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My Ántonia (1918)

by Willa Cather

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: The Prairie Trilogy (3)

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12,546268419 (3.91)970
After the death of his parents, Jim is sent to live with his grandparents on the Nebraska plains. By chance on that same train is a bright-eyed girl, Antonia, who will become his neighbor and lifelong friend. Her family has emigrated from Bohemia to start a new life farming but soon lose their money and must work hard just to survive. Through it all, Antonia retains her natural pride and free spirit.… (more)
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English (260)  German (3)  Italian (2)  Spanish (2)  Piratical (1)  All languages (268)
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Summary: Jim Burden’s narrative of his relationship growing up on the prairie with Ántonia Shimerda, one he would live with throughout his life.

[Review includes spoilers.]

Jim Burden was an orphaned boy who came to live with his grandparents in Nebraska. Ántonia Shimerda was a young girl, four years older, of Bohemian immigrants living nearby. This story, described in the opening narrative as a manuscript describing his friendship with Ántonia, given to a friend from the same town in Nebraska months after a train ride in which they had spoken of her.

Jim is quickly enlisted to teach Ántonia English so she can help with the family’s transactions in the community. And thus begins a deep friendship between the two lasting a lifetime. Tragedy quickly shadows Ántonia’s life when her sickly and unhappy father, several weeks after a beautiful Christmas Day visit, takes his life. Ántonia and her brother Ambrosch are left to eke out a living, and they do, by Ambrosch brute force and Ántonia’s hard work, through which she becomes somehow even more vibrant. Their friendship continues in the moments she is free, including an incident in which Jim, who happens to be carrying a shovel, kills a deadly and huge rattler, becoming a hero to her and all.

Later, Jim’s grandparents move to town and Ántonia also takes up a job, working as a housekeeper with Mrs. Harling, teaching her domestic arts she has not learned on the farm. The two keep up, Jim shunning younger girls for Ántonia and her friend Lena, to whom he is attracted. Lena has different ideas, and becomes an independent dressmaker, beholden to no man and eventually living in San Francisco. Jim went off to college and eventually law school. Meanwhile, Ántonia goes off with a young man to get married. He abandons her, pregnant. She returns home and joyfully, as she does so much, raises her daughter, leaving shame to others. She and her brother work together on the farm. Jim returns once to visit, holding her hands as he prepares to return to school, saying he will return.

It is twenty years until he does. They do continue to write. In the meanwhile, Ántonia marries Anton Cuzak, with whom she has ten children and builds a prosperous farm. Jim becomes a railroad lawyer. The book concludes with his visit to the farm, where he meets the children and Anton.

As in O Pioneers, the story unfolds amid Cather’s descriptions of the glories of the Nebraska prairie. And like that story, Cather portrays a woman of strength and joy in her life. One senses she could have spent her life with Jim, who never pursues her beyond their shared friendship. And yet she not merely accepts, but joyfully embraces a life with Anton, who honors her initiative and industry. We sense that Jim comes to realize this as well. What strikes me is that each honors the commitments of the other. A modern novel would probably have written in an affair that would destroy them both, and Ántonia’s family in the bargain. They choose a different road, generous friendship that honors boundaries, and finds joy in what they have, “the precious, incommunicable past.” ( )
  BobonBooks | Sep 5, 2022 |
I can't believe that I've just now gotten around to reading this classic - however, if I had read it any earlier, I don't think that I would have appreciated as much as I do at 53. ( )
  viviennestrauss | Jul 22, 2022 |
I'm a bit gobsmacked by how much I loved this book. First off I listened to the audio. The reader was amazing. Her voices were so distinct and appropriate. I'll have to look up who it was since the book is in the car. So I'll report back on who that was.

This book had some of best descriptions I've ever read. They were vivid and clear and were really the best part for me. I loved Jim, the narrator of the story, and also of course, Antonia. The secondary characters were all well drawn and interesting. And of course, Nebraska itself was a major character in the story. This story was not one that depended on plot but rather on relationships. It dealt in a major way with homesickness and longing for some lost world. The joy of the long days of an outdoor childhood was one of those things which the author portrayed so well and which the narrator as a middle aged man was so homesick for. Throughout the reader gets a view of homesteading and life on the prairies and small prairie towns at the end of the nineteenth century. The story is told in vignettes and not everything is pretty.

Just a beautiful book. I think I'll try O Pioneers next. ( )
  Luziadovalongo | Jul 14, 2022 |
I generally dislike American literature, but this was really good. It felt real. Cather found the balance between too little detail and too much. There was enough detail to make scenes tangible, but not so much as to make it seem fake. Maybe I will give some American literature a second chance.
  eri_kars | Jul 10, 2022 |
I'm not usually much for long descriptions but I thought it beautifully done in this book. Maybe I'm biased as I grew up in the area she describes. It reminds me of My Name is Lucy Barton [b:My Name Is Lucy Barton|25893709|My Name Is Lucy Barton|Elizabeth Strout|https://i.gr-assets.com/images/S/compressed.photo.goodreads.com/books/1450653428l/25893709._SX50_.jpg|45584499], as you get to know the town and cast of characters through their interactions with Jim. ( )
  christyco125 | Jul 4, 2022 |
Showing 1-5 of 260 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (34 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Willa Catherprimary authorall editionscalculated
Benda, W. T.Illustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Byatt, A.S.Introductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Colacci, DavidNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Norris, KathleenForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sharistanian, JanetEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Svoboda, TereseAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Tapper, GordonIntroductionsecondary 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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Wikipedia in English (3)

After the death of his parents, Jim is sent to live with his grandparents on the Nebraska plains. By chance on that same train is a bright-eyed girl, Antonia, who will become his neighbor and lifelong friend. Her family has emigrated from Bohemia to start a new life farming but soon lose their money and must work hard just to survive. Through it all, Antonia retains her natural pride and free spirit.

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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.
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Penguin Australia

An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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Tantor Media

2 editions of this book were published by Tantor Media.

Editions: 1400100747, 1400108454

Recorded Books

An edition of this book was published by Recorded Books.

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