Read O Pioneers! by Willa Cather Online


O Pioneers! (1913) was Willa Cather's first great novel, and to many it remains her unchallenged masterpiece. No other work of fiction so faithfully conveys both the sharp physical realities and the mythic sweep of the transformation of the American frontier—and the transformation of the people who settled it. Cather's heroine is Alexandra Bergson, who arrives on the wind-O Pioneers! (1913) was Willa Cather's first great novel, and to many it remains her unchallenged masterpiece. No other work of fiction so faithfully conveys both the sharp physical realities and the mythic sweep of the transformation of the American frontier—and the transformation of the people who settled it. Cather's heroine is Alexandra Bergson, who arrives on the wind-blasted prairie of Hanover, Nebraska, as a girl and grows up to make it a prosperous farm. But this archetypal success story is darkened by loss, and Alexandra's devotion to the land may come at the cost of love itself.At once a sophisticated pastoral and a prototype for later feminist novels, O Pioneers! is a work in which triumph is inextricably enmeshed with tragedy, a story of people who do not claim a land so much as they submit to it and, in the process, become greater than they were....

Title : O Pioneers!
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780679743620
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 159 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

O Pioneers! Reviews

  • Cecily
    2019-02-28 14:23

    I was entranced by the Nebraska prairie and a wonderful leading woman, living a century ago: a time and place I have never been, but which leaped from the pages, with simple craftsmanship, to sculpt the landscape of my mind’s eye, as Alexandra transformed both her fields and the lives of those around her.The final thirteen pages felt written by or about a different person, not the author and protagonist I thought I knew. Prairie SpringThe novel opens with a poem contrasting the harsh landscape with the power of youth to trigger change, including:“Evening and the flat land…The toiling horses, the tired men…Sullen fires of sunset, fading,The eternal, unresponsive sky.Against all this, Youth,Flaming like the wild roses…Flashing like a star out of the twilight...”Part I – The Wild LandAt barely twenty, Alexandra Bergson takes over her late father’s land, aided by hard-working but risk-averse brothers Lou and Oscar (aged 17 and 19). She has big plans to try new things, buy more land, employ farmhands, and get little Emil (aged 5) educated. Alexandra is the leading person, but the landscape is the main character. Everyone in The Divide is an outsider, identified by their heritage (Swedish, French, Bohemian etc), as they strive to survive and conquer the harsh and unfamiliar soil and climate, while battling blizzards, prairie dogs, snakes, cholera, and debt. Many cling to “the Old-World belief that land, in itself, is desirable. But this land was an enigma” and there is the constant fear that “men were too weak to make a mark here”. But Alexandra is a woman.First impressions are conjured by short plain words: gray, anchored, haphazard, howling wind, frozen, straying, straggled, open plain, impermanence, tough prairie sod.... The simple, but carefully chosen language of landscape reminds me of Kent Haruf’s Colorado high plains (see my reviews of Plainsong and Eventide).The vast, bleak, and beautiful place, whose capricious moods both give and take life, reminds me of Jón Kalman Stefánsson’s Iceland (see my reviews HERE).Part II – Neighboring FieldsSixteen years later and the writing style is the same, but the landscape is transformed: checker-board fields, white roads at right angles, telephone cables, steel windmills, gaily painted farmhouses (rather than being made of sod), and gilded weather vanes. “The brown earth, with such a strong, clean smell, and such a power of growth and fertility in it” now “It gives itself ungrudgingly to the moods of the season, holding nothing back.” Humans have won, Alexandra chief among them. “The land… had its little joke. It pretended to be poor because nobody knew how to work it right”.Freed from the stress of basic survival, pleasure can sometimes be indulged: friendships and marriages formed, children born, the adventure of university. But it’s the tentative relationships that quietly dominate in the shadows, the ones that society can’t condone. (view spoiler)[Unhappily married Marie picks cherries, while Emil scythes the grass of her orchard. (hide spoiler)]The soil of success can also nourish discord, greed and jealousy. (view spoiler)[Lou and Oscar fear Alexandra will marry impoverished childhood friend Carl. They assert that “The property of a family really belongs to the men of the family”. She gently reminds them that they each had their share when they married, and lists the many things she did to build their wealth, which they belittle and dismiss. Shades of The Little Red Hen and The Prodigal Son. (hide spoiler)]“People have to snatch happiness when they can… It’s always easier to lose than to find.” The second half is undoubtedly true, but the first half ignores the possible price paid by others.Part III – Winter Memories“The season in which Nature recuperates, in which she sinks to sleep between the fruitfulness of autumn and the passion of spring.” Just as the frozen ground hides and protects, those mourning loss, absence, and what cannot be feel comfort that deep down, “the secret of life was still safe, warm as the blood in one’s heart; and the spring would come again!” Part IV – The White Mulberry Tree“The sun was hanging low over the wheatfield. Long fingers of light reached through the apple branches as though a net; the orchard was riddled and shot with gold; light was the reality, the trees were merely interferences that reflected and refracted light.”There’s an idyllic veneer (white mulberries: how succulent, beautiful, and pure - but they’re next to the cherries). However, many of the characters are hurting, longing, trying to suppress things, and there is a sense of possible doom.“Always the same yearning, the same pulling the chain - until the instinct to live had torn itself and bled and weakened for the last time, until the chain secured a dead woman.”Part V – AlexandraThirteen pages of betrayal. Betrayal in the story, but I felt betrayed as a reader. For the first four sections, I was in awe of Alexandra: intelligent, practical, principled, loyal, generous, and determined, but “armoured in calm” and with charm and persuasiveness. Somehow, Cather makes this admirable woman entirely believable and likeable.Alexandra is never passive (nor even deferential), never aggressive, and not even passive-aggressive - except when a man makes an unwelcome compliment on her hair, to which “she stabbed him with a glance of Amazonian fierceness”. She just does the research, takes calculated risks, and firmly but gently demonstrates the best way to do things, getting her way, without pressuring anyone.She is aspirational for her family, especially Emil and niece Molly, but loves her land more than any possessions. She is conventional enough to attend church regularly, and although “She liked plain things”, she bows to “the general conviction that the more useless and utterly unusable objects were, the greater their virtue as ornament.”. But she fiercely defends the rights of others to live, dress, and think differently, even to the detriment of her own relationships and reputation, most notably by taking in Ivar, a barefoot, Bible-loving, bird-loving, vegetarian, and amateur veterinarian who has visions. In this final section, everything changes. I try not to judge an old book solely by my own times, but how Alexandra reacts, over several months, to the dramatic end of the previous section, doesn’t fit with how Cather had portrayed her thus far. To get to this ending, Alexandra should have been a different person all along; not radically different, but different.BIG spoilers (view spoiler)[We know early on that Frank “looked like a rash and violent man” and that Marie’s neighbours put up with him for her sake. He broods, feels wronged by his lack of closeness to his wife, but lacks the proof of why or who. “He knew that somewhere she must have a feeling to live upon.” And “His unhappy temper was like a cage”, not realising “that he made his own unhappiness.”At the end of section IV, Frank finds Emil and Marie cuddled up under the white mulberry tree, shoots them, and flees. It wasn’t exactly pre-meditated, but it was clearly murder. As she describes what happens, Cather seeks to excuse Frank to some extent, “When Frank took up his gun… he had not the faintest purpose of doing anything with it.” And “His blood was quicker than his brain”.Frank blames his wife, “She knew he was like a crazy man when he was angry. She had more than once taken that gun away from him and held it, when he was angry with other people… When she knew him, why had n’t she been more careful?” Ultimately, “Why had Marie made him do this thing?”I don’t accept those excuses, but I can (just) believe that Cather and Frank do. What I could not believe was Alexandra’s reaction to the murder of her beloved brother, in whom all her hopes were invested. She not only blames herself and Marie, but goes further, and seeks to get Frank pardoned and released! “He had been less in the wrong than any of them, and he was paying the heaviest penalty.” “She could understand his [Frank’s] behaviour more easily than she could understand Marie’s… She blamed Marie bitterly.”I know that shock and grief can lead to guilt where none belongs. Muddled thinking in the aftermath of trauma is common. But not to that extent and for so long. It wasn't as if religious faith had played an important part in her life (church community, yes, but that's a different matter), and even devout Christians would not necessarily think forgiveness involved petitioning for punishment to be rescinded. And then, an excessively quick and easy happy-ever-after with Carl is bolted on. (hide spoiler)]I don't crave happy or even tidy endings. I've read books where I've been stunned in a positive way (Stoner, and Stefansson's Heaven and Hell triptych, and Toibin's Testament of Mary come to mind), and others where I've felt the last few pages unnecessary, and perhaps diluted the force of the main narrative (Kingsolver's The Poisonwood Bible). But this just jarred. It tainted the preceding sections. What would have been a 5* book only just scrapes 4*.QuotesNo plot spoilers; they’re hidden for brevity.(view spoiler)[• “The stern frozen country received them into its bosom… The great fact was the land itself, which seemed to overwhelm the little beginnings of human society that struggled in its sombre wastes.”• “The rough land, the smiling sky, the curly grass white in the hot sunlight… the rapturous song of the lark.”• “It seemed beautiful to her, rich and strong and glorious, Her eyes drank in the breadth of it, until her tears blinded her.”• “A pioneer should have imagination.” And the dedication to research alternatives, as Alexandra does.• “The right thing to do is usually just what everybody else don’t do.”• “His love of routine amounted to a vice… he felt there was sovereign virtue in mere bodily toil.”• “Down there they have a little certainty, but up with us there is a big chance.”• “The highly varnished wood and colored class and useless pieces of china were conspicuous enough to satisfy the standards of the new prosperity.”• “Freedom so often means that one isn’t needed anywhere.”• “The dawn… looked like the light from some great fire that was burning under the edge of the world… Carl sat musing until the sun leaped above the prairie… The pasture was flooded with light… and the golden lighted seemed to be rippling through the curly grass like the tide racing in.”• A forbidden kiss, “The veil that had hung uncertainly between them for so long was dissolved… It was like a sigh which they had breathed together; almost sorrowful, as if each were afraid of waking something in the other.”• “She felt as the pond must feel when it held the moon… when it encircled and held that image of gold.”• “The sullen grey twilight of the storm.”• “I can’t pray to have the things I want… and I won’t pray not to have them.”• “With the memory he left her, she could be as rash as she chose.” (hide spoiler)]Image of Nebraskan prairie: https://thecalloftheland.files.wordpr...The title of this novel is a nod to Walt Whitman’s poem, Pioneers! O Pioneers, published in Leaves of Grass in 1865 (Cather’s novel was published in 1913).["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>

