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Shadows on the Rock

3.98  ·  Rating details ·  1,535 Ratings  ·  234 Reviews
Set in seventeenth-century Canada, an evocation of North American origins highlights the men and women who struggled to adapt to the new world even as they clung to the one they left behind.
Paperback, 229 pages
Published September 26th 1995 by Vintage (first published 1931)
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Feb 20, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: american-novels
Three and a half stars
This is the first work I have read by Willa Cather and it is a historical novel set in Quebec in 1687-8. It is told from the point of view of 12 year old Cecile Auclair and her father Euclid, an apothecary. It covers one year in the life of the city with an epilogue set 15 years later to tie up loose ends. Cecile’s mother has died two years previously and she now looks assists her father and keeps house. Euclid serves the aging Count and has followed him to Canada. The Cath
Willa Cather is known for her classic novels set in the 18th century American prairie, but in this one she moves to 17th century, French Colonial Quebec. But what remains the same is Cather's beautiful writing and her exceptional ability to create memorable characters, and craft stories that is historical fiction at it's finest. Reading this, one gets the sense of life the French settlers experienced in this lonely Canadian outpost, and the influence of the French culture that still lives in Que ...more
Being the third of the books I've read by Cather, I've come to expect a certain ecstatic experience from her work, and Shadows is no exception. In fact, compared to the other two, the utter simplicity and straightforwardness of the characters and emotions depicted has made this by far the most enjoyable of what I've read (the other two being My Antonia and Death Comes for the Archbishop). There is a rhythm to her composition, in which characters are introduced, back story is discovered, an inten ...more
Gretchen Rubin
Jul 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is a wonderful, peaceful evocation of a distant time and place. Reminded me of Sarah Orne Jewett's THE COUNTRY OF POINTED FIRS. If you're a Willa Cather fan, like me, don't overlook this novel.
Jul 05, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
I guess it’s no secret by now that I adore Willa Cather. Shadows on the Rock (1931) is one of her late novels, and I loved every minute of it. It’s an account of people living in colonial Quebec. There’s not much of a plot; this is all about character and place. In it, Cather fully shows her power of description and her awesome talent in presenting the spirit of a land.

This genius is no surprise; Cather captured life on the Nebraska plain in My Àntonia, O Pioneers, and My Mortal Enemy. She expl
Oct 25, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Willa Cather is easily one of my favorite authors. Here she takes us to Quebec in about the year 1700. These brave souls left civilization behind - all the way across the Atlantic Ocean. Ships would arrive only during the summer months. And that assumes they made it safely across the ocean.

She tells the tale of lives lived in the settlement. Typical Cather - not much happens. But she digs deep into the characters.

Really great book.
Oct 09, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What a great book! Willa Cather never disappoints a reader. This was one of her lesser known novels but it is still excellent. Shadows on the Rock is a tale of Quebec City during the final days of the royal governor Louis Frontenac and colonial New France. It is not a long book but the characters are many and varied and thoughtfully drawn. Of course, Cather's brilliance, at least to me, remains in the way she creates a sense of time and place with her rich and poetic depictions of landscape, wea ...more
Devyn Duffy
Apr 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone
Recommended to Devyn by: found it in the library's Classics shelf
Yet another amazing work from Willa Cather. After completing Death Comes for the Archbishop, Cather wrote this novel about the town of Quebec in the late 1600s, and similarly included actual historical figures as characters, and referred to actual historical events. With Cather's unmatched descriptive ability, it's easy for the reader to get a sense of what colonial life must have been like in a place that was cut off from the mother country between October and June of every year. And again it i ...more
Dec 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This is such a lovely, modest book, like so much of Cather. I found it in the library and decided to give it a try -- it's a portrait of the town of Kebec, currently known as Quebec City to anglophones, in the late 17th century. Lots of it is based on the truth, but the characters are so fully drawn, and the descriptions of the St. Lawrence River and the Rock, aka Kebec, are so beautiful, it's a poetically inspired historical novel. I have never known much about the settlement of New France in t ...more
Shawn Mooney
I studied Willa Cather in grad school. Grad school was one of the worst periods of my adult life. This is the first time I’ve attempted to read her since, and I find myself still unable to separate out those unhappy memories enough to appreciate her. That, and I’ve been listening to a rather badly narrated audiobook, and I’ve also been listening for what seems like HOURS to a dreary story about some old nun. I’m done.
Katie  Hanna
Mar 10, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Fellas, this here is my favorite novel of all time.

