Rowena's Reviews > My Antonia

My Antonia by Willa Cather
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it was amazing
bookshelves: american-lit
Recommended to Rowena by: Cheryl

"There seemed to be nothing to see; no fences, no creeks or trees, no hills or fields. If there was a road, I could not make it out in the faint starlight. There was nothing but land: not a country at all, but the material out of which countries are made."- Willa Cather, My Ántonia

For someone who grew up watching "Little House on the Prairie", this was an interesting and nostalgic look at my childhood fancies and romanticized images of frontier life. Making a new life, taming the land, and creating something out of very little all sounded so romantic and magical to me at the time but there was so much that I hadn't considered, couldn't have known, with my limited worldly experience. I guess that's one of the many reasons that literature is so powerful: giving a voice to experiences.

This is a story of the early settlers in Nebraska; a story of hardships, successes, community, change... The story is narrated by an orphaned boy who goes to live with his grandparents after his parents pass away. The narration was very detailed and observant.

The story focuses quite a bit on Ántonia Shimerda, and her Bohemian family.I thought the character of Ántonia was exceptionally well-written; I think she's one of those unforgettable literary characters, and that's definitely due to Cather's amazing writing and depiction of her. Cather manages to show the language development Ántonia goes through,and also the development of her character from being an ordinary little girl playing with her sister and friends, to working "like a mans" in order to support her family:

"The older girls, who helped to break up the wild sod, learned so much from life, from poverty, from their mothers and grandmothers; they had all, like Antonia, been early awakened and made observant by coming at a tender age from an old country to a new."

Having moved around a bit I really enjoyed the descriptions of the landscapes because at least to me, apart from food, that's what I miss the most about leaving a place: the familiarity in scenery, flora, and fauna. The small differences in landscape are an unavoidable sign that you are in a new place:

"There was none of the signs of spring for which I used to watch in Virginia, no budding woods or blooming gardens. There was only--spring itself; the throb of it, the light restlessness, the vital essence of it everywhere: in the sky, in the swift clouds, in the pale sunshine, and in the warm, high wind---rising suddenly, sinking suddenly, impulsive and playful like a big puppy that pawed you and then lay down to be petted."

There was interesting discussion about the European immigrants to the USA. What shouldn't have surprised me but did anyway, was the fact that even among the European immigrants there was plenty of discrimination and also an unofficial hierarchy. What was universal though was the sense of loss from all the characters who had migrated to that area, despite their origins and loss.

I'm fully convinced of Cather's writing style. Cather brought the frontier to life for me, the Bohemians, Ántonia, everyone and everything. I loved that she brought to the fore the stories of the people of the New World, especially the women.
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Reading Progress

October 10, 2014 – Shelved
October 10, 2014 – Shelved as: to-read
October 10, 2014 – Shelved as: american-lit
May 29, 2015 – Started Reading
May 29, 2015 –
page 63
20.06% ""At any rate, that is happiness; to be dissolved into something complete and great. When it comes to one, it comes as naturally as sleep.""
June 2, 2015 –
page 102
32.48% ""I felt a considerable extension of power and authority, and was anxious to acquit myself creditably.""
June 5, 2015 –
page 157
50.0% ""...then the wind sprang afresh, with a kind of bitter song, as if it said:"This is reality, whether you like it or not. All those frivolities of summer, the light and shadow, the living mask of green that trembled over everything, they were lies, and this is what was underneath. This is the truth.""
June 9, 2015 –
page 201
64.01% ""She danced every dance like a waltz, and it was always the same waltz-- the waltz of coming home to something, of inevitable, dated return. After a while one got restless under it, as one does under the heat of a soft, sultry summer day.""
June 9, 2015 –
page 201
64.01% ""She danced every dance like a waltz, and it was always the same waltz-- the waltz of coming home to something, of inevitable, dated return. After a while one got restless under it, as one does under the heat of a soft, sultry summer day.""
June 10, 2015 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-21 of 21 (21 new)

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message 1: by Lee (new)

Lee How is it so far?