  • Henry Avila
    2019-03-14 14:26

    Alexandra Bergson, at a young age , has to take care of her family and farm, in Nebraska, with the untimely death of their father John, he wished his oldest child ( and smartest ), to guide the poor immigrants from Sweden in the 1880's, everyone agrees at first, struggling on the harsh prairie, are also brothers Lou, Oscar and five year old Emil, her pet, the mother knows little about farming... An endless drought soon after begins , the Sun baking the soil , the crops withering for lack of rain, year after year, fail, many farmers give up and leave for the cities, but the Bergson's endure, because of the wise and strong leadership that Alexandra brings ( the people around there, recognize that fact ). The little town of Hanover, a short distance away, takes care of the needs of the local farmers, she Alexandra often meets her only friend Carl Linstrum there, from a neighboring farm, but he doesn't have a clue what to do in life, moody, always daydreaming, unsure, the obvious is in front of his eyes but he cannot focus... 16 years have passed , the land becomes prosperous, prices are skyrocketing, farmers becoming well off, some even rich, the old evil days long forgotten, the Bergson family farm has been divided between Alexandra, Lou, the intelligent brother and Oscar, the harder worker, thus makes more money to the chagrin of Lou, politics is his passion, not farming . The aimless Carl has left, and lonely Alexandra has many Swedish female servants to take care of the new house, and enjoys their company, no log cabin like the old one, even old Crazy lvar works for her, he has occasional spells, nothing to worry about ( as does Lou and Oscar), a man who loves animals better than he does humans, neglected his farm and lost it. Emil has graduated from the University of Nebraska, at Lincoln, he is thinking about becoming a lawyer, a profession that doesn't appeal to him ( or anybody else), he secretly falls in love with a married woman, effervescent Marie Shabata, her brooding, jealous husband Frank treats her badly, no love between the two has existed for years, something will happen soon, that will cause a scandal, so the naive Emil goes to Mexico City. To forget his troubles, have fun , and adventures, meet new exciting people, a different society, far away from Nebraska, but you can't escape your destiny. Beneath the surface there is a smothering darkness, a black cloud, a cruel spirit, a thing that can't be touched or smelled, it scares, but remains hidden, ready to strike, they all know this truth, nothing will stop, the coming of that ominous force... the cold wind stirs.

  • Meredith Holley (Sparrow)
    2019-03-14 15:37

    Alexandra looked at him mournfully. “I try to be more liberal about such things than I used to be. I try to realize that we are not all made alike.”Everything in O Pioneers! is beauty to me. I am so in love with this book. Maybe it is because I have it in my brain that pioneers by definition suck that Willa Cather always catches me by surprise and turns me upside down. It’s like walking through an alien landscape and then running into my best friend. I thought what I would find was Michael Landon crying into a butter churn, and here you are, everything that is wonderful about humans. Still, I never know whether to recommend that other people read this book, or whether it is better to just keep it to myself. As Alexandra says, we are not all made alike, and maybe what is beauty and revelation to me is Michael Landon crying into a butter churn to you.It’s so easy to say why I hate writing and difficult to say why I love it. I want to compare Cather to Hemingway because of how steady and careful their writing is, because of how speculation about their lives cheapens conversations about their stories, but no. I want to say Cather writes what is in my soul, but that’s not right either. What she writes is as much her own world as it is my reality, but that doesn’t make her wisdom easy or her power arrogant. She is not looking for my approval, but she is looking outside herself for some kind of truth.At a particularly conflicted time in my life, I went to a club with some friends and I saw a girl dancing like I have never seen anyone dance in my life. She had cleared out as space for herself to the side of the stage, and it was like every part of her body was electric. It was not only beautiful, it was also full of life. Where I didn’t know which way to turn, this girl was in the Place, doing the Thing. Reading O Pioneers! is like watching that girl. Everything is alive in this book. But, again, I’m struck by the feeling that it may not be alive to you as it is to me. I’ll give you a few descriptions as objectively as I can, and you can judge for yourself. It is about contrasts: country and city, speed and slowness, youth and age, passion and steadiness, inspiration and hard work, deprivation and entitlement. It is operatic. It is kooky at times and kind, but not funny. It is understated and even-handed. It is written by a woman. It is about women and men, who are all sometimes as passionate as people are, and other times as wise as people should be. It is specific, but not petty. There are awkward parts (specifically book 2, chapter 9, though I even think that scene is beautiful).It’s difficult to talk about this book without spoiling it, and I think a spoiler would really spoil the story. So, I’ll just say one last thing that I hope won’t be a spoiler, but might, so be warned. People get angry with authors who won’t let their characters die and see it as a sign of accomplished writing to kill a character. I think, because of that, I see a lot of bad storytelling mistaken for good storytelling if the author tortures or kills the characters. I really hate when people think character abuse is maturity. At the same time, though, I think there is something right about trusting an author more if the author allows unhappiness into the story. Authors are writing to an audience, and I think they should be writing to entertain, so there is value to me in making stories better than life. At the same time, there is truth in sadness, and if a writer can’t look at sadness, she has sacrificed truth to entertainment. Cather balances truth and entertainment in a way that is completely devastating. She loves her characters, and lets every one of them grow as humans grow, with human joys and human tragedies. It is painful and beautiful to watch. I almost want to read this book again right away, but too much wisdom in one month can’t be good for my health. I’ll take a little break first and watch some reality TV to balance out my wisdom intake. Just, you know, for my health.

