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The Song of the Lark [CD] (AUDIOBOOK) by…
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The Song of the Lark [CD] (AUDIOBOOK) (original 1915; edition 2007)

by Willa Cather

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Title:The Song of the Lark [CD] (AUDIOBOOK)
Authors:Willa Cather
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Rating:*****
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The Song of the Lark by Willa Cather (1915)

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What a disappointment this book was. I've loved just about all the Cather I've read, even minor works, but this seemed endless, and after about 80% I realized I just didn't care what happened to the characters and so quit. ( )
  auntmarge64 | Apr 20, 2015 |
"The Song of the Lark" is Book 2 of the "Great Plains Trilogy". But don’t worry if you haven’t yet read book 1- "O Pioneers!" because it is not a continuing story. In fact, none of the characters are the same, the setting is in a different state, and the only thing tying the stories together is an unknown distant relative who is barely mentioned and has no effect on the plot. In fact, even if you purposefully skipped Book 1, you missed very little. It is interesting to note just how much Willa Cather’s writing improved between 1912 and 1915. The Song of the Lark" is written so much better.

Book 2 is the story of Thea Kronborg. Thea is one of seven children of the Swedish Methodist Reverend Peter Kronborg. Growing up in rural Colorado in the 1890s, the plot centers around various residents of Moonstone, members of the Kronborg family, Thea’s musical talent, and her struggle to achieve recognition and fame. It’s the age-old story of the sacrifice and hardship suffered by artists in their relentless pursuit of their passion.

The characters are a bit one dimensional… especially Thea. In the opening scene Thea is eleven years old. Already there are admirers, suitors, and mentors of all ages who adore her and would literally do anything for her. And although she is not portrayed as a selfish person, she does not hesitate to take advantage of every opportunity to further her musical education and career. This wins the disapproval of resentful family members and gossipy neighbors… all suffering from a small-town mentality. They have no idea how serious Thea is about her ambitions.

Over a 20 year span, "The Song of the Lark" follows Thea from Moonstone where she plays piano for the church choir to Chicago where she studies under a famous musician, and ultimately on to Germany and New York where she performs at the Metropolitan Opera House. It’s quite a triumph for a woman in the early 1900s.

There is always a price to pay for fame and fortune and at the end of this story, the question remains… was it all worth it?

As with "O Pioneers!" and "My Antonia", "The Song of the Lark" achieved recognition for bringing attention to the life of ordinary people who lived on the prairie, and today- more than ever- is appreciated for authentic descriptions of life in the American West 100 years ago. ( )
1 vote LadyLo | Apr 18, 2015 |
Song of the Lark by Willa Cather was an interesting read that had a autobiographical feel to it as the subject matter was about a young girl developing into an artist, in this case a singer, and is set against the backdrop of the American West. I couldn’t help but wonder if the author implanted some of her own traits and feelings into Thea as she grew up knowing herself to be different from the rest of her family and the people of the small Western town of Moonstone, Colorado.

Willa Cather writes with great authority and this story details Theas’ determination and strong work ethic as she strives to reach her goals. Originally training to be a piano teacher, when her instructor hears her voice she is told that her voice is worth all that she can put into it. Through the course of the book, Thea learns to put her art first, and although there are setbacks, she eventually finds that her singing is what she gets the most pleasure from.

What made this book come alive for me were the various characters that Thea met along the way, and the author’s descriptive writing that makes the American West come alive on the pages. This was a book that, didn’t entirely sweep me away, but was still a very good read. I did appreciate how the book came full circle with Thea, her friends and even with its’ ending back in Moonstone, Colorado. ( )
  DeltaQueen50 | Apr 8, 2015 |
Our title “lark” is Thea Kronborg, a young girl growing up in Colorado in the late 19th century. Even at a young age her musical talent is obvious. She learns how to play the piano and her ability soon out shines the resources available in her tiny hometown. Thea’s story is told in six sections which chronicle her struggle to become an artist.

We watch as she befriends the community doctor, teaches piano lessons, loses a good friend in an accident, discovers the Mexican community in her town, and more. As she grows up she begins the lifelong battle to find a balance between ambition and family, a desire to succeed and her personal relationships. Her journey is a long one, taking her at times away from her goal or into lonely places to improve her talent.