Rowena Hi Lee:) It's brilliant! It takes me back to my childhood in ways.


Kelly Read this years ago! Loved it!


Rowena Kelly wrote: "Read this years ago! Loved it!"

It's such a satisfying read, Kelly! I love the narrator's voice.


Duane I'm always excited and anxious at the same time when I see one of my friends reading one of my favorite books. This little jewel has always been in my top 10 and I can't even explain why?


Rowena Duane wrote: "I'm always excited and anxious at the same time when I see one of my friends reading one of my favorite books. This little jewel has always been in my top 10 and I can't even explain why?"

Hi Dwayne, this is one of the most satisfying reads I've read in a while. I can see why you and others love it so much! I'll be writing a review soon:)


Cheryl I second Duane's comment - my top 10 for sure, now I keep comparing every Cather book to it and no other book has stepped up.


Rowena Cheryl wrote: "I second Duane's comment - my top 10 for sure, now I keep comparing every Cather book to it and no other book has stepped up."

I may have to buy a copy of this book. Thanks for recommending it to me:))


message 9: by Dolors (last edited Jul 16, 2015 12:52PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Dolors Your writing conjures Cather's melancholic magic very effectively, Rowena! The prairies, the dancing grass, the Shimerda family with their dignified foreignness, Ántonia as a girl and a woman ...you've brought it all back with incredible effortlessness and rekindled my resolution to read more by Cather the sooner the better!


Rowena Cynthia wrote: "Amazing! I'm excited to read this one."

You're in for a treat!


Rowena Dolors wrote: "Your writing conjures Cather's melancholic magic very effectively, Rowena! The prairies, the dancing grass, the Shimerda family with their dignified foreignness, Ántonia as a girl and a woman ...yo..."

Aww, what a lovely compliment, thank you! I'm hoping to read more Cather soon:)


message 12: by Seemita (new) - added it

Seemita Beautiful, heartfelt review, Rowena. I have seen most reviews of this book elicit a response like yours and I think Cather is surely a masterful writer. I hope to get to her soon. And yeah, hope the thesis has gone fine :)


Rowena Seemita wrote: "Beautiful, heartfelt review, Rowena. I have seen most reviews of this book elicit a response like yours and I think Cather is surely a masterful writer. I hope to get to her soon. And yeah, hope th..."

Thanks so much, Seemita! It's definitely one of my Top 10 reads this year, I hope you enjoy it. And my thesis went well, thanks so much for remembering! It was submitted and accepted last month. It feels good to now be reading solely for pleasure:)


message 14: by Anushka Medhasi (new)

Anushka Medhasi Love this book


message 15: by Florencia (new) - added it

Florencia Such an exquisite review, Rowena! Sold. I'm adding this book right now.


Rowena Anushka Medhasi wrote: "Love this book"

It's great:)


Rowena Florencia wrote: "Such an exquisite review, Rowena! Sold. I'm adding this book right now."

Aww, thank you! I think you're going to love it)


Himanshu Your review speaks just enough that needs to be said about this book, Rowena. The power of literature, the struggle of the migrants, the prairie, the nostalgia. Wonderful!


Rowena Himanshu wrote: "Your review speaks just enough that needs to be said about this book, Rowena. The power of literature, the struggle of the migrants, the prairie, the nostalgia. Wonderful!"

Thanks so much, Himanshu! I'm glad to see you enjoyed it as much as I did:)


message 20: by Kelly (new) - added it

Kelly funny, your description struck a cord with me. just today (before I read your review) I was describing it as a grown up Little House on the Prairie. perfect


Rowena Kelly wrote: "funny, your description struck a cord with me. just today (before I read your review) I was describing it as a grown up Little House on the Prairie. perfect"

Thank you, Kelly! I hope you enjoy this book when you read it, it's definitely special:)


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