  • Jaline
    2019-03-02 11:25

    Can we even imagine what it was like for the early homesteaders and pioneers, arriving (most likely) from somewhere in Europe in a last-ditch effort to make something out of nothing? There it is before them – a vast, lonely, rolling plain of earth meeting a vast, lonely, infinite sky. Where does one even begin?In this novel, Willa Cather takes us on a journey where we see exactly where it begins – with sod huts or log cabins or some form of shelter. Then comes the dawn to dark labour of breaking the ground to plant seeds to feed themselves and their animals, if they have any.And through this novel, we are also introduced to people who have a vision broader than just survival. A vision that eventually bears fruit as the earth begins to give back rather than just take. And so the cycle of life begins where people and animals give to the earth and the earth produces for the people and animals, gradually rewarding each other for mutual benefit.This is part of the story in this book, but only a part. Wherever there are human beings, they bring their stories and they create and re-create their stories. As with all human stories over time, there is great joy accompanied by great sorrow, and tragedy sits next to both temptation and triumph.What I appreciate most deeply in reading Willa Cather’s writing is the poetic flow that feels as natural as the wind rustling through a field of wheat. While I paused many times to allow her words to sink in as deeply as possible, the narrative was only enhanced by those reflective moments.This is the first part of Willa Cather’s Great Plains Trilogy and I look forward to reading the next one as soon as possible.

  • Diane
    2019-03-06 13:19

    "The history of every country begins in the heart of a man or a woman."I don't know why I haven't read this before -- it seems like the kind of novel I should have been assigned in 9th grade -- but I'm glad I read it as an adult because I wouldn't have appreciated it as much when I was younger. I am from the Midwest and my grandparents were farmers, and I loved Willa Cather's stories about what it was like for the pioneers in Nebraska. I liked Cather's spare writing style; she gives just the right amount of description and action, and then moves on to the next chapter. In this way we get a complete picture of the whole life of Alexandra Bergson without the story ever dragging."His sister was a tall, strong girl, and she walked rapidly and resolutely, as if she knew exactly where she was going and what she was going to do next."Alexandra is such a strong character -- she was as defiant as the land she was trying to tame. At one point I got so angry when some men tried to bully her that I slammed the book shut in frustration. My break didn't last long, and I should have known that Alexandra would get her way in the end."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 think I reacted so strongly to "O Pioneers!" because it reminded me of the stories my grandmother would tell about running a farm during the Depression. It is easy to romanticize this time period and to forget the backbreaking work that went into taming the land to grow crops and support a family. I would recommend this book to anyone who has an appreciation for the land or who likes strong female characters.Update September 2013: I am rereading the Laura Ingalls Wilder books, which are about another pioneering American family, and it reminded me of how much I loved this Willa Cather novel. I have thought about "O Pioneers" many times since I read it a year ago -- I would put it on a list of Books To Read To Understand America. Perhaps this is my background in sociology talking, but I like stories that show how a country was formed. Aside from the politics and the war, you still need families who are doing the hard work to build homes and grow food and create new towns. You can't have a nation without everyday people. Here's to all the pioneers of the world!

  • Margitte
    2019-03-07 09:26

    Once again, a second time, I was at the mercy of Willa Cather's writing, and closed this book with a feeling of accomplishment: as a reader as well as a human being.In my world, more than a century after this novel was written, we still battle nature on a daily basis and we are aware that nature will return the moment we leave this little piece of earth for a respite. With seed, roots and rain, the stories of ages of human history will be covered in an instant, wiped away as though we never walked these paths a few million times through the slow passing of time.Willa Cather gloriously painted the lives of pioneers in the unforgiving virginal wilderness at the turn of the 20th century, somewhere between 1883 and 1890, by describing the toughness and resilience of a group of immigrants in surviving the harshness of life on the prairies of Nebraska. The Bergsons children and their neighbors established a strong community through stubborn pride and dreams. It was their dreams, after all, that kept hope alive and celebrated the good times when it finally arrived. However, tragic love, diverse opinions, and hard manual labor drove those who preferred to stay behind, when the less experienced farmers were forced to leave. Alexandra Bergson instinctively took the road less traveled, the one on which love took a second place, and meticulous learning challenged old ideas, and the less brave combatants against nature preferred to leave. She compassionately took care of neighbors, family and friends, by making choices that left herself devoid of love and allowed loneliness to become her a life companion. The ones who benefited the most appreciated her the least, but her promise, as well as understanding of her father's insight into the land and its possibilities, made her stick to her dreams and decisions. The most important theme in the novel starts out in the beginning of the book, in the little town Hanover, Nebraska, in the bitterly cold winter, when Alexandra's little brother Emil's little kitten got chased up a telephone pole by stray dogs. He is waiting for her at the store while she is at the doctor's office. Carl Linstrum, a neighbor, arrives to rescue the little kitten on Alexandra's request for help. In the store where they try to warm up again, they meet the exotic Bohemian little girl Marie Tovesky who, with her sunny disposition, brown curly hair like a brunette doll's, her coaxing little red mouth, and round, yellow -brown eyes, with their golden glints like the Colorado mineral called tiger-eye, attracts men like flies even as a toddler. The plot centers around the strong bonds of friendships, which pushes love aside for most of the book, yet cannot manage to deny this strong attraction between humans in the best and worst of ways. Two love stories, with two different endings, snake through the tale. Two relationships are tested by different rules. Perseverance nestles itself in different situations leaving the people involved exhausted or dead. This book is so rich in emotional ironies, that I sat back afterwards and wondered why it was banned numerous times by the American Library Society. The kaleidoscope of human activities, driven by strong emotional intensity portrayed people in all their splendor. What part of this masterful text of human nature in all its intricate ways insulted some readers enough to have it banned? “And now the old story has begun to write itself over there," said Carl softly. "Isn’t it queer: there are only two or three human stories, and they go on repeating themselves as fiercely as if they had never happened before; like the larks in this country, that have been singing the same five notes for thousands of years.” Since love does not form the center of the plot, although many readers probably wanted it to do so, it does play out in the hearts of lonely, often desperate people. It becomes a secondary, underlying force in the book. The major focus, in my humble opinion, is the relationship between the different role players and their land. Alexandra: "The land belongs to the future, Carl; that's the way it seems to me. How many of the names on the county clerk's plat will be there in fifty years? I might as well try to will the sunset over there to my brother's children. 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."Love becomes the third member of the marriage between humans and nature, resulting in an overcrowding of the relationship. Tears of joy and sorrow follows, as can be expected. This was a magnificent read. The prose lends itself to numerous memorial quotes. Willa Cather knew how to sell this part of the Divide to her readers with her poetic descriptions of the land and the people who conquered it. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