The message that seems to echo throughout time is that you can have success and glory or you can have a life filled with family and friends. So often the two seem mutually exclusive. The closer Thea got to her dream, the farther she was from the people who loved her most.

When Thea heads to Denver to study music it's a lot like a freshman leaving for college for the first time. They ache for the life they are leaving, but when they return home everything feels different. But in reality she’s the one who has changed, and her experiences are making her see her family in a whole new light. They have completely different in goals and values and she has a hard time reconciling her feelings with this new discovery.

As her priorities shift, she can’t relate to her family in the same way she used to. They have so little in common and a shared childhood can only get you so far. Their intolerance of the Mexican people makes no sense to her and only drives them further apart. I think many people have the same realization when they leave home in those formative years. As you discover more about the world around you and the views of other people, you begin to question the things you took for granted as fact in your youth.

Thea’s talent is both a gift and a curse. Life is almost simpler for those who aren’t endowed with natural abilities that shine so brightly. Less is expected from them and they are able to choose their path with lower expectations.

* This is technically the second novel in the author’s Prairie Trilogy, but each novel works as a standalone.

BOTTOM LINE: Cather’s writing is beautiful and I can’t wait to read more of her work. I didn’t love it quite as much as “O Pioneers!” but Thea’s struggle resonated with me. She learned so much over the years. She had to make difficult decisions about her future. As we grow up we are shaped by our experience and the paths we choose. That still remains true a century after the book was first published.

“There are some things you learn best in calm, and some in storm.”

“People live through such pain only once. Pain comes again—but it finds a tougher surface.”

“Art is only a way of remembering youth. And the older we grow the more precious it seems to us." ( )
  bookworm12 | Jan 23, 2015 |
Having promised myself that I would read more Willa Cather novels this year, it was pretty certain that TheSong of the Lark would be one of the novels I would finally get around to. First published in 1915 – it was Cather’s third novel and is considered to be the second novel in her Prairie Trilogy.

“The world is little, people are little, human life is little. There is only one big thing — desire.”

At almost 600 pages it is certainly one of Cather’s longer novels, if not the longest, and it has a scope to match. There is so much to this novel in terms of depth and scope, that I will only try to give a flavour of it, it’s a truly great story, and a quite ambitious work, beautifully written as one would expect, memorable and engaging. The title comes from a painting of the same name, by Jules Adolphe Aimé Louis Breton. songofthelark1

The beginning of the story is set in the fictional town of Moonstone, Colorado, where Thea Kronberg, one of seven children of the Swedish Methodist minister, at eleven years old is already showing signs of becoming a gifted musician. Thea’s strong, intelligent mother allows Thea space to grow, she knows her daughter is different to the others, Thea’s aunt Tillie, who lives with the family is a bit silly, irritates so many other people, is surprisingly tolerated by the adolescent Thea. Many years later, Tillie’s fierce pride in her niece survives as she remains alone in Moonstone. Even at this young age, one of Thea’s greatest friends, is the young town doctor, Dr Archie, a friendship that will survive decades and Thea’s raise from her humble background to become a great opera singer. The novel is told in six parts, charting Thea’s growth as an artist and a woman, as she progresses from Moonstone to Chicago and New York, studies in Europe and her eventual great success in her debut as Sieglinde at the Metropolitian Opera.

“Many a night that summer she left Dr. Archie’s office with a desire to run and run about those quiet streets until she wore out her shoes, or wore out the streets themselves; when her chest ached and it seemed as if her heart were spreading all over the desert. When she went home, it was not to go to sleep. She used to drag her mattress beside her low window and lie awake for a long while, vibrating with excitement, as a machine vibrates from speed. Life rushed in upon her through that window — or so it seemed. In reality, of course, life rushes from within, not from without. There is no work of art so big or so beautiful that it was not once all contained in some youthful body, like this one which lay on the floor in the moonlight, pulsing with ardor and anticipation. It was on such nights that Thea Kronborg learned the thing that old Dumas meant when he told the Romanticists that to make a drama he needed but one passion and four walls.

