Friday, January 29, 2010

REVIEW: My Antonia by Willa Cather

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.

If the FTC is wondering: This book is from my own personal library


  1. I had to read this book in college for a literature survey - and remember having the same reaction you did: It's an okay read, but nothing really that interesting happens. You're right - if nothing else, it's good to read outside your comfort zone once in awhile!

  2. I've definitely been out of my comfort zone reading all classics this month. Have you read O Pioneers? I have that one on my shelf. I think I may take stab at this one eventually :)

  3. I have not read O Pioneers - good luck if you decide to take that one on! :)


  4. I've seen this book in my bookstore a lot. Actually, it's one of the "Premier Classics" editions I love, but no other store seems to have. I've thought about picking it up, but wasn't sure. But it sounds like a great cast of characters, so maybe I'll give it a try.

  5. A good friend of mine had a passage from My Antonia read at her wedding. It was a lovely passage about sinking into the earth and becoming one with the worms and feelings as if she could just die happy. It was very lovely, despite the maggot reference, and has always made me want to read My Antonia. As does this review. I'll have to add it to my list, thanks :)