  • Cheryl
    2019-02-22 11:15

    Isn't it queer: there are only two or three human stories, and they go on repeating themselves as fiercely as if they had never happened before; like the larks in this country, that have been singing the same five notes over for thousands of years.If you've read Willa Cather's famous My Antonia, you're already aware of the Bohemian community, those farming pioneers of the American frontier she writes about. The young Swede protagonist of this novel, Alexandra Bergson, is familiar; she grows up to become a fearless business owner and woman of the land. Though she finds her best expression within the soil (in so many orchards and cornfields she brings to life), she is also intrigued by the world beyond her country home.We grow hard and heavy here. We don't move lightly and easily as you do, and our minds get stiff. If the world were no wider than my cornfields, if there were not something beside this, I would n't feel that it was much worth while to work. In Cather's The Professor's House, Professor Godfrey was just as distraught and unsatisfied as John Bergson, the opening 'voice' of this novel and the dying father of the family; both men relied heavily upon the heiresses of their family. Getting to know Alexandra brings back memories of Thea in Song of the Larks, except that unlike Thea who leaves to become a consumed and indifferent artist, Alexandra finds purpose at home, alongside jealous brothers who refuse to compliment her on her successful endeavors, yet still want to share in the "family's" wealth. Alexandra makes her father a promise to keep the land that he'd struggled with unsuccessfully, for he believed in her mental girth. She takes a plot of unsuccessful land and turns it into a farming empire, buying a few farms while the price is low, and extending her property. She doesn't know much about love or companionship, and expressive thinking isn't her strong suit so I never got too close to the beat of her thought, but she feels the land in her very waking breath, and through her I saw beauty in toiling the soil:The air and the earth are curiously mated and intermingled, as if the one were the breath of the other. You feel in the atmosphere the same tonic, puissant quality that is in the tilth, the same strength and resoluteness. Willa Cather writes about the common lives of farmers, and yet she gracefully paints beautifully serene portraits of the countryside which governs each life, the country which drives the small town drama some characters endure. Her heroines are free thinkers influenced by the liberties of the wild land. She writes of the brown earth, of bitter winters, of flower-laden Springs, and of the Divide: houses tucked low into the ground and made of sod. Her female characters are strong-minded, rough-handed, and hard-working - it's rare that she spends time discussing beauty or attire. Marriage appears in between dialogue, as an afterthought. Work, purpose, artistry, or career, takes precedence with the females of her novels, and yet you don't notice this until you really take a minute to consider it, because of how subtly she infuses this within plot - since Cather disagreed with the feministic approach of some of her female peers, this is not surprising. This was her second novel, her first, Alexander's Bridge, I have yet to read, and I'm not sure which Cather book I'll try next year. In each of her novels I've read, I've found that there is something intentionally different about the character positioning. One would say that this is the case with all writers who have composed quite a few novels, but there is something affecting about these similar-minded, similarly-situated, yet opposing characters that makes me interested in exploring these books again. In any case, it's not often that you see such a profound defense of the American midlands through aptly descriptive and moving prose.

  • Duane
    2019-03-15 12:34

    This book gets high marks from the critics, and One of Ours won the Pulitzer Prize, but of all her prairie novels, My Ántoniais my favorite. But they are all well written, all very readable, all worth reading.

  • Richard Derus
    2019-02-26 11:17

    Rating: 3.75* of fiveThe Publisher Says: Set on the Nebraska prairie where Willa Cather (1873–1947) grew up, this powerful early novel tells the story of the young Alexandra Bergson, whose dying father leaves her in charge of the family and of the lands they have struggled to farm. In Alexandra's long flight to survive and succeed, O Pioneers! relates an important chapter in the history of the American frontier.Evoking the harsh grandeur of the prairie, this landmark of American fiction unfurls a saga of love, greed, murder, failed dreams, and hard-won triumph. In the fateful interaction of her characters, Willa Cather compares with keen insight the experiences of Swedish, French, and Bohemian immigrants in the United States. And in her absorbing narrative, she displays the virtuoso storytelling skills that have made her one of the most admired masters of the American novel. My Review: Simple, unadorned prose gets very wearing when it's also missing some basic character-building. In 122pp, it's not possible to do a Proustian job of lovingly explaining why people are who they are. But [The Picture of Dorian Gray], also a shortie, has the most gorgeously subtle character-building; [Mrs. Dalloway] is another example; so one concludes that Cather just wasn't interested in Lou or Oscar or the French neighbors.As a moment in time, the book is invaluable. A concise slice of the life led by the crazy dreamers who decided the Old Country was no longer enough for them and their kids, packed what they could afford to carry, and vamoosed for the New World.There is a private society that's trying to get together a colony of people with all the talents necessary to keep themselves alive on Mars. It's a one-way ticket...just like the pioneers of old.How I wish I was young and healthy. I'd be on that rocket in a heartbeat.

  • Jason Koivu
    2019-03-08 17:23

    Beginning with simplicity, innocence and hope, Willa Cather runs her pioneers through the ring of fire that is the hallmark of the pioneer's life and only some of them survive.Perhaps I've made that sound more exciting than O Pioneers! actually is. There are far too many dull scenes in this book for me to call it a perfect classic, but it is a solid addition to American western frontier literature. Writing from her experiences, Cather populated her novel with Scandinavian immigrants, gave them backbones and leathery hides, and set them upon the fields of Nebraska. Their characters bloomed into an organic array of flowers, weeds, fruit, and prickly briars. What she sacrifices in the way of drama and action, she more than compensates in personality and the study of human behavior.The central figure is a strong-willed and whip-smart young woman, who grows into a successful lady of the land. Our heroine is also good-natured, well-loved and kindly even to killers. If it weren't for the slightest of faults, her named could be Mary Jane. However, she is too real to be thought of as some caricature of saintliness. Cather's My Antonia outshines this novel in its stark-yet-evocative descriptions of immigrant life on the prairie, but this is a damn fine book and worthy of the accolades it has received.

  • Britany
    2019-02-27 11:11

    Alexandra Bergson may just be my favorite female protagonist. Holy Moly was I impressed with the strength of this book - considering the time period that it was crafted in. The Bergson's own a farm in Hanover, Nebraska and while most of the world is moving away from farmland and towards the new technology and quite literally moving closer to the river. Alex puts her foot down and takes control of her family's farm. Despite having 2 older brothers (Lou & Oscar- dimwits!) and 1 younger brother- Emil, she stands up for herself and the future of her land. The novel opened with Emil & Alex playing with a kitten, I knew at once that the descriptions of the prairie lands would hold me captive. Enter a few orchards and sweeping trees and a horse or two and I'm completely "IN" with the setting of this book. My heart frequently rose and fell over the coarse of this short novel, and the characters held me captive. I grew to love Alex and Marie Shabata (her darling neighbor). The compassion that this novel shows was far ahead of its time. No idea what took me quite so long to pick up a book by Ms. Cather- but I'm so glad I did. Looking forward to more of her work.

  • Kim
    2019-02-21 11:37

    Where has Willa Cather been all my reading life? Until fairly recently, I'd never heard of her. Now that I've read just one of her novels, I want to read more. This short novel is centred on Alexandra Bergson, the daughter of Swedish immigrants whose intelligence and hard work brings her success as a farmer in a rural area of early 20th century Nebraska. It's a deceptively simple novel, with a third person narrative progressed in chronological order. However, even though Cather's narrative style is straightforward, economical and without artifice, her descriptions of landscape are deeply poetic and her characters are created with great compassion. Cather made me feel her connection to the time, the place and the people and there is something about her writing which rings true. I'm very happy to have become acquainted with her work.

  • Dolors
    2019-03-16 13:26

    I was enraptured by Cather's smooth prose, the beautifully woven descriptions of the land with its double facet; hostile wilderness and source of livelihood; I warmed to all the characters, who were exquisitely painted in relation to the different degrees of understanding of the land, I fell prey to the nostalgic hues that tinted the story, its cinematic texture; but when I turned the last page of the book, I felt part of the magic disappeared by Alexandra's conservative morals. (view spoiler)[ I endorse the need to portray life as harsh and unfair, so the fact that poor Marie and Emil were murdered because of their illicit passion saddened me but the tragedy added realism to the story. What truly unsettled me was Alexandra's reading of the whole situation. Not only did she blame Marie for having a too "lively" nature that attracted men like moths to a flame, which I found discriminatory and sexist, she also commiserated with Frank instead of her own dead brother. And to make matters worse, the reunion with Carl implies a favoritism for warm affection between spouses rather than romantic love, which goes against my ideas regarding marital conventionalisms(hide spoiler)]The writing is undeniably delightful, the impression of real life happening through the eyes of very well developed characters straddling three generations and the land finally arising as the sole "winner" in the story tugged at my heartstrings in a cannon of voices, but I also felt the need to substract a star as homage for those two white butterflies fluttering under the canopy of the mulberry tree, which still remains impassible to the ailments of men under the gibbon moon. I will be looking forward to reading The Song of the Lark and confirm whether My Ántonia is my favorite of the Great Plains Trilogy.

