Friday, July 11, 2014

Book Review: "My Antonia" by Willa Cather (All Lady July)

Willa Cather, American treasure, author extraordinaire, have-er of a cool "W" name. She is all these things, and today we are going to talk about one of her most widely read books, "My Antonia".

Our story is told from the perspective of Jim, a young boy who is sent West from Virginia to live with his grandparents in Black Haw Nebraska. He travels by train and can't believe that Nebraska goes on and on and on like it does.
and on and on and on and on
On the train he sees a foreign (Czech) family, who have a beautiful girl that's about his age. They are the Shimerdas, the girl is Antonia, and he doesn't know it yet but they are going to be his neighbors. Jim thrives on his grandparents farm while learning important lessons like, when going to the vegetable patch always take grandma's heavy stick in case you have to bash in a snake's head. Sound advice, right?

The Shimerdas struggle in this new world. The dugout that they live in is tiny, dank, and can barely contain this multi-generational family. They get swindled out of money by the person who sold them their farm, getting at least double what it is actually worth. They probably all would have starved to death in the first winter if it wasn't for the generosity of Jim's grandparents. 

Antonia's grandfather's one wish is that Jim teach Antonia how to speak, read and write English. On long Nebraska days, after toiling at their prospective farms, Jim would teach her. She became quite fluent, but her out of control pride and stubbornness kept her from going to school to learn reading and writing. The pride, stubbornness and borderline stealing almost drove a wedge between Jim's family and the Shimerdas several times, but whenever the hard times came for Shimerdas they always could count on Jim and his grandparents.

When Jim was a young teenager his grandparents sold their farm and moved into the actual "town" of Black Hawk. Not long after Anotnia comes to town and is hired by the Burden's next door neighbors as domestic help. It doesn't take long for Antonia to nearly wear out her welcome with this family but Jim still loves her from afar.Jim grows up, goes to Harvard Law, sees the world, but still always keeps tabs on Antonia and her family, and the other residents of Black Hawk who play their part in his story. 

I give this story 3.5 stars out of 5. I really like Willa Cather. There's something appealing about her stories: people working hard to make a better lives for themselves and their children, open spaces, adventure, the unknown that is just feet from your doorstep. The whole prarie thing is all very romanticized in my head but I don't care.I like it that way!

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