My Ántonia by Willa Cather

A nation of immigrants…

😀 😀 😀 😀

One day in the late 19th century, two children arrive separately in Nebraska on the same train. Jim Burden is a ten-year-old boy, recently orphaned and coming to the prairie land to live with his grandparents. Ántonia Shimerda is a couple of years older, immigrating to America from Bohemia with her family. Although from different backgrounds and traditions, the children become friends, learning about the land and wildlife of their new home together as they explore it with some of the other children in the farming neighbourhood. Over the years their friendship will gradually fade as Jim goes off to university and later to live in New York, but he always remembers Ántonia, and now in middle-age has set out to write down his memories of her.

When reviewing a much-studied classic it’s next to impossible to find anything new to say, so this is simply a summary of the things that most stood out to me while reading rather than an attempt at a full analysis. To start, I’ll explain why for me it only rates as four stars – simply put, it has no plot, which regular readers of my reviews will know is one of the things most likely to make me grumpy about a book. Instead it is a description of the short-lived era of pioneering, a wonderful depiction of the land and people’s relationship with it before it was fully tamed, a foundational story of the creation of America or perhaps of the myth of America, and a coming-of-age tale of Jim, primarily, but also of Ántonia and of the frontier itself.

I felt it was an odd and intriguing choice for Cather to tell Ántonia’s story at a remove through the eyes of a male narrator, especially since I found Jim’s voice almost inexorably feminine, particularly when he reaches the age of developing sexual interest in girls. I was interested to read in the introduction by Janet Sharistanian in my Oxford World’s Classics edition that Cather’s deepest relationships throughout her life were with women, although Sharistanian is careful to clarify that there is no evidence as to whether those relationships were sexual. However, she quotes another academic critic whose views rather neatly summed up my own feeling about Jim as narrator and Cather as author: “Judith Fetterley posits that ‘Though nominally male, Jim behaves in ways that mark him as female’; that his ‘sexual self-presentation’ as well as his actions reveal his ‘gender ambiguity’; and that ‘My Ántonia is the work of a lesbian writer, who could not ‘tell her own story in her own voice’”. Sharistanian doesn’t agree with this wholeheartedly, but I do. I also felt it perhaps explains another aspect I found mysterious – that we are first introduced to Jim in an introduction written by another person, using ‘I’ and presumably Cather herself, who apparently shares these childhood recollections of Ántonia and yet never appears in Jim’s narrative. I felt that Cather had handed over not just some of the autobiographical facts of her own story to ‘Jim’ but also her internal feelings, and that he really has to be considered her alter-ego.

Book 79 of 90

The other aspect I found most interesting was that this is the earliest example I’ve read of what is now a standard part of American literature, and increasingly the literature of other Western nations – the ‘immigrant experience’ novel. This, however, is written not by the immigrant herself, but from the perspective of an established ‘American’ – that is, a person of white, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant stock (although the Burdens are certainly not WASPs). Ántonia is from Eastern Europe, Catholic and, like most waves of immigrants to the US (and elsewhere), looked down on and treated as lesser by those already established until they in turn become accepted and absorbed into the story of the nation. I wondered if Cather chose to tell the story from Jim’s point of view purely because that was her own perspective on Ántonia, or if again she felt that America was not ready to hear from the voices of recent immigrants. In our time, it would be rather frowned upon to tell the story of an immigrant in this way – we are much more into ‘own voices’ and reluctant to imagine ourselves into the lives and minds of ‘others’. I thought Cather did it excellently, never once demeaning nor falsely romanticising Ántonia or the other immigrant girls we meet, and showing them as having become both physically and metaphorically the mothers of the young nation.

She also has a wonderful sense of balance in the way she shows the immigrant girls as living in a male-dominated society but refusing the role of victim or underdog, instead exercising a lot of autonomy in the way their lives unfold. The overall impression I came away with is that she believed that waves of immigration, especially the women, strengthened the American bloodstock (to put it rather crudely).