  • Sue
    2019-03-17 17:22

    Willa Cather appears to write so effortlessly or, perhaps, I should say, her prose reads so effortlessly. Her characters ring true and the land looms over them all. Of course Cather lived on that prairie and knew that land. Cather knew farm families like the Bergsons and possibly a woman like Alexandra Bergson, whose life was fully formed and influenced by the land.There are different views of the land's influence on its people: "John Bergson had the Old-World belief that land, in itself, is desirable. but this land was an enigma. It was like a horse that no one knows how to break to harness, that runs wild and kicks things to pieces. He had an idea that no one understood how to farm it properly, and this he often discussed with Alexandra. Their neighbors,certainly, knew even less about farming than he did."(p 14)It would fall to Alexandra to lead her family in taming the land as best she could, trying to keep the promise made to her father. After a trip to look at land in another area, Alexandra rides home with her young brother Emil. "When the road began to climb the first long swells ofthe Divide, Alexandra hummed an old Swedish hymn, and Emil wondered why his sister looked so happy. Her face was so radiant that he felt shy about asking her. For the first time, perhaps, since that land emerged from the waters of geologic ages, a human face was set toward it with love and yearning. It seemed beautiful to her, rich and strong and glorious. Hereyes drank in the breadth of it, until her tears blinded her.Then the Genius of the Divide, the great, free spirit whichbreathes across it, must have bent lower than it ever bent to a human will before. The history of every country begins in the heart of a man or a woman." (p 35)Alexandra and her brothers work tirelessly, as do their neighbors. This story is an anthem to those farmers who gave everything to the land, some loving it, some despising it. They are the forerunners of the remaining family farms of today.One last quote just because I like it's picture of the season: "Winter had settled down over the Divide again; the seasonin which Nature recuperates, in which she sinks in sleep between the fruitfulness of autumn and the passion of spring. The birds have gone. The teeming life that goes on down in the long grass is exterminated. The prairie-dog keeps to his hole. The rabbits run shivering from one frozen garden patch to another and are hard put it to find frost-bitten cabbage stalks. At night the coyotes roam the wintrywaste, howling for food. The variegated fields are all one color now; the pastures, the stubble, the roads, the sky are the same leaden gray...One could easily believe that inthat dead landscape the germs of life and fruitfulnesswere extinct forever." (p 97)But formidable people such as Alexandra saw the possibility of spring returning.Highly recommended

  • Teresa
    2019-02-22 09:22

    I remember putting Death Comes for the Archbishop back on the library shelf when I was kid, thinking it sounded boring. Perhaps that preconception stuck with me, because this is the first Cather I've read. It is far from boring. The prose seems effortless, the pages turn quickly and I became invested in the characters.Over the weekend, while in Jackson, Mississippi, I came across a quoted conversation (in the Mississippi Writers Exhibit in the public library renamed the Eudora Welty Library) that had Faulkner answering Clark Cable's question about whom he thought were the best living writers: "Ernest Hemingway, Willa Cather, Thomas Mann, John Dos Passos, and myself."I found it interesting that Faulkner included Cather (and that I came across this while I was reading her for the first time). Though there are no similarities as far as their styles, the conception of the land as an eternal presence can be found in this novel, as it is in Faulkner's works.This was an early novel of Cather's and from what I've heard, there are others of hers that are even better. I look forward to reading them.

  • Magrat Ajostiernos
    2019-03-05 10:34

    Este es otro libro para sentir más que para dejarse llevar por la trama, es muy cortito, sencillo pero TAN evocador. Habla de gente corriente, de trabajadores y de mujeres emprendedoras a más no poder. El final me ha desconcertado un poco pero en general me ha parecido una delicida de lectura (y además me ha enganchado muchísimo, justo lo que necesitaba).

  • Sarah
    2019-03-09 11:22

    I don’t know how, but I got through all of high school and college in America without reading a word of Willa Cather. It all worked out for the best though, since ten years ago I would have probably found her work like, totally boring and about farming and the human condition, or whatever.I picked up My Antonia a few months ago and loved it to bits - to me, nothing beats stories written in ordinary language about ordinary people. Mix in some bleak, sweeping plains, some overtly lesbian action, and, yes, some awesome stuff about the human condition, and I’m happy.O Pioneers! was written five years after My Antonia and you can pretty much tell. The story, while similar, is a bit more fantastic and formulaic - Cather studied a lot of Henry James early in her life, and you can tell. Everything is a little simpler and more straightforward in this book — the themes are more concrete, the storyline moves forward steadily, and the ending is clear-cut.Still, though, there is some beautiful, wonderful stuff happening. The flat, blank unrelenting landscape makes for a great setting in that the characters are very much on their own - affected only by the weather and by each other. There’s not much out in Nebraska during this time period besides sod and humanity, and Cather knows how to write about both.It’s one of those books where you want to underline things, all the time, like this: “There are only two or three human stories and they go on repeating themselves as fiercely as if they had never happened before; like the larks in this country that have been singing the save five notes over for thousands of years. The young people, they live so hard. And yet I sometimes envy them.” Or this, on the very next page, about problem with being free: “Freedom so often means one isn’t needed anywhere.”And throughout so much of the book, I couldn’t help reeling at how ahead of her time Cather seemed: about women, about education, about religion. And, although it can never be confirmed, since she destroyed all of her personal papers before her death, it seems that Cather was one of the first authors to write about gay rights (but do we really need solid proof? Check out her author photo, for goodness sakes!). For example, in O Pioneers! the moral center of the book is an old man named Ivar. Ivar, whose love and understanding of animals makes him integral to the community, is also mostly mad due to a vague temptation of the body that is never named. He always walks barefoot to punish his body for what he is feeling and constantly reads the Bible for comfort - he has sacrificed his freedom to love in order to reach eternal paradise when he dies.The book, ultimately, is about the constraints of freedom — being constrained in some respects in order to be free in others - and how getting older means choosing which freedoms you can live with best. Too bad I never got the chance to write a five-page high school essay on this.

  • Kathleen
    2019-02-21 11:34

    5 shining stars. O Pioneers is another beautifully written book by Willa Cather. I could see the fields, landscape, orchards, animals, nature and I could feel the cold winds and biting snow. I loved Alexandra and admired her kindness, intelligence, determination, dedication and hard work. Cather's writing took me back in time and the characters became my pioneer friends and neighbours. As written on the back cover, 'One of the most important American writers of the twentieth century, Willa Cather mined her childhood experiences on the Nebraska plains and her later love for the Southwest to create timeless tales of romance, tragedy, and spiritual seeking. In her second novel, O Pioneers!, Cather discovered the subject matter-the frontier life she knew as a young girl-and the spare but evocative style that would tap her full potential as a writer.'################################# SPOILER ALERT#################################'Published in 1913, the novel tells of Alexandra Bergson, a Swedish immigrant who, in her early 20s, loses both her mother and father and is thrust into the role of surrogate parent to her three brothers. Alexandra's success with the family farm enables her to send her brother Emil to college, but the family is challenged once more by his tragic love affair with a married woman. And as vital as any of the book's characters are the Nebraska plains themselves as depicted by Cather-raw, unforgiving, and breathtakingly beautiful.'

