I read it in April, started this post in May and now must finish it so I can cross it off my Classics Club list.
First published in 1918, My Antonia is the final book in Willa Cather's prairie trilogy and considered to be one of the best of her novels.
An introduction takes place during a train trip on which lawyer, Jim Burden, meets up with a childhood friend and they reminisce about their old hometown and share their recollections of the Bohemian girl, Antonia Shimerda. Jim agrees to let his friend read his written memories of Antonia.
Narrated by Jim, his recollections begin when he is a boy and is travelling to Nebraska after the death of his parents to live with his grandparents. Also on the train are the Shimerda family, Bohemian immigrants and pioneer farmers who will become close neighbours.
I did enjoy this first part of the story. Simple but beautiful prose that vividly brings to life the vast skies and prairie landscape. The harsh reality of the immigrant's experience, many of whom must, like Mr Shimerda, have been unsuited and unprepared for the back breaking struggle of every day. The winter scenes were chilling in more ways than one - the story of the wolves still lingers!
A few years on and Jim's grandparents move into the town of Black Hawk and to rescue Antonia from a life labouring on the farm, his grandmother finds her a job in service. The difference between Jim and Antonia's ages and social positions begins to take their lives in separate directions.
Eventually Jim goes away to further his education and only hears about Antonia through secondhand reports. I didn't find Jim a particularly interesting person, I wanted Antonia, and without her presence I lost interest in the story. Overall, while I appreciated the author's descriptive prose and enjoyed the historical background My Antonia left me unsatisfied.
I felt as though I was looking through an album of photographs, pictures of people and places, and someone by my side was explaining who and where. I can look and I can listen but I can never share their thoughts or their feelings and to really love a story I need that emotional connection. After three attempts I've come to the conclusion Willa Cather is not for me.
The Willa Cather Challenge
The Classics Club