Willa Cather

The writing is excellent, especially in the descriptions of the various settings. The vastness of the landscape, the strength and courage of the pioneers, the rapid development of towns and social order are all portrayed brilliantly, leaving a lasting impression on the reader’s mind – for this reader, more lasting than the lives of our major protagonists, I must admit, who largely felt as if they existed to tie together a rather disparate set of episodes illustrating facets of the frontier life. Ántonia herself disappears completely for large parts of the book and her story is often told at a distance, by some third party telling Jim the latest gossip about her. Again, Sharistanian suggests a long-running debate between people who think the book is fundamentally Ántonia’s story, or Jim’s. I fall into the latter category – for me, this is very definitely Jim’s story, and therefore largely Cather’s own. But mostly it feels like a part of America’s story, or of its myth-making of itself as a ‘nation of immigrants’ – that is not to denigrate the myth or to suggest it is untrue, simply to say that all nations form myths from their own history which reflect and influence how they feel about themselves and how they act as a society. And I feel this foundational myth-creation aspect may be why the book has earned its place in the hearts of so many Americans, and as a well-deserved American classic.

NB This book was provided for review by the publisher, Oxford World’s Classics.

Amazon UK Link
Amazon US Link

64 thoughts on “My Ántonia by Willa Cather

  1. Wonderful review! I haven’t read this, but I read and loved O Pioneers! by Cather a few years ago, and I felt similarly in that the descriptions of the landscape and the farming life have stayed with me in a way that the characters just haven’t. I’ll definitely look forward to getting to this, which is on my classics club list as well.

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    • Thank you! This was my first Cather, but I’ll certainly read more of her. Her landscape writing is great, and I thought she was also very good at showing small town life back in those early settler days. But I always struggle when there’s not much plot – I need something to drive me forwards.

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  2. I was so pleased to see your post FF, as I was wondering how you are! Hope all is good with you. Wonderful review, I’m really interested in what you say about Jim’s voice and where Cather is as author in this. I have this in the TBR and I do want to dig it out. I think Cather’s descriptions of landscape are excellent.

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    • I’ve been fine, Madame B, just feeling exceptionally lazy and as if I needed a real break from blogging for a while. I do feel guilty for disappearing though! Jim’s voice is interesting and as always I really appreciated the introduction for helping to clarify my thoughts on why she chose to write it that way. It’s my first Cather, but I’ll certainly read more of her. And I think you’ll enjoy this one…

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    • It had been on my list for years – why do we take so long to get around to these books we want to read?? The narrative voice was an interesting choice – one of those things that could lead to endless debates, I feel!

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  3. Glad to see you’re reviewing again, FictionFan 🙂
    I haven’t read anything by this author either, but think I’d like it better than you as the lack of a plot doesn’t annoy me the way it does you, in some cases I even find the story-telling style to be soothing. The author’s voice in this novel sounds equally as interesting as the story itself.

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    • Thank, Rose – hopefully I’ll stick around this time! 😉 I’m almost certain you’d love this, since I know you’re better than me at these plotless books. I did swither about giving it five stars, but I’m always tougher on classics than on other books. I’ll certainly be reading more of her though, which is a better compliment than a star rating, I suppose!

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      • You’re right about being harder on the classics than other books. I often rave about frothy books that I’ll never remember the plot of because they were fun at the time. I need to create a fairer rating system 🙂
        Are you feeling better now?

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        • Yes, thanks, I’m fine again, but for some reason seem to be feeling even lazier than usual which I wouldn’t really have thought possible! 😉 I think it’s partly the time and brain investment in classics – it feels as if there should be a bigger reward for all that work. Whereas frothy books are just fun!

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          • Glad to hear it 🙂
            Sometimes all you get for a reward after having read something hard is feeling smug about it… but other times, the sense of joy or having your eyes opened to a new idea is earth-moving. Nothing wrong with fun, though 😉

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            • Yes, I love that feeling! And that’s what makes classics reading worth the effort. I spent some of my time off polishing my second CC list and now I can’t wait to finish the first one so I can get started… 😀

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  4. You make such an interesting point about Jim’s voice, FictionFan! It very well could be the case that he was Cather’s alter ego, and it sounds as though others have come to that conclusion, too. It makes sense, and I’ll have to think about that. That plus your comments about the immigrant experience make me wonder what the story would have been like if Ántonia had told it herself. There’s really a lot to ‘unpack’ with this novel, I think.

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    • These intros are always interesting because they tend to show how differently people react to the same book. In this one, the editor quoted several academic critics, all with slightly different takes on the book and most of them I found myself in agreement with to one degree or another. I did want to hear Ántonia’s voice first-hand, but I also enjoyed Jim’s story as being one step up the social ladder at that time. I must read more of her, I think.