  • Carol Rodríguez
    2019-03-17 14:12

    Aunque al principio se me hizo algo lento, hubo un punto en que el libro despegó y no pude parar de leer, pero el final me volvió a desinflar. Algunos personajes me han caído terriblemente mal, por ejemplo los hermanos de Alexandra (excepto Emil), y hay otros que me han encandilado, como Carl, Ivar o Marie. Me ha gustado también que se deje ver la revolución tecnológica de aquellos tiempos y la gestión de las tierras, así como la diferencia entre los puntos de vista de la gente de campo y la gente de ciudad.Me quedo con las descripciones del entorno y la prosa de la autora, sencilla y directa, que se fija en los detalles pequeños y hace algo hermoso con ellos, les da mucha vida. Un gesto cotidiano, destinado a pasar desapercibido, a los ojos de Willa Cather es mucho más. Hay escenas realmente conmovedoras y es un libro cargado de nostalgia y de oportunidades, así como con una protagonista que se presenta como el máximo exponente de la mujer fuerte y luchadora, con coraza, pero a su vez solitaria y con su juventud invertida en el esfuerzo y la tierra, dejando de lado por ello sus anhelos más íntimos y personales. Sin embargo, no he podido empatizar con ella ni puedo decir que me haya gustado como personaje, en especial hacia el final, cuando toma una postura más que desconcertante para mí. Además, debido a un salto temporal exagerado no he notado que me transmitiera toda esa fuerza que supuestamente tenía el personaje.También es verdad que esperaba una estructura diferente, creía que iba a ver a Alexandra durante la novela sacando la granja adelante tras morir su padre, pero ocurre el citado salto temporal de dieciséis años, en el que la encontramos ya enriquecida y triunfadora. Es entonces cuando el libro se empieza a centrar en los personajes que conforman la comunidad granjera. Eso me ha gustado, se crea como un microcosmos donde ocurre de todo, historias cotidianas del día a día, con gente muy diversa a la que casi le cojo más cariño que a los personajes principales, pero es cierto que me habría gustado ver un poco más de esa evolución de Alexandra y su granja durante esos dieciséis años, y también más desarrollo de la comunidad, porque parece que se presenta pero luego se toca muy por encima.Sobre el final puedo decir que me ha gustado y no al mismo tiempo. Ocurren cosas que tienen que ocurrir, y durante la novela todo apunta a ese desenlace. Es un momento triste pero bien realizado y más que correcto. Sin embargo, lo que comentaba sobre la postura de Alexandra ante ese acontecimiento final no me encaja. Supongo que porque en su lugar yo habría hecho justo lo opuesto, pero es algo que me ha estropeado el desenlace y me ha hecho terminar de aborrecer al personaje.En definitiva, es una novela de lectura ágil, y aunque la he notado algo vacía me ha dejado con ganas de seguir leyendo a esta autora por curiosidad. Pero no, no puedo calificar de redonda a "Pioneros" porque me han fallado muchos personajes y porque me ha sabido a poco. Me habría gustado ver algunas cosas mucho más desarrolladas y me deja con la sensación de que tiene un potencial desaprovechado y que le faltan muchas páginas. Parece un esbozo de lo que podría haber sido un novelón.

  • Steve
    2019-02-21 17:28

    Willa Cather (1873-1947)Isn't it queer: there are only two or three human stories, and they go on repeating themselves as fiercely as if they had never happened before; like the larks in this country, that have been singing the same five notes over for thousands of years.A curious chance it is that in the midst of bitter efforts by Republican legislators in the American South to protect us all from the terrifying possibility that someone with different sexual equipment might have the temerity to use the neighboring stall I finally read one of Willa Cather's novels. I thought I knew that she was lesbian, but a little research indicates that she was what we would now call a transgender man. She was already out as an undergraduate at the University of Nebraska, where she was threatened with expulsion unless she toed the line.Perhaps out in the prairie she could express her(him)self as she wished,(*) but not in 19th century urban America. She went back into the closet, where many of our fellow human beings wish everyone with a different sexual expression would go (if not somewhere much worse). Well, to put it in terms I don't normally use in this forum, ya'll can kiss my grits.Though I have vivid memories from boyhood of traversing the infinite Midwest plains in trains, since then those expanses are something far below the plane that is taking me to some urban center. Finally, Cather has made the plains almost appealing to me.In O Pioneers! (1913) she writes lovingly of her native Nebraska and of the immigrant Swedes, Bohemians and French who settled the section of Nebraska she grew up in. And, no surprise there, the central character is an independent, strong-willed but empathetic and generous woman, Alexandra. In a smooth and direct prose Cather unrolls a portrait of Alexandra, her family, friends and acquaintances through thirty years of life beginning in the 1880's, a life full of failures and successes, joys and sorrows, with an admixture of tragedy. Cather, the author, is also independent, strong-willed, empathetic and generous; and, to my mind, she is very clear-eyed. Every moment that begins to taste too sweet is tempered by Nature's harshness and humankind's stupidity. O Pioneers! has convinced me - I'm going to start reading my way into her oeuvre. (*) Actually, had I known Willa Cather personally, I would refer to her solely with male pronouns. My transgender friends unanimously prefer to be treated in every respect as a person of their self-identified gender. However, I didn't know her and, what is more, I have learned that it is invalid to project contemporary, culture-bound concepts of sexuality into the past and into other cultures. But that is another topic.

  • Diane S ☔
    2019-03-15 16:26

    The prairie land of Nebraska, many immigrants from other countries flocked to the wide open spaces and land for the taking, many were defeated by the harsh conditions. Where the weather could make or break one, were intakes were most often re-paid in misfortune. Many would leave, go back to the cities and jobs in factories, but for those who stayed, made wise decisions the land would yield much.A wonderful story, beautiful but plain prose, descriptive writing, one can feel the beauty and alternately the loneliness of the plains. The people and their ties to the churches of their choice where they found solace and companionship. Alexandra is a very strong woman, but I just loved Ivor with his many flaws, but quiet knowledge of the animals. Their are tragedies of course, love, and always a need to move forward, to give and retain for future generations. Loved this simple but brilliant story.

