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Archive FWC > 2018 June: Short Story: O Pioneers! by Willa Cather

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message 1: by Lesle, Appalachain Bibliophile (last edited Jun 01, 2018 10:21AM) (new)

Lesle | 6303 comments Mod
O Pioneers! is a 1913 novel by American author Willa Cather, written while she was living in New York. O Pioneers! tells the story of the Bergsons, a family of Swedish-American immigrants in the farm country near the fictional town of Hanover, Nebraska, at the turn of the 20th century. The main character, Alexandra Bergson, inherits the family farmland when her father dies, and she devotes her life to making the farm a viable enterprise at a time when many other immigrant families are giving up and leaving the prairie. 159 pages


message 2: by Lesle, Appalachain Bibliophile (new)

Lesle | 6303 comments Mod
Prairie Spring by Willa Cather

Evening and the flat land,
Rich and sombre and always silent;
The miles of fresh-plowed soil,
Heavy and black, full of strength and harshness;
The growing wheat, the growing weeds,
The toiling horses, the tired men;
The long empty roads,
Sullen fires of sunset, fading,
The eternal, unresponsive sky.
Against all this, Youth,
Flaming like the wild roses,
Singing like the larks over the plowed fields,
Flashing like a star out of the twilight;
Youth with its insupportable sweetness,
Its fierce necessity,
Its sharp desire,
Singing and singing,
Out of the lips of silence,
Out of the earthy dusk.


message 3: by Rosemarie, Northern Roaming Scholar (new)

Rosemarie | 8965 comments Mod
I am in for this one.


message 4: by Lesle, Appalachain Bibliophile (new)

Lesle | 6303 comments Mod
Lily glad you are joining in. I have this one pulled to start sometime soon.


message 5: by [deleted user] (new)

The site i looked at calls it a novel. I demand a third opinion!


message 6: by Lesle, Appalachain Bibliophile (new)

Lesle | 6303 comments Mod
250 to 300 word count per page (normal), these are averages:

Russian Novel - 800 pages (what we call Hefty)
Novel - 250 to 800 pages
Novella - 160 pages
Novelette - 60 pages
Short Story - 24 pages
Flash Fiction - 4 pages
Micro Fiction - +1 pages

Short Story (Edgar Allen Poe described the proper length of a short story by saying it had to be something readable in a single sitting.)

To make things easier for NTLTRC anything under 250 pages we just call Short. Some will read it in a week, some just hours.


message 7: by Catherine (new)

Catherine Habbie Now 'single sitting', is a very ambiguous term. There were days when I would not move until I finished reading the book.These days, I'm finished if I don't move;)


message 8: by Brian E (new)

Brian E Reynolds | 4010 comments Mark wrote: "The site i looked at calls it a novel. I demand a third opinion!"

While I consider O Pioneers a novella or short novel which fits Lesle's standards above, it doesn't really matter. Just know it will be a short easy read which fits the purpose of the short story selection.
Only two of Cather's novels are over 300 pages, and the other 10 novels range between 85 and 295 pages. You can probably read all 12 of them in about the same time it takes to read 2 Tolstoy novels, War & Peace and Anna Karenina. Her stories may not have Tolstoy's weight and depth but, personally, I prefer Cather's writing and storytelling abilities. She's one of my favorite authors. I've toured her birthplace and museum in Red Cloud, Nebraska.


message 9: by Rosemarie, Northern Roaming Scholar (new)

Rosemarie | 8965 comments Mod
O Pioneers is a lovely book, which is why I will be rereading it.


message 10: by Stefania (new)

Stefania | 43 comments I'm in and this time i'll try in English......


message 11: by Rosemarie, Northern Roaming Scholar (new)

Rosemarie | 8965 comments Mod
Great, Stefania.


message 12: by Lesle, Appalachain Bibliophile (new)

Lesle | 6303 comments Mod
Stefania happy to have you and Rosemarie reading this one!


message 13: by Lesle, Appalachain Bibliophile (last edited Jun 05, 2018 06:11PM) (new)

Lesle | 6303 comments Mod
I got started today while Brayden and Landen were painting at Art and Clay.