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  5. Excellent review of a novelist I’ve been meaning to focus on for quite some time (haven’t we all, judging from the comments?) I’ve read several of Cather’s novellas (all excellent BTW) but have avoided her major works, including this novel. I’ve tried it once or twice but never gotten past the first few pages.
    Like your other commentators, I found your discussion of the narrative voice very interesting. I’ve always wondered why writers chose to distance themselves from their narratives, from the epistolary novels of 18th/19th centuries to this style of “here’s the character as viewed by others.” The early novelists were struggling to develop the tools that would determine the form of the modern novel, I suppose you could say, but why would Cather use a technique that imposes so much distance between the reader and Ántonia unless, as you say, it was Jim Burden who was actually the subject of her novel?
    I was struck by your comment that in these times “it would be rather frowned upon to tell the story of an immigrant in this way – we are much more into ‘own voices’ and reluctant to imagine ourselves into the lives and minds of ‘others’.” I would go a bit beyond that to say that we’re much more sensitive to charges of cultural appropriation; in certain situations writers might be hesitant to tell stories or utilize characters from genders/ethnicities other than their own for fear of misrepresenting an experience they could only know second hand. Besides, unlike Cather, we’re fortunate to live in an age when so many wonderful writers of various gender orientations and ethnicities are telling their own stories. These days, Ántonia would probably be writing her own memoir!
    I find it interesting, and a little depressing, to think how the views towards immigrants have perhaps shifted. Cather clearly regards Ántonia and her family as part of America’s bedrock, so to speak. These days, on the other hand, much of the attitude in the U.S. (or at least the attitude that gets so much media attention) towards immigrants focuses on the negatives. Since I spent much of my adult life in an incredibly diverse ethnic & racial environment (linguitically as well — at one point the metro printed an annoucement in over 30 languages) I find this a real shame.

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    • Thank you! This was my first Cather, but to use the old cliché, it certainly won’t be my last. I actually found this one got more interesting as it went on – I found it a slow-starter. Actually I found the whole thing slow, but it gradually became more absorbing, if you know what I mean.

      On the whole I tend to prefer third person narratives to first-person, so in that sense being at a remove from Ántonia didn’t bother me, but I was intrigued by why Cather chose a male observer, and although other people have strongly disagreed in the comments, I did find the voice feminine and her descriptions of Jim’s sexual attractions felt more female to female than male to female to me. I’d love to know whether that was her intention, or whether it’s a purely modern reading of a text that wouldn’t have felt that way to contemporary readers. Oh, for a time machine!

      Yes, cultural appropriation is a two-edged sword as far as I’m concerned. On the one hand, as you say it’s great that we get to hear from so many diverse ‘own voices’ these days. But on the other hand, I think it makes many authors hesitant about writing characters from their imagination – a thing I’ve always valued. I love the older writers who didn’t fear to write from the perspective of another gender or race, even if sometimes it now reads unconvincing at best, hideously patronising at worst. No one can say Dickens’ women were convincing, but they have a charm all of their own… 😉 I think there’s a place for ‘own voices’ and writers’ creativity and hopefully we’ll get to a point where both are equally valued in time.

      The immigrant question in the US (and elsewhere now too) is difficult. It seems that we’re all more welcoming to immigrants who share what we consider to be our own most prized traits – be it religion, cultural, etc. That’s understandable, but so often it translates into racism against people of a different race, religion, etc. I did wonder while reading this if the immigrant girls would have been accepted into the society so quickly had they not been fundamentally white, Christian Europeans. It’s a sad thought, but one we have to grapple with in the modern world, I think. Do we want to be multi-cultural, or do we want immigrants to adopt the prevailing culture of the society they are immigrating into? We’ve reached a point where it’s difficult to even have that discussion without finger-pointing and name-calling from all sides.

      Thanks for popping by – I enjoyed your comment very much! The real joy of books is the discussions they provoke. 😀

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  6. No plot? This is a reminiscence and not an autobiography so the story followed an expected arc—the narrator unfolded the story of Antonia as he remembered her. I also saw the narrator as being a compassionate, sensitive male. Cather established a paradigm that many couldn’t fathom that a man and woman could have a non-sexual relationship. Her novel was ahead of its time and still holds well today.