  • Matt
    2019-03-04 15:21

    "Hell, I even thought I was dead 'til I found out it was just that I was in Nebraska."-- Gene Hackman as Little Bill Daggett, UnforgivenWilla Cather's opening description of Nebraska is unlikely to find its way into the Cornhusker State's tourism bureau pamphlets. She describes the fictional town of Hanover as near to being blown away by a howling wind; she describes low drab buildings; a gray sky; a gray prairie. The Nebraska of O Pioneers! is hard, unforgiving, yet tempting; it is a land that is waiting to be tamed, though it will break many dreams before giving its reward. As a Minnesotan transplanted to Nebraska, I have spent much of the past decade trying to explain "the middle of the middle west" (I always try to work a Counting Crows reference into any mention of Nebraska). Usually, I start with low property taxes, segue into Conor Oberst, and then suggest a visit to Gerald Ford's birth home before I break down in tears at my own broken dreams. What I'm trying to say is that Willa Cather sure didn't do Nebraska any favors. But she's right about that wind. Cather's O Pioneers! is like The Little House on the Prairie shorn of Laura Ingles Wilder's Pollyannaish revisionism. It focuses on the Bergsons, namely, Alexandra and Emil. Alexandra is the beloved daughter of John Bergson, a failed farmer who is dying as the novel begins. He leaves the homestead in Alexandra's charge. Alexandra is a tough-minded individual, and she has the guts of a 21st century American in the way she leverages multiple mortgages to eventually carve out a minor farm empire. As described by Cather:There was about Alexandra something of the impervious calm of the fatalist, always disconcerting to very young people, who cannot feel that the heart lives at all unless it is still at the mercy of storms; unless its strings can scream to the touch of pain.The book makes great chronological leaps with each chapter, and in the ensuing decades - Alexandra starts as a sixteen year-old - she gets lonelier and lonelier, never taking a husband and remaining, we are to infer, a virgin. This doesn't seem to bother her much. She has a mild flirtation with a milquetoast named Carl Linstrum, who keeps leaving and returning, but that's it. I'm sure Cather, who was dogged by lesbian rumors herself, wrote Alexandra from her heart. In any event, Alexandra is headed down the spinster's road: instead of a bunch of cats, she hordes Swedish house-girls and devotes her great energies to running the farm and looking out for Emil. Emil is the youngest of the Bergson brood. I imagined him as Brad Pitt circa-A River Runs Through It. A golden child of sorts. Charismatic. A dreamer. A wanderer. He goes to college. He goes to Mexico. And late in the novel, he gets set to travel to Omaha to "read law." The girls seem to love him, yet he has eyes for only one girl: Marie. Unfortunately, Marie, who is a beautiful, vibrant girl, for whom life exists to be experienced fully (she reacts to everything as a Justin Bieber fan reacts to Justin Bieber), is married to Frank Shabata. Frank was a dandy once, with a yellow cane and everything, but once married, he becomes something of a misanthrope. The only thing that makes him happy is making Marie sad. He's a definite precursor to Fitzgerald's Tom Buchanan. So those are the ingredients to the story: the interaction and fates of Alexandra, Emil, Carl, Marie, and Frank. There are some other peripheral characters as well: Emil's French friend, who tries to hook him up with French girls (what I like to call a great friend); Alexandra's two other brothers, Lou and Oscar, also known as Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum (I imagine these two were Adam and Eve of University of Nebraska football fans); and Ivar, a crazy Russian - is there any other kind? - who doesn't believe in hurting animals and is a neighborhood horse whisperer. This is about all I'll say about the plot. The reason being is that it came as such a pleasant suprise to me. Sure, things seemed to be meandering for a while, but it's getting somewhere, and that somewhere has never been ruined the way that the endings of other famous novels have been ruined. (This is likely a function of the fact that the film presentation of O Pioneers! was a TV movie of the week from 1992 starring Jessica Lange, David Strathairn, Anne Heche (!!) and a young Heather Graham). What can I say, without spoiling anything? Well, for one, Cather is a beautiful writer, especially in her evocation of the land. O Pioneers! is sort of Steinbeck-lite. There is great emphasis on geography, family conflict, and a pretty, parable-like simplicity to the language. Alexandra rose and looked about. A golden afterglow throbbed in the west, but the country already looked empty and mournful. A dark moving mass came over the western hill, the Lee boy was bringing in the herd from the other half-section. Emil ran from the windmill to open the corral gate. From the log house, on the little rise across the draw, the smoke was curling. The cattle lowed and bellowed. In the sky the pale half-moon was slowly silvering.The other thing I noticed was the book's emphasis on youth verses youth's opposite (oldness? aging?). I always get a little nervous when I attempt to pick out thematic elements, since I'm not an English major and definitely don't read like one. I'm pretty comfortable with this observation, though, since Cather hits it pretty hard, especially in the comparison between Emil (Brad Pitt from A River Runs Through It) and Alexandra (the cat lady from The Simpsons). I'm too young to talk like I'm old - since it just gets worse every day - but I'm too old to feel young. It's interesting how that works: how our mindset, the very essence of our beings, changes with the years. I realized, as I was reading this book, that I have absolutely no idea what it feels like to be a teenager or young adult. You know, that time in your life when your heart is an open wound, and everything in the world is salt; when every high moment is glory and every low moment doom. Life and death hinging on a date, a kiss, a partner for the prom. Actually, I remember that time in theory. I recall having a vague notion, once upon a time, that all I needed was love, or more specifically, the love of this one girl named Kim I had a crush on when I was sixteen. I figured that everything would follow after. Oh, what an idiot! My present-self has only disdain for my sixteen-year-old self (who didn't end up with Kim, by the way). No matter how much love you have, you're still going to worry about your job, your rent, your student loans, and the weird noise your 2001 Ford Escape makes when you turn the wheel. It's only when you're young do you feel that all else recedes before love. It's only when you're young are you certain that no one else "understands" the world as you. I no longer understand. So I guess that makes me an adult. But I had flashes, while reading O Pioneers!, of that gloriously stupid feeling of youth and love:Marie stole slowly, flutteringly, along the path, like a white night-moth out of the fields. The years seemed to stretch before her like the land...always the same patient fields, the patient little trees, the patient lives; always the same yearning, the same pulling at the chain - until the instinct to live had torn itself and bled and weakened for the last time, until the chain secured a dead woman, who might cautiously be released...When she reached the stile she sat down and waited. How terrible it was to love people when you could not really share their lives!Yes! That's what it was like! Captured perfectly. That was how I was! My sleepless nights, my premature fatalism, my notebooks filled with tragic short stories about the boy who loved so much, and yet died alone. Cather brings youth alive, and she does a great job contrasting those strained yearnings with Alexandra's wisdom and maturity. O Pioneers! is a gem I might totally have overlooked if (a) I hadn't read a great Goodreads review; and (b) I didn't have it sitting fortuitously on my book shelf. When you are young, you are, by default, in love. It is like being on drugs. A drug that makes you senseless, overwrought, emotional, and utterly insufferable to everyone around you who is old enough to legally drink. And when you grow out of that stage, as everyone does, you lose something you can't even name. It's impossible to recapture that goofy, giddy, hopeful sensation you used to have when your heart was certain it needed only one thing. And that, I suppose, is why adults have alcohol.

  • Scott Axsom
    2019-03-09 17:41

    Willa Cather is a genius. There, I said it. It’s out of the way. O Pioneers! was published in 1913 and I’m convinced, had it been published just a few years later, she would’ve won the Pulitzer for it. Sadly, the prize had yet to be established when O Pioneers! was published. (It was established for fiction 5 years later, and she received it, anyway, in 1922 for One of Ours).Many factors go into making Cather such a brilliant writer but foremost, in my mind, is her ability to effortlessly describe the essence (or soul) of a character. This is the first in her trilogy devoted to life on the American Plains at the beginning of the twentieth century, and the book starts off on the dusty street of a one-horse prairie town describing the chance encounter of a young girl and a crusty plains traveler. The encounter, though perfectly innocent, ends embarrassingly for the traveler and he retreats to the bar to lick his wounds:”When a drummer had been knocking about in little drab towns and crawling across the wintry country in dirty smoking cars, was he to be blamed if, when he chanced upon a fine human creature, he suddenly wished himself more of a man?”Such is Cather’s ability to sum up the character of a man in a brief lament. As many have noted before, her descriptions of the wilderness are both heart-rending and elegiac, setting a kind of melancholy exploration of nature’s then-changing riches. But her descriptions do a great deal more than stir the reader’s spirit throughout this work, they also serve to describe the motion of the plot and the relational dynamics both between the characters themselves, and between the characters and the land, in a beautiful, dreamy, ongoing feast for the senses.A young man journeys to see the love of his life;”Everywhere the grain stood ripe and the hot afternoon was full of the smell of ripe wheat, like the smell of bread baking in an oven. The breath of the wheat and the sweet clover passed him like pleasant things in a dream. He could feel nothing but the sense of diminishing distance. It seemed to him that his mare was flying, or running on wheels, like a railway train. The sunlight, flashing on the window-glass of the big red barns, drove him wild with joy. He was like an arrow shot from the bow. His life poured itself out along the road before him as he rode…”In O Pioneers! Willa Cather establishes her place among the literary greats - male or female, let’s discard that distinction forever, shall we? Her prose not only transported me to the place about which she writes so movingly, it also placed me square in the heart of each of her characters as they wrestled with life’s eternal questions of allegiance and honor (to family and self), attempted to decipher love in all its glorious, imperfect permutations, and struggled to understand fate – simple, immutable fate. And, as she led me to understand the human potential for redemption and forgiveness, I remembered that those elements reside within me - they're universal. The great writers always seem to bring that home and Cather does so in spectacular fashion here.

  • Elyse
    2019-03-05 09:18

    I read this book many times. Why? Its a beautiful book (and georgous stage play). This was the first professional-'Equity'- play our daughter was in (at the age of 9).I've want to read another Willa Cather book soon. "My Antonia" was also wonderful.A book I haven't read yet ---and would like to is: "The Professor's House". Willa Cather is a beautiful writer!

  • Jim
    2019-02-20 10:36

    I've heard about this for years. It's supposed to be a classic & I don't know exactly what I expected, but this wasn't it. There wasn't enough detail to really catch my attention. It was a bit of a character study of the strong people that built our country, but they were all caricatures. Silly, virginal love threads intertwined with tough characters in a really interesting landscape & time that didn't get nearly enough attention. A lot of good elements, but it just didn't do much for me. It started out kind of slow & then fizzled out altogether, although it had moments when it was interesting. But, then went wandering off, once by jumping years into the future.It does show a strong woman who not only endured, but thrived, making something of herself & family in a time when that was very tough, but only on the most cursory level. We're told of her achievements mostly in the past. The lack of immediacy & detail undercut the impact. Worse, the end seemed to undercut much of that. (view spoiler)[Alexandra finally marries & he isn't really a winner, although he isn't as much of a loser as Emile, the little brother that she relied on as her reason for living. Why did she need to live for a man? How could she decide that it was Marie & Emile's fault? Or let Frank get away with blaming the gun? They didn't pull the trigger nor did the gun. It made no sense to me. (hide spoiler)]The narrator was pretty good most of the time except when she tried sounds other than standard narration. Accents were too thick & any songs were just a horror. Luckily, there wasn't much of either.