The town, cold, snowflakes falling, sparse amount of buildings. Reminds me of an old Western black and white movie with her description.

Alexandra's father is very ill, they are wondering how they will survive without him, sounds like they can, just do not want too. I do not recall a mention of a mother as of yet. Might have to scan back through in case I missed something in between conversations with the boys while painting their Gecko and Owl Bank.

Poor Emil, why he brought a kitten to town is beyond me!


message 14: by Rosemarie, Northern Roaming Scholar (new)

Rosemarie | 8965 comments Mod
I agree, why did he bring the kitten to town. It was very nice of Carl to rescue it. At the end of the first chapter we get an idea of how dark, cold and lonely the road home is once they leave the town behind.


message 15: by Rosemarie, Northern Roaming Scholar (new)

Rosemarie | 8965 comments Mod
I have read the first section. I like the main character, the strong young woman, Alexandra, because she is a young woman who thinks for herself and has great plans for the future. And the ability to fulfill them.


message 16: by Lesle, Appalachain Bibliophile (new)

Lesle | 6303 comments Mod
Alexandra is way above her years in thinking.


message 17: by Lesle, Appalachain Bibliophile (new)

Lesle | 6303 comments Mod
Just finished Part II, Neighboring Fields

Frank is scary, I keep waiting for him to explode.

Carl and Alexandra reunite. Carl went to the border of the properties, sat, reminisced about childhood memories with Alexandra. I enjoyed the little description of the sunrise, insects and birds coming to life.

Hookah? I had no idea!

The older brothers are worried more about appearances, than the happiness of their sister. So they scare Carl enough for him to want to leave and prove himself as a good suitor for Alexandra even though she is forty and has her own life and assets.


message 18: by Stefania (new)

Stefania | 43 comments Alexandra is a really interesting carachter. A strong and indipendent woman. The difficulties she met in living her life as she wants even against the common codes, make me think to how hard was the fight for women to be more free.


message 19: by Lesle, Appalachain Bibliophile (new)

Lesle | 6303 comments Mod
Lily wrote: "I've never read anything by this author before but, I've decided on reading this"

Lily have you had a chance to start yet?


message 20: by Lesle, Appalachain Bibliophile (new)

Lesle | 6303 comments Mod
Stefania, I think Alexandra's father chose well leaving her in charge of the estate. She has a unique quality for the period. Very distinctive in what she knows is best for the family.

Cather took a stance for strength in woman at the time when really the percentage of the time was single digit, In making Alexandra the main character in this novel she showed that a woman could be smart enough to produce a working profitable farm, that smarts could out weigh muscle.

Cannot wait to finish the third part later today.


message 21: by Lesle, Appalachain Bibliophile (new)

Lesle | 6303 comments Mod
I just finished...I am very sad for Alexandra. She really needs Carl in her life since her family is not.

I had a feeling about Frank but I did not think he would do what he did and for Alexandra to try and make amends is telling in what type of a person she truly is.

The struggle for people to come to America to have a dream and make it work had to be very hard.


message 22: by Lesle, Appalachain Bibliophile (last edited Jun 13, 2018 09:36AM) (new)

Lesle | 6303 comments Mod
Now that it has sunk in a little more and reflect on what I have read...I realize that the Land itself was a very important player in the Novel. It really is what it was all about, never forgetting that it is truly about existing on the land and acquiring more. Against the setting was small sod homes and shelters for animals against the vastness of the unforgiving land. Just the trek to town during the winter was horrific enough.

Like the land wanting to claim everything back again, not allowing it to be worked, but it decided to let everything become rich in the end.


message 23: by Rosemarie, Northern Roaming Scholar (last edited Jun 13, 2018 11:19AM) (new)

Rosemarie | 8965 comments Mod
I agree with all your comments and am happy that Alexandra will not be lonely any more.