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    • Haha, yes, I quite accept that authors have every right to write plotless books and that readers have every right to appreciate them. But I also have the right to prefer books with a plot! 😉 I really didn’t find Jim’s voice male – all the way through I felt he was thinking and behaving more like a woman, specifically in the way he portrayed his attraction to other women. But these things are all subjective – the intro was interesting because the editor quoted lots of academics who have viewed the story and the voices quite differently from each other. The one I picked out was the one who I felt expressed my own impressions, but there were others who would have agreed more with yours. That’s the joy of good books – they are always open to interpretation, and therefore to discussion! 😀

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  7. I’ve never read this one, so I find your review most interesting, FF (by the way, welcome back — you’ve been missed!). The points you made about the narrative voice intrigue me as an author, but the lack of a solid plot disturbs me. Even a memoir needs a story arc. Oh, well, I suppose it’s a classic for a reason; maybe one day I’ll check it out.

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    • Thanks, Debbie – good to be back in the swing! 😀 I definitely think this one deserves its classic status even if my own preference for a plot meant it didn’t quite make my favourites list. I suspect it would resonate even ore for an American reader because it reflects the ‘origin story’ of the nation so well. The voice is intriguing, and has generated some disagreement in the comments – always fun! 😉

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    • Thanks, Laila – good to be back! 😀 I think her descriptive writing is great and although the characters will fade from my memory I’m pretty sure the image of that place at that time will stay. I must try to read more of her – as you say, maybe when I finally finish my CC list (if that ever happens!).

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  8. This sounds quite good. I think the lack of plot wouldn’t bother me too much and I’m interested in what it might say or show about immigrants at that time in the US.

    P.S. Nice to have you back! Hope all is well!

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    • Thank you – yes, all well, I just discovered I was in desperate need of a real break from books and blogging for a bit! I think you’d probably enjoy this one even more than I did – I know you cope with plotless books much better than me. I thought it was a great depiction of early immigration, back in the days before it had become such a sore subject. I must read more of her…

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  9. This is one of those I’ve always felt like I “should” read. I finally tagged it in my library app about a year ago, so we’ll see if I ever get to it. (my list there is starting to rival my Kindle and “real” TBRs!)

    It does sound good and I think in this case the lack of a real plot wouldn’t bother me too much.

    Good to see you back!

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    • Thank you – good to be back feeling refreshed! 😀 I enjoyed it despite my issues with plotless novels, so I think that’s a pretty strong recommendation. I suspect it would work even better for Americans, because it portrays an era that is so important in the nation’s history and idea of itself. I’m sure you could fit it in… 😉

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  10. Glad to see you back, FF, I hope your energy levels are picking up a bit. Like everyone else here, I have not as yet got round to reading any Cather, but this does sound interesting. As my skills of remembering plot details, the lack of an action orientated narrative isn’t putting me off, I think the complexities around Jim’s voice, and the descriptions of landscapes etc would be enough to hold my interest. I’m sure I will get round to it eventually.

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    • Thanks, Alyson – gradually returning to normal thankfully, but oh, I needed that break! I wish I didn’t feel the need for a plot quite so much, but when there isn’t one I’m afraid I tend to find my attention flagging even when everything else is good, as it is in this one. I’ll certainly plan to read more of her though, which is more of a compliment than a five star rating would be, I suppose!

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  11. Welcome back, FF 😊 You raise some strong points here which I shall return to when I (eventually) get around to reading this one myself. As you’ve said – why does it take so long to read books that we know we want to read! (I know in my case that I’m too easily distracted by novelty 😁)

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    • Thanks, Sandra – batteries recharged and I shall be like the Duracell bunny for the next few weeks! 🐰 I know – I spend at least half my reading time on books that are simply fillers when there are so many classics I still want to get to. But a constant diet of heavyweight books (and heavyweight reviews!) would be exhausting, I suppose. I think you’d enjoy this one if you ever get to it – I know the lack of a plot doesn’t annoy you the way it does me.

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  12. I read this my senior year of high school, and don’t recall much about it. It was beloved by my English teacher, but I don’t remember loving it. And I don’t recall him ever mentioning this bit of biographical info about Cather being a lesbian. But, of course, this was the Midwest where such things were only whispered about in those days. My teacher was gay, but not openly, so maybe he tried to point this out without being explicit, and it went over my head.

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    • I’m not sure if the lesbian thing might not be a pretty modern interpretation, and I got the impression it’s probably disputed in academic circles – the editor was very careful to point out that there is no actual evidence that Cather was sexually active with either gender. But I did feel Jim’s voice was relentlessly female, especially when discussing his attraction to women. It’s always hard to know how these things would have read differently to contemporaries though – we are all much more conscious of gender and sexual orientation than we used to be.

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  13. So glad you’re back! You brought up an interesting point, FF, about the narration. I can’t help thinking of how Gatsby’s story was told through a narrator. Makes me wonder if Cather thought the book would be more acceptable with a male protagonist. Didn’t she write this under a pseudonym?