A fiercely determined young girl Thea helps to look after her younger brother, born at a time when Thea was gravely ill and attended by her good friend Dr Archie. While learning piano from hard drinking, Professor Wunsch, by fifteen Thea is already teaching pupils herself, using the money she makes to create her very own room under the eaves, this jealously guarded private space becomes a place where Thea can be herself. Often asked to sing at funerals Thea also competes with her singing rival the pretty Lily Fisher. Wunsch lives with the local tailor Kohler and his wife who live within sound of the Mexican community, where Spanish Johnny and Mrs Tellamantez live, sing and dance; and who along with Dr Archie, The Kohlers, Prof. Wunsch, and railwayman Ray Kennedy form Thea’s group of adult friends. Thea only partly understands what desires lie inside her, her striving and ambition, her wish to move beyond Moonstone and her music pupils. Wunsch leaves Moonstone, and Thea leaves school to take on greater numbers of pupils and earn her own money. When Ray Kennedy, whose secret wish it is to marry Thea when she is old enough is killed, his bequest of six hundred dollars gives Thea the opportunity to leave and study in Chicago.

In Chicago Thea studies hard at piano, but her true gift is in her voice so when her voice is revealed to her piano teacher he sends her to work with a great vocal teacher instead. However Thea is sometimes dissatisfied, frustrated in herself and those around her, she begins to show those personality traits we might expect of a great artist. Thea struggles to adjust to her new life, living with two German women, and close to a Swedish reform church where she often sings in the choir. When Thea returns to Moonstone for a holiday she finds herself out of step with her old home, seeing resentment on the faces of her siblings and angered to have herself talked about by the local community. Returning to Chicago to embrace her studies, Thea puts Moonstone firmly behind her, the first of the sacrifices she makes in her determined pursuit of her voice. While studying with her teacher Bowers, Thea must play piano for other singers, something she tires of, resenting the success of less gifted singers and despising the public’s preference for them. Then Thea meets rich young man Fred Ottenberg, with whom she spends some wonderful carefree healing days in Arizona on a holiday arranged by Fred. However like Thea’s great friend Dr Archie, Fred too is trapped in an unhappy marriage. These two men however remain close to Thea as she eventually succeeds to the greatness that is her destiny.

Apparently loosely based on the life of soprano Olive Fremstad, The Song of the Lark is the story of an artist, of determination, ambition and sacrifice. Moving from a small Colorado town in the 1890’s to the New York concert halls in the first decade of the twentieth century Cather captures perfectly the psychology of a truly gifted singer, the almost paralysing ambition and the sacrifices which come with that. Cather’s characterisation of Thea is honest and unsentimental, Thea is sometimes difficult, as she does rather shrug off the people in her life she cannot take with her. ( )
2 vote Heaven-Ali | Aug 12, 2014 |
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"It was a wond'rous lovely storm that drove me!" - Lenau's Don Juan
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To Isabelle McClung
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Doctor Howard Archie had just come up from a game of pool with the Jewish clothier and two travelling men who happened to be staying overnight in Moonstone.
The Song of the Lark tells a tale familiar in frontier history, a tale of struggle and courage in which a determined protagonist forges a self equal to a wild and outsized land. (Introduction)
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This is the Cinderella story of Thea Kronborg, born into provincial obscurity in Moonstone, a small desert town in the American West, rescued from it by her exquisite voice. Thea is one of seven children, yet she is a child apart and there are those in Moonstone who know it: Aunt Tillie, Doctor Archie, Spanish Johnny, Professor Wunsch, her alcoholic piano teacher - and Ray Kennedy, a railroad man whose most cherished dream is to marry Thea but whose fate it is to set her free. With her rugged will and fierce pioneer spirit Thea forces her way through life - from Moonstone to the windy streets of Chicago, from Dresden to New York and a triumphant debut as Sieglinde at the Metropolitan Opera. Thea becomes a great opera singer, but learns on the way that to be a true artist she must make the most bitter sacrifices of all...
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A story of a young woman's awakening as an artist and her struggle to escape the constraints of a small town in Colorado.

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