Here is a quote from the second last page of the book:

We come and go, but the land is always here. And the people who love it and understand it are the people who own it--for a little while.

I am so glad I decided to reread this book with our group.


message 24: by Lesle, Appalachain Bibliophile (new)

Lesle | 6303 comments Mod
Exactly Rosemarie! We squat for a while on the land, it always has control.
Like the top of my property, before the woods start, it is always sending out the grapevines and honeysuckle vines to creep back into my yard, like it's wanting to take it back.

A great read!


message 25: by Stefania (new)

Stefania | 43 comments I agree with you Lesle, land is the main caracther and the way Cather describe the beauty of land makes it absolutely beautiful and out of time and human events.

A great read!


message 26: by Lesle, Appalachain Bibliophile (new)

Lesle | 6303 comments Mod
Sounds like you enjoyed it as much as I did!

I could picture the scenery as she went along with her descriptions!


message 27: by Rosemarie, Northern Roaming Scholar (new)

Rosemarie | 8965 comments Mod
Alexandra lost two people that she loved in that tragedy.
I am glad that at the end of the book she wasn't lonely any more.


message 28: by Pam (new)

Pam (pburnham) Just an aside, I live in Lincoln, Nebraska, and have been to Red Cloud, Nebraska, where Willa Cather grew up, several times to tour the buildings associated with Cather and the sites she wrote about in her novels. They hold a spring conference every year on the first weekend in June--this year it was May 31/June 1, so this novel was a timely choice. Maybe a few of you might be interested in putting that on your calendar! You might be pleasantly surprised in what Nebraska has to offer . . .

I have a good friend who is a Cather scholar, and a another good friend was born in what is referred to as the "Cather Second Home," which was used as a hospital during the 1950s. Everything is connected.


message 29: by Rosemarie, Northern Roaming Scholar (new)

Rosemarie | 8965 comments Mod
That is interesting, Pam. I live in Toronto, so Nebraska is far away from here. I have visited Manitoba, which is one of the Prairie provinces, and took a tour of the house where my favourite Canadian author, Gabrielle Roy, lived as a child in Saint Boniface(Winnipeg).

I have read three other Cather novels, The Song of the Lark, My Antonia and The Lost Lady. The last two were set in Nebraska as well, and were enjoyable. But I think O Pioneers is her best book.


message 30: by Doreen (new)

Doreen Petersen Willa Cather is an excellent author!


message 31: by Lesle, Appalachain Bibliophile (new)

Lesle | 6303 comments Mod
I totally agree Doreen!


message 32: by Rosemarie, Northern Roaming Scholar (new)

Rosemarie | 8965 comments Mod
I recently read Death Comes for the Archbishop, which is now my favourite Cather book.


message 33: by Brian E (last edited Oct 07, 2019 07:46AM) (new)

Brian E Reynolds | 4010 comments Pam, I have visited Red Cloud and taken the tour that you mentions, as I discuss in Message 9. I was a member of the Willa Cather Society for a few years.

Initially, I actually wasn't that impressed after reading My Antonia and Death Comes for the Archbishop as part of my attempt 20 years ago to read all of the Modern Library 100 Best 20th Century English Language novels. I thought the stories couldn't be that good when my most lasting memory of each was a story told by a character within the novel rather than the book's own story. I think I may have been looking for too much grandeur because I was reading a book on a Greatest List.

It was when a friend convinced me to read the other books of the Great Plains Trilogy, The Song of the Lark and O Pioneers, that I fell for the charms of Cather's writing and storytelling. I read them with lower expectations than the 2 from the List. Then I read the rest of her books and can say that they are all very good, except for Shadows on the Rock, because its set in Canada. Just kidding, Rosemarie, I enjoyed that one too.


message 34: by Rosemarie, Northern Roaming Scholar (new)

Rosemarie | 8965 comments Mod
I haven't read that one yet, Brian.


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