Yes, the book title includes an accent on the capital A. And yes, I took pains to make sure that accent was in the title of my post. But no, you won’t be seeing that same accent throughout this post because that’s all the effort you’re going to get out of me, folks. It’s a total pain in the ass to insert the accent mark on my laptop (but not on my desktop for some reason – but then I probably just don’t know what I’m doing).
With that rant out of the way, I read My Antonia by Willa Cather as the February selection for my book club. I was familiar with Willa Cather, of course, but I had never read any of her work. I wasn’t sure what to expect with this, but as several people and websites refer to this novel as a “masterpiece,” I would say the bar was set pretty high.
It’s a good book. I enjoyed it. Is it a great book? Well… maybe.
Cather’s descriptions of the Nebraska prairie are beautiful and should be lifted and included verbatim in promos by the state board of tourism. Her characters are real and flawed and memorable. But this is the anti-Little House on the Prairie book. Parents die and life is hard and everything doesn’t always turn out just fine in the end.
I think the most important thing to remember when reading this book is the use of a first-person narrative in the person of Jim Burden, who is writing the story passed on recollection after many years later. His memory could be flawed and his perception is certainly biased. Later in the novel, Antonia acts in ways that don’t seem to ring true with the portrait Jim paints of her in the beginning. But this is Jim’s Antonia. He remembers her the way he wants to see her, not necessarily as she was.