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    • Thanks, L. Marie – refreshed and ready to go! 😀 I don’t know if she used a pseudonym – I don’t remember the introduction mentioning that. I still can’t really work out why she used a male voice for the narrator, which is why I tend to agree with the idea that she was using the voice as an alter-ego for herself. It does work, although as I said Jim’s thought definitely read as female to me. But then I’ve never been a man so how would I know…? 😉

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  14. Huh, I’ve read a lot of Cather over the years, but I’ve thought of her as a lesbian nor have I heard her referred to one. I don’t think many modern people understand how much more expressive 19th century relationships were between same sex friends. Although I’m not saying she wasn’t a lesbian, I’m wondering whether you or Fetterley may have considered that she actually is a woman, and she may not be completely able to show things from a man’s point of view.

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    • Yes, I did consider that – can’t speak for Fetterley, of course – but again that left me with the question of why she chose to write the story from a male perspective anyway. Had she been writing as a woman, then I think what you say about same sex friends would have been more relevant, but these were not same sex relationships she was writing, and for me Jim’s sexual reactions felt more female to female than male to female. But I don’t see that as a criticism, nor do I insist on it. The joy of good books, and this is shown by the many different opinions the editor quotes in the intro, is that they are open to reader interpretation.

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      • I just mean, I guess, in her affection for her female character. Actually, she wrote quite a few of her books from a male perspective. I can’t remember her depictions bothering me, but it’s been a long time since I read any.

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      • I guess what I’m really saying, no matter how garbled, is that I think some of the modern attention to gender is being applied backwards to authors that may not have had any such thing on their minds. It’s sort of ironic, now that you point out my mistake, that this analysis about Cather being lesbian is being applied to a male character’s relationship with a female.

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        • In general, I totally agree – I think we do read too much into the lives and works of long ago authors, and it’s quite possible that I’m doing that now with Cather. That was the thing, though – if she had been writing as a female I wouldn’t have thought anything about the way she related to the other girls, probably because she wouldn’t then have had the subject of sexual attraction in there at all. But because Jim is ostensibly a man the way he interacted with the girls just struck me as more female than male. But who knows? And either way, I still think all the other stuff – about the land and the town, and the ‘nation of immigrants’ – was more important than the individual characterisations overall.

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  15. Good to see you back, I’ve been missing your posts! I fully get what you say about reviewing classics – everything has already been said. Having said that, I knew next to nothing about this book, so it wouldn’t have bothered me, if you repeated what others have already expressed. Even if I hadn’t heard much of the book, I did enjoy your comments on the narration. As you know, I am quite opposite you and love books without a plot, if the characters are interesting and the writing is good. In books like Summerwater and To The Lighthouse (both of which I am sure you strongly dislike), I’ve found myself getting a bit annoyed when a hint of a plot materialised, because it disrupted the parts, I really loved about the inner life of the characters. So who knows, I may get on well with this book.

    Anyway, hope you are well and have been enjoying life away from the blogging sphere!

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    • Thank you – good to be back after a much needed break! 😀 The thing I find about good classics is that there’s so much to say you could easily end up writing a book about the book! So the only way I can ever think to do it is to pick a couple of points that interested me and ignore all the rest. 😉 I do think you’d enjoy this then – I wish I didn’t feel the need for a plot so much but I’m afraid I usually find my attention flagging when there isn’t a strong story driving me forward. However, I should warn you that it’s not quite up to the standard of Summerwater – not once does she tell us how loudly one of her characters pees… a real artistic omission! 😂

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  16. I haven’t read anything by Cather and I must admit that I’ve only become aware of her since starting with the Classics Club, but she’s been on my mind for my second list and I do like the sound of this one. No plot doesn’t worry me and your review raises some intriguing points – very non binary!
    I’ve missed you and it’s great to have you back but I do take some comfort from the knowledge that you needed a blog holiday too!!

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    • Thanks, Jane – I hadn’t realised how much I needed a long break until I drifted into it by accident! Blogging is great, but it also needs a lot of commitment. 😀 This was my first Cather too and despite my usual grumpiness at plotless novels I was very impressed, especially with her descriptive writing and settings. I felt the whole question of Jim’s voice made it feel quite modern, though I also wondered if my (and the critics’) modern eyes were seeing things that contemporary readers wouldn’t have thought twice about. It’s always hard to know when a book was written in such a different time and society how much the author intended and how much is simply in the interpretation of the reader…

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      • I agree and with sexuality I think a lot of it is strong friendships at the time – I was reminded of Lark Rise to Candleford with the plotless descriptions and that’s why I think it’s for me!
        Blogging does take a lot of commitment, I don’t think I realised that at the beginning and is why I’m always behind, it really takes some organisation and I need to make that commitment rather than just winging it which is what I’m always doing and then wondering why I find it so stressful. . .

