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My Antonia by Willa Sibert Cather

My Antonia (original 1918; edition 1954)

by Willa Sibert Cather

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8,786198344 (3.93)735
Title:My Antonia
Authors:Willa Sibert Cather
Info:Houghton Mifflin (1954), Edition: 1st Houghton Mifflin Sentry, Paperback, 382 pages
Collections:Your library

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My Antonia by Willa Cather (1918)


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English (193)  Italian (1)  Piratical (1)  German (1)  All languages (196)
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I picked this one up on the bargain shelf for no other reason than my daughter’s name is in the title and one so seldom sees that name in print (on anything!). This book was first published in 1918. The story is told by Jim Burden and is rich with details about life in late 19th century Nebraska. ( )
  ChristineEllei | Jul 14, 2015 |
I did enjoy this book quite a bit. It was an interesting hodge-podge of stories through-out a life about a young female Czech immigrant to the wild prairie of Nebraska as seen through the eyes of a slightly younger boy experiencing a similar situation of having to unexpectedly live with grandparents on the neighboring farm. I enjoyed the almost short story feel of the book, and was particularly taken with several stories of startling sadness and violence that appeared throughout. Cather's description of the prairie is quite exquisite, with the prairie almost playing the role of a character in the book. I was very unhappy with the main character's name, Antonia, which was pronounced, according to the book in a way my mind never wanted to buy into during the entire book, and being the technical geek that i am, it caused me constant annoyance. But i feel like i have an understanding of the Nebraska prairie and the unbelievable difficulty of those first settlers that tamed it into useful farmland. As a total package, i was never quite sure where it was going, and now, i'm still not quite sure where it went, and thus my 3.5. But, no regrets. ( )
  jeffome | Jul 5, 2015 |
My Ántonia is one of my all-time favorites. Willa Cather is a master story teller. I love all of her novels.
  fredheid | Jun 30, 2015 |
Supposedly a portrait of the Bohemian immigrant woman, Antonia, the story is told from the perspective of Jim Burden, who moves west to Nebraska on the same day and becomes her friend. This makes the story a little odd because the reader only gets glimpses of Antonia's life on the prairie while also following Jim's life. ( )
  Pferdina | Jun 7, 2015 |
Scrawled across a blank page at the beginning of "My Antonia" is Virgil’s quote in Latin. “Optima dies… prima fugit”, meaning “in the lives of the mortals, the best days are the first to flee”. Childhood memories are what "My Antonia" is all about… beautiful, irreplaceable childhood memories.

"My Antonia" is the quintessential tale of life on the American prairie in the early 1900s.
Told in the first person by Jim Burden, he begins the story with his memory of traveling to Nebraska at the age of 10. Jim goes there to live with his grandparents after tragically losing both his parents.

Coincidentally traveling on the same train to Nebraska is a family of Bohemian immigrants who settle on the neighboring farm. Antonia Shimerda is several years older than Jim and though she does not speak English, they immediately strike up a friendship that has a powerful and everlasting influence on Jim’s life.

Life in the wilds of the heartland was far different from Jim’s home town in Virginia, and even more remote from the Czech Republic where Antonia was born. Together as innocent and curious children, Jim and Antonia embrace their new lives with joy and enthusiasm. It is obvious from the title My Antonia that what they share is a very private personal and exclusive experience- a connection that regardless of the passing of time and distance between them- it will never be broken. Jim will forever love Antonia.

The prairie drew people from all walks of life: Scandinavians, Bohemians, Russians, Norwegians, and Germans as well as American citizens who were weary of life on the east coast. And like one big family through good times and bad, aiding each other through crisis and sharing life’s joys, they changed the cultural climate of the mid-west.

In 1882 when Willa Cather was 9 years old, her family moved to a farm in Nebraska. Her descriptions of the primitive lifestyle and hardships endured are authentic. Everything you have imagined and more.... hard labor which included young children working the farm, dirt floors, one room school houses, children running barefoot in all weather, 4 and 5 siblings sharing bedrooms, long harsh winters of frigid temperatures with howling winds and snow drifts as tall as a man.

But the summers- with the beauty and enjoyment of the natural environment- was divine… a fantasy playground for children. A fertile oasis; meadows, orchards, and acres of productive farm land. “Everywhere as far as the eye could reach, there was nothing but rough, shaggy, red grass... giant grasshoppers, twice as big as any I had ever seen, were doing acrobatic feats among the dead vines... the light air about me told me that the world ended here: only the ground and sun and sky were left...”.