I mean that. It's beautiful. It's phenomenal. It's a masterpiece . . . and it's something everybody should read at least once in their lives. (In my humble opinion, at any rate.)

What makes it so good? EVERYTHING.

Okay, I'll try to get a little more specific. First-off, the characters are amazingly well-drawn. They truly are real, live, flesh-and-blood people . . . and they walk straight off the page and into your heart. It's not that they're f
May 09, 2015 rated it really liked it
Cather writes, "When an adventurer carries his gods with him into a remote and savage country, the colony he founds will, from the beginning, have graces, traditions, richs of the mind and spirit. Its history will shine with bright incidents, slight, perhaps, but precious, as in life itself, where the great matters are often as worthless as astronomical distances, and the trifles dear as the heart’s blood.”

This is how she makes such a quiet novel, one with minimal plotting, so compelling, even r
Mar 25, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

This quiet book captured me with the beauty of its writing, its description of an isolated pioneer life where people had to make the best of what they had, and some purely religious stories of a kind you rarely find in novels anymore.

In this novel of interconnected stories, Cather describes the promontory of "Kebec" in the late 1600s and early 1700s, primarily through the eyes of an apothecary who left France to follow the count who had lived next to his father's shop in Paris. Not long after he
Sep 19, 2007 rated it it was amazing
This book was just charming. It doesn't really have a traditional "plot," as in a central conflict with setbacks, climax, denoument, etc. It's just a year in the life of a 12-year-old girl, her widower father, and their friends, making a life for themselves in Quebec in 1697.

In a way it's sort of a fairy tale. The good characters are pretty much thoroughly good, the evil characters are really not all that evil, and nothing very frightening ever happens. It's appeal lies in the likability of the
Feb 14, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book tells the story of Old Quebec, under the Governorship of Count Frontenac. While I can't speak to its historical accuracy, it did give me a sense for what life was like in that time period for those living on the edge of the Canadian wilderness. It led me to a greater understanding of the French Canadian desire to preserve their heritage. It also made me want to visit Quebec and Montreal, especially during the Fall. It was just a pleasure to read Cather's writing while also learning som ...more
Dec 22, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Willa Cather is, hands down, one of the best authors there is. Her writing is poignant, beautiful, and simple, filled with terrific characters and lovely settings; yet it is quite real and sticks you right in amongst the story. This book is about the life of a France-born apothecary and his young daughter, as they face the colorful happenings of a "New France" or Canadian town. A must-read.
Aug 28, 2017 marked it as to-read
Recommendation on BookishPrincess BookTube Channel - 7/20/2017
Jan 19, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: literary
Indelible portrait of French settlers in Quebec in the 18th century. Vivid senic descriptions, strong sense of place, charming character portraits, love for nature and humanity. A treasure.
Jan 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: shelf-3

Willa Cather is an American writer who was born in 1873 and wrote 12 novels, as well as other collections of short stories and essays. She obviously is an excellent writer. She won the Pulitzer Prize for Literature for “One of Ours” in 1923.

There is an easy flow here, a rhythm that speaks of a good writer. Willa Cather’s descriptions pull the reader into the story with great skill. The culture of the people is expertly and intimately woven with the landscape of the terrain.