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        • I haven’t read Lark Rise but I adored the TV adaptation. In fact, I think I have the DVD somewhere… 😀
          It’s when I get to the stage that I’m preparing posts the night before or am three days behind with reading other people’s posts that it all begins to feel like hard work. I honestly have never known how people manage to blog and work at the same time. Even though I’m retired and theoretically have oodles of time, I still struggle to keep up. I really must plan breaks ahead so I don’t reach the point of just disappearing next time…

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          • This is why I disappear every now and then! I’m trying at the moment to keep up with other posts even though my own posting is so haphazard, so that you know I’m still around and to try and not fall off completely. urghhhhh.
            I haven’t seen the t.v. adaptations but I did see it at the theatre about 3 times!!

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            • I love reading other people’s posts but I must admit it is very time-consuming, and finding the right balance of doing that and still having plenty of time for reading and keeping my own blog running can all become too much every now and then, and a break is essential! Ooh, I didn’t know there had been a theatrical adaptation! That must have been fun. The TV one had one of those stellar casts that the BBC does so well.

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  17. Lovely to have you back and glad you took a much-needed break. Cather is a favorite author of mine and her portrayal of place and time is particularly interesting since there is so little written by a woman from an earlier time. I think you may be right about seeing everything from a more establishment viewpoint through Jim. Can you imagine if it was told from the viewpoint of an Indigenous writer whose home was lost because of the ‘settlers’?

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    • Thank you – I hadn’t realised just how much I needed a break till it crept up on me by accident! This was my first Cather and I was very impressed despite my personal prejudice against plotless novels. It’s actually a few months since I read it now but the various settings are still very clear in my mind – the sign of excellent descriptive writing. Yes, I felt it would have been interesting to hear Antonia tell her own story but it might not have felt as authentic? Although she chose a male narrator, It was clear that many of the events in his life mirrored her own youthful experiences, which may not have been the case if she’d chosen to write as Antonia. And I’m pretty sure no one in the US would have wanted to hear from an Indigenous writer back then! We’ve come a long way since then, even if we still have a long way to go… 😀

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      • Good for you that you realized you needed the break and took it! I really like your points about Ántonia and Jim and the telling of the story.

        No doubt the general opinion would have been that an Indigenous person couldn’t possibly have written a book much less that it might be worth listening to!

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        • I really must do a better job of planning breaks though – just disappearing seems so rude! 😉

          Yes, it’s only been in recent years that we’ve really opened up to hearing from indigenous writers or people from other cultures. Which really does not make the TBR problem any better… 😉

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  18. Hello again FF! I’m glad you’ve been looking after yourself and lovely to read your bookish thoughts again now. I put this book on my TBR list after your earlier mention of it and your review has confirmed my real interest in reading it. The time and place setting engages me, I haven’t read lots about this foundation time in America and always love to explore other times and places through a well-written story (and plotless often does work for me, I enjoy that pace of writing). I appreciated your ponderings on the relationship implications between Ántonia and Jim (and Cather as author) and this will add more thought to my own reading.

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    • Hello Christine! I hadn’t realised how much I needed a long break until it crept up on me. I think you’ll enjoy this one, since I know you do better with plotless books than I do, and otherwise it’s very good. It’s an interesting aspect of the American foundation story since it doesn’t involve either slavery or urban history. It’s a reminder that sometimes it’s the quiet working people who roll up their sleeves and build a country rather than the politicians and partisans who do all the shouting. I’ll be interested to hear what you think of it.

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  19. I hadn’t heard of this book before your review-it sounds interesting to me, despite the fact that it has no plot. I find I don’t mind a plotless book so much. I’ve just finished reading all 3 (!) of Sally Rooney’s books, and quite honestly, none of them have a plot, but I still enjoyed them.

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    • I think you’d probably enjoy it, especially since the plotless thing doesn’t bother you the way it does me. I sometimes wish I didn’t feel the need for a plot so much, but I do find books tend to drag if there isn’t much of a story pulling me along…

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