March 5, 2007

O Pioneers!: Review

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O Pioneers! is really not the right title for this book. It brings to my mind the image of dancing and singing farmers- a la Oklahoma. Title aside, this was a great book. It was an engaging read. It took me only 2 days to read it.

The story starts in the bleak winter of Nebraska. Alexandra, a sixteen year old Swedish immigrant and her family, are struggling to scratch out a life from the wild prairie soil. Her father on his deathbed makes her promise to make the farm prosper. He has little faith in his 2 older sons: work horses with no imagination. Alexandra is the one person capable of seeing what the land can accomplish. "She felt the future stirring." Through the hard times, Alexandra holds on, despite the goading of her brothers to sell. She intuitively knows what the land needs to bring out the best in it and she is a success.

Alexandra is now a rich lady farmer. The people who stuck it out are prosperous and like to show it. Alexandra doesn't flaunt her wealth. She is a simple, practical person who feels it's unnecessary. Although contented with her land, she is lonely. Her best friend, Carl, a sensitive young man, left the area ages ago. Her younger brother, who she put through college, is restless and unhappy. Her older brothers criticize everything she does, even though she's made them rich.

Although the living is easier, the people are restless. Carl returns causing Alexandra to question the choices she has made. Meanwhile, the emotions of the younger people boil inside them, threatening the peace of the prairie. As Carl says, "...there are only two or three human stories, and they go on repeating themselves as fiercely as if they never happened before..."

Willa Cather is an artist. I'm a girl who's spent her whole life staring at the ocean. Through Cather's writing I could see the prairie, the rolling hills, and the little farms. She has some beautiful passages, not just of the land, but of the people as well. The characters were so real and well written. Alexandra is a woman I'm going to remember for a long time. Although she is so strong, she has some fatal flaws.

I'll definitely read more of Willa Cather's work. I just wish it was more than 180 pgs long.

8 comments :

  1. For some reason I've always resisted reading O Pioneers! (maybe the show tunes that come immediately to mind), but I did read The Professor's House and fell immediately in love with her writing. I highly recommend that you make it your next Cather excursion.

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  2. I haven't heard of The Professor's House but I have My Antonia on my shelf.

    You should give O Pioneers a try!

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  3. Oh hooray...another positive review. I have this on my TBR list (not challenge) and look forward to reading it. Thanks for the encouragement. :)

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  4. Chris, thanks for the review, sounds like one I would like!

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  5. Sounds like something I'd like, thanks for the review!

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  6. O Pioneers is a great story! I enjoyed reading your review. I look forward to picking up My Antonia at some point, another short one.

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  7. This book is great - the descriptions of the landscape and the life of pioneers are just so vivid! I suggest reading My Antonia as well.

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  8. Thanks, Geek. I did read My Antonia after reading this. I still love O Pioneers the best.

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