My Antonia is difficult to define. Some might say it’s a book about growing up, about love, romance or maybe relationships. Personally I see it as all four tied together in the barren setting of 19th century provincial Nebraska. The story focusses on the lives of the people who live in or near the small prairie town of Black Hawk, in particular the narrator, Jim Burden. The Antonia of the title is Antonia Shimerda, a Bohemian immigrant who settles at a farm in Black Hawk with her family.
There are many characters, all interesting and compelling in their own way. Some are written about in more detail than others but there are no weak spots in this respect, some characters come and go but all of them have a story to tell.
The book is bursting with nostalgia not just for a childhood spent but about the older, simpler days on the frontier. I was utterly taken in by the story which is in turns sad and uplifting (just like life which it reflects so well) there is plenty of excitement intermingled with moments of prose and reflection which I thoroughly enjoyed reading.
The book is short but I found it felt like it was much longer, this isn’t a criticism but rather saying that Cather created such a rich, detailed and enthralling book that you feel it lasts longer than it does. I still don’t know how she managed to squeeze in so much content in such an unhurried way.
I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say it is a masterpiece and now a firm favourite.
PS Jess has asked me to put in a line letting you know that we have finally worked out how to remove the new word verification used by blogger