  • Trish
    2019-03-06 10:20

    more like 3.5 stars I saw some reviews where people claimed this novel of Willa Cather's made more of an impression on them than My Antonia... I can't say I agree or disagree. Both novels have their strengths in characters and plot, but Cather's writing in My Antonia simply blows O Pioneers! out of the water. Nonetheless, I thoroughly enjoyed escaping to this countryside world that Cather so colorfully described and I look forward to returning to it soon.

  • Libros Prestados
    2019-03-01 11:35

    Me ha parecido un gran relato sobre un grupo de personas, una generación, aquellos pioneros que viajaron de Europa a América en el siglo XIX para labrarse (literalmente) un futuro. De hecho, contar la historia mediante saltos temporales y elipsis me ha parecido un acierto. Willa Cather es muy hábil al crear una sensación de continuidad y de expansión constante de la historia. Al fin y al cabo, las personas solo están de paso, lo que queda es la tierra. Es interesante ver cómo ese grupo prospera y como esa prosperidad los cambia. Y aunque en realidad solo nos cuenta el devenir de unos pocos personajes, la sensación es de una narración coral, colectiva.Tengo ciertos problemas con cierto giro final. No con el giro, sino con cierta apología de "se lo merecía por ser tan suelta". Aunque más parece el pensamiento de uno de los personajes, y no de la escritora misma, pues en otras partes de la novela se cuida muy mucho de intentar explicar los actos y emociones de las personas.Pese a ser corto, y estar escrito en un estilo muy directo y fragmentario, consigue transmitir una sensación de plenitud y círculo cerrado. En definitiva, me ha gustado y, pese a ciertos contras, me ha dejado buen sabor de boca.

  • Mark
    2019-03-20 12:16

    My journey from Poole in Dorset up to London on the train and then back again yesterday was made so easy by virtue of reading this book that I did not even notice that i was 20 mins late into London in the morning and 40 mins late back into Poole last night. Well maybe a little but it was certainly made less frustrating. This was a quite wonderful novel in so many ways and the danger would be that I could collapse into cliche but I shall try to restrain myself. You know how often people talk of the land being a character in itself in novels; this sometimes rings true and sometimes rings very hollow. In Willa Cather's case it is like an enormous peal of bells echoing across these enormous prairies. The story is the account, quite beautifully written, of one family's struggle with the land to move from scraping and saving to flourishing and benefiting from the riches of the land. Alongside this journey into the land is the journey of self discovery and growth of the Bergson family and their relationships. The betrayals and confusions and loves which build up and overflow and threaten to swamp the heroine, Alexandra's attempts to watch over her family and fulfill her dying father's wishes.This is beautiful writing, characterfilled, moving and very poignant but through it all runs not the characters ' born of woman' but the soil itself'The roads were but faint tracks in the grass and the fields were scarecely noticeable. The record of the plow was insignificant, like the feeble scratches on stone left by prehistoric races, so indeterminate that they may, after all, be only the markings of glaciers and n9ot a record of human strivings '' They lost everything they spent. The whole brought the Divide to the brink of despair. Three years of drought and failure, the last struggle of a wild soil against the encroaching plowshare 'This book is wonderful, quite wonderful

  • LectoraEstherica
    2019-03-13 13:36

    Un libro muy tranquilo, amable que me estaba encantando hasta que llega la parte del drama que desequilibra el resto de la historia porque hasta entonces había evitado expresarlo abiertamente, se veían las rencillas y que podía "explotar" de un momento a otro, pero vamos que pensaba que iba a ser con los hermanos mayores. El final-final sí que me ha gustado, ^^.Creo que le hubiera ido mejor a la historia si se hubiera contado todo mientras Emil era pequeño, una de mis partes favoritas sin duda, y es que son tan dulces.Tengo curiosidad por Mi Ántonia, pero me da miedo por si vuelve a hacer lo mismo con el drama.Por cierto, ¡es mi primer libro del Club Pickwick! :D

  • Jane
    2019-03-21 15:19

    Coming back to read this book for a second time reminded me that when I first read Willa Cather – many years ago – she took me to a time and place I had known nothing about and she made me realise that there were more sides to classic writing than I had realised.Before I read her books the only American woman author I knew was Louisa May Alcott ….Enthused by my new discovery I read every single book I could find in a short space of time, not really stopping to think about the arc of her storytelling life or how one book related to another.Now that I have come back to her work, reading all of her books in chronological order and thinking about them a little more along the way, I can say that though she hadn’t reached the peak of her powers when she wrote this, her second book, it is a wonderful work and a very fine demonstration of what she could do.Her writing is sparse and yet it says so much so clearly. It speaks profoundly of the consequences of travelling to a new life in America, of the harsh realities of pioneer life, and of particular lives lived.Alexandra Bergson travelled from Sweden to Nebraska as a child with her parents and siblings. Her father knew little about farming, he was ill-equipped for the new life he had chosen, but was intelligent, he saw so many possibilities, and he was prepared to work hard to make a better future for his family.Lou and Oscar, his first two sons, had no interest in farm work and could see no potential in the land. Alexandra could, she saw the same things, she had the same love for the land as her father. He appreciated that, and when he died he left her a controlling interest in the family estate. Her brother were appalled when she invested in more and more land as other farmers gave it up to return to the city or to safer, more fertile country.She had faith in its future.Her faith was justified.Twenty years later Alexandra was the mistress of a prosperous and unencumbered empire, and head of her own household. She loved being part of the pioneer community and that community had loved and respected her; she appreciated the old ways, and she was always ready to give her time and to take trouble for her friends and neighbours.Lou and Oscar were both married and established in new lives, enjoying the fruits of the family success without really appreciating what their sister had done. It was her younger brother, Emil, who was the apple of Alexandra’s eye, her hope for the future, and she was so pleased that she was able to send him to university.She loved the land, but she understood that the life she had chosen might not be the life that her brother would want.Alexandra was a strong, practical and intelligent woman who had a wonderful understanding of her world and who cared deeply for the people whose lives touched hers. She loved her life but there were times when she was lonely, when she wished that she had a husband and family of her own, and when she even wondered if the struggles she had made to tame the land that she loved had been worthwhile.She was still close to Carl Linstrom, the best friend of her childhood, but his family had been one of those that gave up the pioneering life and returned to the city, and that had taken Carl into a very different world. He understood Alexandra better than anyone else though, and was his support Alexandra the courage to face the future after something devastating happened.It happened because though there was much that was stable and certain in Alexandra’s world, but not everything. Her younger friend, Marie, who was young and bright, who had such hopes and dream, realised that her impulsive marriage had been a mistake and that she would have to live with the consequences. When Emil came home he had changed, and his own hopes and dreams were something that he could never share with his sister.The telling of this story is utterly so. Willa Cather painted her characters and their world so beautifully and with such depth that it became utterly real. Everything in this book lived and breathed. Every emotion, every nuance was right. I lived this story with Alexandra, Emil, Marie, and their friends and neighbours.I can’t judge them or evaluate them, because I feel too close to them. I’m still thinking of them not as characters but as people I have come to know well and have many, complex feelings about.The story is beautifully balanced, with many moments of happiness – and even humour – coming from successes, from the observance of old traditions, and simply from the joy of being alive in the world.It’s a simple story with a very conventional narrative. In some ways it’s a little simplistic, but it’s very well told.Willa Cather had still to grow as a writer.And yet it feels completely right ….