“Shadows on the Rock
Apr 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
4.5 stars rounded up to 5. I was a little dissatisfied with the ending...but overall very much enjoyed this beautiful work of historical fiction . Warning, if you need a page-turning plot driven novel, this probably is not the right book. This book has beautiful writing, thoughtful character development, and left me with so many greater things to think about.
Chantal Daigneault
Apr 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
Easy read, without much of a plot. I enjoyed it but it lacked depth.
Feb 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: catholic-fiction
Its settled: I'm going to Quebec after reading this book.
Robin Friedman
Sep 09, 2016 rated it really liked it
A Novel Of Old Quebec

Willa Cather wrote "Shadows on the Rock"(1931) late in her novelistic career following her more famous book, "Death Comes for the Archbishop."(1927). As is the earlier book, "Shadows on the Rock" is influenced heavily by Cather's fascination with Catholicism (a religion she did not practice), her love of French civilization, and her interest in frontier places.

Cather's novel is set in the remote world of "New France", in French Quebec of 1697. The story tells of the early Fr
Jul 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Willa Cather

Quebec in the late 1700’s comes to life in this lovely piece by Willa Cather. A kind and gentle world.
Readers will enjoy "Shadows on the Rock." The story tells of life in Quebec in 1697. The historical story opens as a supply ship leaves Quebec and Euclide Auclair, the apothecary sees the shadow of the ship against the rocks of Quebec, knowing that the ship and supplies wouldn't return until spring.\

Reading about an apothecary so many years ago and his dispensing medicine and advice was interesting. As the son of a doctor, it is hard to imagine this man in ancient Quebec and the people relying
May 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Willa Cather's writing is so great, she never dissapoints (so far), seemingly no matter what the topic. This edition of the novel has a reading line on the cover: "A novel of Quebec during the last days of Frontenac, 1697-1698," and I wonder what inspired her to write about that time and place.

A good read, as I would expect from Cather, but it is an odd novel: We look in on an apothecary and his daughter in Quebec City, and while making us care about their lives and the lives of people around th
Jun 22, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was my favorite of the three works by Cather I have read. She has an amazing ability to create a wonderful sense of place. The story itself was a bit predictable, but there was so much beauty in her descriptions of colonial Quebec. Yet, the descriptions did not detract from the story and it was a quick read. The plot still flowed quite well and made me appreciate the efforts of the colonists' ability to survive such harsh conditions as a Canadian winter and wilderness. I loved the litt ...more
Nov 16, 2008 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this novel set in old "Kebec." I am familiar with some of Cather's other works, but particularly admired this surprise (I bought it for a nickel at a used book sale) with the vivid details of the 17th century, as Cecile, her apothecary father (Euclid), neglected Jaques, old Bishop Laval, etc. struggle in their daily lives. Lots of French (which I don't read), a perspective on Catholicism, and weather descriptions that made me despite November in PA wasn't that bad. Some great st ...more
Mar 18, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own, covers, fiction
Cather's 1931 novel is historical fiction, blending real characters (the Count de Frontenac, late 17th-century Governor General of Quebec) with imagined. Although the story bored me at times, Cather's writing - especially her physical descriptions, which are on a par with Thomas Hardy - seems effortless and uncontrived. She creates beauty without grandiose flourishes. If I were going to write fiction, I would study Cather closely.
Sep 24, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Early history of Quebec was interesting, but the plot is fairly dull in this Cather novel. Told through the eyes of a little girl who is the daughter of the local apothecary, I was looking for a deeper character. Still, lots to learn about the early settlement of Quebec.
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Shadows on the Rock 1 8 Nov 12, 2013 07:56PM  
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Wilella Sibert Cather was born in Back Creek Valley (Gore), Virginia, in December 7, 1873. Her novels on frontier life brought her to national recognition. In 1923 she was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for her novel, One of Ours (1922), set during World War I. She grew up in Virginia and Nebraska. She then attended the University of Nebraska, initially planning to become a physician, but after writin ...more
“Only solitary men know the full joys of friendship. Others have their family; but to a solitary and an exile his friends are everything.” 31 likes
“Schools are not meant to make boys happy, Cécile, but to teach them to do without happiness.” 7 likes
More quotes…