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My Antonia by Willa Sibert Cather
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My Antonia (original 1918; edition 1954)

by Willa Sibert Cather

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Member:getrus
Title:My Antonia
Authors:Willa Sibert Cather
Info:Houghton Mifflin (1954), Edition: 1st Houghton Mifflin Sentry, Paperback, 382 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:****
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My Ántonia by Willa Cather (1918)

19th century (43) 20th century (117) America (53) American (168) American fiction (35) American literature (300) American West (35) classic (349) Classic Literature (45) classics (277) ebook (47) farm life (41) fiction (1,312) friendship (36) historical fiction (117) immigrants (138) immigration (43) literature (189) Midwest (63) Nebraska (247) novel (207) own (63) pioneer (57) pioneers (121) prairie (51) read (128) to-read (118) unread (64) USA (60) women (57)
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» See also 622 mentions

English (173)  Italian (1)  German (1)  All languages (175)
Showing 1-5 of 173 (next | show all)
For Cather, My Antonia was very much based on real life experience. She had a friend as a young girl, who was an immigrant hired girl, and she visited her when they were both adults and her friend was married with a large family, similar to Jim's visit to Antonia. Although, Cather was successful at that time, she felt the loss deeply of a relationship that had recently ended with Isabelle McClung, the love of her life, who became engaged to a concert violinist. She returned to her home town, Red Cloud Nebraska for 3 months to mourn the loss. It seems that Antonia and Jim's relationship mirrors Cather's feelings of failure in her personal life, but success in her professional life. Jim recognizes Antonia's contentment with her place in her life, and ultimately feels that sense of fulfillment, by the end of the book, after visiting with her.Many parts of the book are based on truth, such as the story of the wolves and many of the people who played a part in My Antonia, were people Cather knew, the Harlings were really the Miners, neighbors of the Cathers. There was that feeling, to me, that Cather was trying to impart something that struck a chord deep within her, and I think that is because she was basing so much of the story on experiencs that she had and people she knew. The story of the Cutter suicide which seems so innocuous at that point in the story was based on a loan shark Cather knew of who was cruel to his wife, throughout their marriage and finally shot her and killed himself. Just as in life it would have seemed so random and strange, it was when plunked into the story during Jim's visit. Cather's skill lay in bringing the story to light at just the right time, for the fascination of Antonia's children and the entertainment of Jim, who later checks on the facts of the story with another lawyer. I loved the last line, by Jim "Whatever we had missed, we possessed together the precious, the incommunicable past." ( )
  mmignano11 | Mar 26, 2014 |
A prairie classic that is great for book discussion groups. ( )
  kblinn | Mar 2, 2014 |
I was so very much in love with this book when I read it in high school. ( )
  dms02 | Feb 27, 2014 |
I loved it. Despite the fact that there isn't much of a plot. Despite the fact that the characters are kind of flat (Jim) or types rather than people (Antonia).

So why did I love it? The writing was beautiful. The main character is the setting; the real love story is the love of the land. This book evoked strong emotions in me and empathy for the lives of the characters. It rang real and true. ( )
  LynnB | Feb 27, 2014 |
In his middle age, a man recalls his Nebraska childhood and youth and the friend who left her imprint on his life even after decades of separation. Orphaned Jim Burden, moving from Virginia to Nebraska to live with his grandparents, arrives in Nebraska on the same train as a Bohemian immigrant family. The oldest girl in the family, Ántonia, becomes Jim's closest companion as together they explore the vast prairies, so beautiful in summer and so inhospitable in winter. After several years, Jim's family moves to town, where throughout his teenage years Jim is drawn to the daughters of immigrant farmers who become live-in servants for the town families. Jim recognizes that the early hardships they've weathered and their hard work laid a foundation for their future prosperity.

Set anywhere other than the Nebraska prairies, My Ántonia would have been a different book. With Midwestern roots on both sides of my family, I'm drawn to Cather's descriptions of the land. Jim tells us that he loved Ántonia, but what I sense most from his recollections is a kind of wistful envy. Jim had become what most would consider a very successful person – a wealthy East Coast lawyer – yet he seemed discontented with his life. Ántonia lived a much more circumscribed life, yet she had a zest for life that Jim lacked. Both literally and symbolically, I think Ántonia's life was more fruitful than Jim's, and I think her story is a fitting conclusion to Cather's Prairie trilogy. ( )
1 vote cbl_tn | Feb 1, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 173 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (42 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Willa Catherprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Cather, Willamain authorall editionsconfirmed
Benda, W. T.Illustratorsecondary authorsome 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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Epigraph
Optima dies . . . prima fugit
-Virgil
Dedication
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)
Quotations
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.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
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.
Haiku summary

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 Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:46:47 -0400)

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

(summary from another edition)

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