Through her charming coming-of-age tale, Willa Cather reminds us of the value of old friends. the beauty of childhood memories, and the stark reality of how much America has changed in the past 100 years.

"My Antonia" is a wonderful book that is aging like good wine... mellow, rich and full-bodied- a unique and true American classic. ( )
1 vote LadyLo | Apr 18, 2015 |
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» Add other authors (36 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Willa Catherprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Benda, W. T.Illustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Byatt, A.S.Introductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Colacci, DavidNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Norris, KathleenForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Optima dies . . . prima fugit
To Carrie and Irene Miner in memory of affections old and true.
First words
I first heard of Ántonia on what seemed to me an interminable journey across the great midland plain of North America. I was ten years old then; I had lost both my father and mother within a year, and my Virginia relatives were sending me out to my grandparents, who lived in Nebraska. I traveled in the care of a mountain boy, Jake Marpole, one of the “hands” on my father’s old farm under the Blue Ridge, who was now going West to work for my grandfather. Jake’s experience of the world was not much wider than mine. He had never been in a railway train until the morning when we set out together to try our fortunes in a new world.
"When a writer begins to work with his own material," said Willa Cather, in a retrospective preface to her first novel, Alexander's Bridge, "he has less and less choice about the moulding of it. (Preface)
He placed this book in my grandmother's hands, looked at her entreatingly, and said, with an earnestness which I shall never forget, "Te-e-ach, te-e-ach my Ántonia!"
Because he talked so little, his words had a peculiar force; they were not worn dull from constant use.
Lena was Pussy so often that she finally said she wouldn't play any more.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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My Ántonia chronicles the life of Ántonia, a Bohemian immigrant woman, as seen through the eyes of Jim, the man unable to forget her. Jim, now a successful New York lawyer, recollects his upbringing on a Nebraska farm. Even after 20 years, Ántonia continues to live a romantic life in his imagination. When he returns to Nebraska, he finds Ántonia has lived a battered life. Although the man to whom she dedicated her life abandons her, she remains strong and full of courage.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 039575514X, Paperback)

It seems almost sacrilege to infringe upon a book as soulful and rich as Willa Cather's My Ántonia by offering comment. First published in 1918, and set in Nebraska in the late 19th century, this tale of the spirited daughter of a Bohemian immigrant family planning to farm on the untamed land ("not a country at all but the material out of which countries are made") comes to us through the romantic eyes of Jim Burden. He is, at the time of their meeting, newly orphaned and arriving at his grandparents' neighboring farm on the same night her family strikes out to make good in their new country. Jim chooses the opening words of his recollections deliberately: "I first heard of Ántonia on what seemed to be an interminable journey across the great midland plain of North America," and it seems almost certain that readers of Cather's masterpiece will just as easily pinpoint the first time they heard of Ántonia and her world. It seems equally certain that they, too, will remember that moment as one of great light in an otherwise unremarkable trip through the world.

Ántonia, who, even as a grown woman somewhat downtrodden by circumstance and hard work, "had not lost the fire of life," lies at the center of almost every human condition that Cather's novel effortlessly untangles. She represents immigrant struggles with a foreign land and tongue, the restraints on women of the time (with which Cather was very much concerned), the more general desires for love, family, and companionship, and the great capacity for forbearance that marked the earliest settlers on the frontier.

As if all this humanity weren't enough, Cather paints her descriptions of the vastness of nature--the high, red grass, the road that "ran about like a wild thing," the endless wind on the plains--with strokes so vivid as to make us feel in our bones that we've just come in from a walk on that very terrain ourselves. As the story progresses, Jim goes off to the University in Lincoln to study Latin (later moving on to Harvard and eventually staying put on the East Coast in another neat encompassing of a stage in America's development) and learns Virgil's phrase "Optima dies ... prima fugit" that Cather uses as the novel's epigraph. "The best days are the first to flee"--this could be said equally of childhood and the earliest hours of this country in which the open land, much like My Ántonia, was nothing short of a rhapsody in prairie sky blue. --Melanie Rehak

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:17:51 -0400)

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A New York lawyer remembers his boyhood in Nebraska and his friendship with a pioneer Bohemian girl.

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