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Archive for November 16th, 2022

Today’s review is for the book: “My Ántonia” (1918©) written by Willa Cather.  This book is considered her first masterpiece.  The book was given to me by Craig Carrozzi, a high school friend / football teammate, who is himself a published author.  I reviewed one of his books (“The Curse of Chief Tenaya“) and he felt this book had a similar “feel” to his work, so he gave it to me when we recently went to lunch. The work is loosely based on Cather’s own experiences growing up on the Nebraska prairie and those of a actual immigrant (Annie Pavelka) who worked as a “hired girl”.
The book revolves around two main characters:  James (Jim) Burton – the books narrator, and Ántonia Shimerda. “Jim” is a recently orphaned boy from Virginia and Ántonia is a slightly older (by four years) girl recently immigrated from Bohemia (currently Czech Republic) with her family as they all start their new lives in a farming town in Nebraska at the end of the 1900’s and through the early 20th century.  The narrator tells the tale of his growing up and his friendship with the “girl next door” and some of the changes they see in the American West.
The book begins with an introduction (narrated by the author) of Burton which (unknown to the reader) provides the framework and conclusion of the main narration – although I did not fully realize this until after the book was finished.  It then reminded me of watching an episode of “Columbo” – a TV detective / police series from the 70’s / 80’s known for starting each episode of the show with the crime and the audience knows who the culprit is so the only question is whether the “bumbling” detective can figure out how the crime was done and who is the guilty party.  Thematically, the author and the narrator meet on a train ride and spend time discussing their shared childhood.  The discussion passes to Ántonia and the author asks the narrator to tell Ántonia’s story because he (Burton) knew Ántonia so much better.  Ultimately, the boy grows up to be a wealthy New York attorney (we are led to believe unhappily married and childless) and Ántonia grows up to be a poor farmer’s wife and mother of almost a dozen kids.  Having written and presented his version of events as instructed, the narrator gives his text to the female passenger who then decides not to write her version.
Post “Introduction”, the book is Burton’s narrated story(ies).  The novel is divided into multiple(5) “books” and each of those broken into multiple chapters of – normally – two to five pages.  My version of the book totals 136 pages, in fairly small print.  The book is a very fast read, but I broke it up over several days because I was enjoying it and wanted to savor the words as much as the story.
So, is this book any good?  Is it insightful or “just” entertaining?  And, of course, do I recommend it?  Yes, this book is good!  It is both insightful AND entertaining.  And, I highly recommend it!
This is not my typical taste in reading.  Although nominally, describing the full lives of two individuals and a few other minor-characters, it doesn’t “really” have a build up and climax.  It just kind of rambles on like the “Great Plains” themselves.  This, in itself is interesting because the book supposedly describes the settling of the American “West”.  In point of fact, this is what we (Americans) now consider the “fly-over” portion of the country – the plains and Mississippi-Missouri river valley separating the Rockies from the Appalachian Mountains.  In any case, the natural beauty of the land is lovingly described in picturesque detail.  As mentioned above, I enjoyed the vivid descriptions so much I slowed down my reading so I could dawdle over and savor the words and sentences.  Every page is used to capture the sights, colors, smells and textures of whatever is being described – from mud holes, to linen sheets, to grains waving in the winds, to snow and ice turning to mush.
Final recommendation:  Very highly recommended!  Living in our current day and age, with all of our modern conveniences, it is near impossible to comprehend how difficult it must have been even just 100 years ago, to come to a new country / state and start (in some cases literally) from a cave dug into the ground and then to go on and make a life for yourself and your family.  It was a bit transfixing to read about this struggle and think for that generation, there was nothing else to do but to get on with it – and they did…
Final Note:  This book is out of copyright and available for free downloading at / from several web sites in several formats.
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Love can often be misguided and do as much harm as good, but respect can do only good.  It assumes that the other person’s stature is as large as one’s own, his rights as reasonable, his needs as important.
    —     Eleanor Roosevelt
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On This Day In:
2021 The Question Is Courage
Never Change
2020 Two Quotes Which Remind Me Of Our Lame Duck President
Still Running
2019 I’m Up For Trying
60 Day Health / Weight Update (Nov 2019)
2018 #PresidentBoneSpur
2017 My Staggering Confusion
Zapped!!!
2016 And Bloggers?
2015 Ethical Energy
2014 Are You Likely To Defend It?
2013 Might As Well
2012 The Long And Short Of It
2011 Bravery

Read Full Post »

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