I have to admit I had no inclination to read anything about prairie life in the mid-1800’s but the story turned out to be rather engaging in its own way. We see this life on the prairie through the eyes of young Jim Burden who comes to live in Nebraska with his grandparents. Arriving at the same time is an immigrant family from Bohemia, the Shimerdas.
The Shimerdas live a very meager existence having been taken advantage of by the man who sold them their property. The Burden family feels compelled to help them. Soon Jim and the Shimerdas’ daughter Antonia who is the only one of the family who speaks any English, form a friendship that will span several decades. Jim narrates from his boyhood to 20 years later when he pays a visit to Antonia on her farm.
I liked this story even though nothing really exciting happens in it. I think the liveliness of the characters, especially the title character Antonia appealed to me. She maintains such spirit even though her life is incredibly hard and fraught with tragedy. Also amusing were supporting characters such as Lena Lingard who is a country girl like Antonia but whom the townspeople look down upon for her forward ways. This bothers Lena not one bit and she continues to follow her own path and actually ends up being quite successful. The story doesn’t have a happy ending per se but I would describe it as a content one.
My Antonia is not the most enthralling book I’ve ever read but it did give me a window into a time in our history I knew nothing about so I appreciate it for that.