to Guy de Maupassant’s short story The Necklace. Both novels' female protagonists are narcissists, who love to bask in the company of the affluent and are vain, whereas the male protagonists are contented and humble, and really love their wives.

Sadly, the protagonist in MME, Myra, is delusional beyond hope and with an inflated sense
Oct 24, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Short, strong, solid novella. Beautifully written and yet-again tragic. Cather follows the downward slide of a woman who was meant for heroics, and eventually swallowed by a mundane life that rested on the money that she originally despised. Very thought-provoking and full of internal conflict. I liked it more than I expected to, since Myra's struggle between beauty and money is one that I abhor -- but inhabit, just like the rest of us.
Maureen Lo
Is Myra's mortal enemy her husband? Maybe but I think it may also be her passion to want live a great life by marrying for love, abandoning her inheritance. Such sacrifice but she didn't yield the happiness she thought she deserves. Instead it was an inconsequential life filled with bitterness of being poor.
Paquita Maria Sanchez
Left no impression whatsoever. I read it only about 2 months ago, and I can't even remember how it ended or if it ever really went anywhere. All I remember is feeling extremely bored and impatient the whole time. I suggest you read Paul's Case instead. Now THAT'S a story.
Another excellent novel by Willa Cather. I've never been disappointed in anything she has written.
3.5 Stars—My Mortal Enemy is a rather short read, typical of some of Cather’s work, written about the middle of her literary career, and thus demonstrates her complete mastery of the literary craft that was Cather’s own—spare superfluity, tight plotting, no excess description.
My Mortal Enemy focuses on a southern woman, Myra Driscoll, who moves to New York and later San Francisco with Oswald, her childhood sweetheart, and the man for whom she gave up a wealthy inheritance. The story is narrated
Apr 17, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This was not bad by any means and was very well written.
So why the low rating?
Because it's something that every classic reader has already read several time over and better executed.
This book was extremely short and the reader does not have time to grow fond of the characters. The narrator herself is very bland and nothing is said about her and Myra herself is someone we already read of.If you want something on the same subject but vastly suoerior in quality I would recommend The Portrait of a
May 01, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Man, this a quick, gripping read! It has one of my favorite ways of telling a story : through the eyes of a non-mc mc. Some of the pronouncements were a bit too on the nose, which has lowered my rating a little, but man, I see you, Willa Cather! Each of her novels I read I like a little more! (this is my third.)

Myra (Driscoll) Henshawe is having a hard time with growing older and she tends to bring people down with her, particularly her husband Oswald. The flame of a great, dramatic young love
I'm sorry but this book gave me a headache probably because of the language. I'm just really not used to it. It's the same reason I loathe Hemingway. Economy of words and all. But I do think there's some merit on Cather's themes on Catholicism. I really like Myra.

Maybe I have just been reading contemporary novels lately and maybe I wasn't in a better reading mode.
Julie Mickens
This brilliant little novella is so different from Cather's more famous books about bishops and prairie pioneers. It's dark, passionate, urbane and contemporary -- certainly contemporary to its time, the early 20thC, but it still feels somewhat modern. A short, simple story, well told.
Dec 20, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This one kept it real. Blunt, depressing. Could think about it for a while and still not understand, I think - it explores a lifetime of tragedy through suggestion. I cried at work listening to it. That type of book.
Jan 13, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Cather never disappoints.
Sep 09, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literature
Short novel (105 pages) about an allegedly happy couple who years later end up miserable with each other. The immortal line is "Why must I die like this, alone with my mortal enemy!"
This is a short little book, and it changed me profoundly.

While Nellie, the narrator, is a passive voice in this story, the vibrance and exuberance of Myra Henshawe will stick with me for awhile.

This book is a little tale of love, a peek into the complexities of marriage. While Myra and Oswald do have a marriage with ups and downs, I really thought that this novel was an honest look at love and all of the complexities and intricacies it contains.
Aurora Dimitre
I'm not really sure what to think of this one.

Backstory time. I grabbed this from the library because it looked old and I just wanted to grab a random book I'd heard nothing about, and this one was there and looked old. And so I picked it up. And, hey, it's short, so why not just read fifty pages before bed every night (as it was supposed to go, I skipped a few nights but I DIGRESS) and I... don't really know what to think.

There wasn't really much wrong with it that I can think of. Sure, it
Mar 14, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: america
I am astonished. What a lucky guy I am to read so many great books. This wonderful novella (or maybe novel) first came up because of a reference to it in Jane Jacobs' classic work of urban planning, The Death and Life of Great American Cities. She quotes a paragraph about Madison square in New York to prove a point about public spaces. In fact, in it's place in the book, the civic space of Madison Square really does matter quite a lot to the protagonist.

During the reading of this novella, I
Jul 04, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wow. I think I found Willa Cather's least sympathetic character. Myra Henshaw is a terribly shallow, self-absorbed and possibly cruel human being. When I think of Antonia Shirmerda of My Antonia and how proud and happy and generous her soul was in contrast to Myra; it seems as if the characters could not have been created by the same author. I guess Cather really showed us her writing breadth. What I could not stand about this woman was how sanctimonious she seemed and her cruel self-pity. She ...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
“It's all very well to tell us to forgive our enemies; our enemies can never hurt us very much. But oh, what about forgiving our friends?” 174 likes
“People can be lovers and enemies at the same time, you know.” 60 likes
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