Novel Notes: My Antonia

First published in 1918, Willa Cather’s My Antonia is the story of the struggles of poor immigrants in rural Nebraska, and the coming of age of the town’s children.  It is widely considered her greatest work.

Now, before we get too far, I must confess I was pronouncing the name of this book wrong the ENTIRE time I was reading it.  It was only until I was talking to a woman from Nebraska, telling her how I was reading the book, that I learned the correct pronunciation as she kindly, subtly corrected my mistake. Oh the embarrassment! Just in case I’m not the only person in the world who was confused, it is not An-TONY-a (like Melissa Gorga’s daughter on RHONJ—I can’t believe I just used her as an example her…more shame)…it is pronounced ANT-o-knee-ya. Just so we are all clear. *wink*

This book started slow for me.  I had a hard time getting into it at first, but once I spent a little time with it, it really started to grab me.  I think the beauty of this book is that Cather tells the story in a way that tells us just enough to know who the characters are and the moments that shape them, but much of it is left to us to fill in the blanks. She tells the story in a way that the story’s drama isn’t prolonged, intense and overwhelming…instead it crops up and then calms down almost as quickly.  Just like a person’s memory of a life lived would read.  In fact, that’s exactly what we are reading.  The book opens with Jim, the story’s narrator, wanting his friend to write the story of Antonia but instead ends up writing it himself, from his perspective.  The result is a story so genuine and real it’s easy to imagine that this is the story of many of the immigrants of the late 1800s.  Even without laborious descriptions of everything happening, it seems so easy to picture the Nebraska country, the people, the homes, the town…you can feel it too.

“Things will be easy for you. But they will be hard for us.”
  – Antonia, My Antonia by Willa Cather

As we follow Jim, Antonia and the other townspeople, we begin to understand what made this country so great. It wasn’t easy, but these people put their everything into not only surviving, but creating the life they desired.

I highly recommend picking up this read and taking yourself back to a time that seems all but forgotten in today’s fast paced, over stimulated world. The quiet you will find in this book, even in the struggles, is calming in a way that was unexpected for me.  And now, I want to visit Nebraska.

Photo by Shannon Ramos

1 Comment

  1. I did my senior thesis on this novel – outstanding review. It too started a bit flow for me, but was one of my favorite novel studies to date. :)

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