Thursday, 2 June 2011

My Antonia by Willa Cather

"Whatever we had missed, we possessed together the precious, the incommunicable past."

This was one of those novels assigned in my grade 12 high-school English class that I did not bother to read and in retrospect, I do not regret my decision. If only I  had the foresight to not pick it up 10 years later because it was completely disappointing. I can understand its status as an American Classic within a historical context, but there was nothing within the narrative that struck me as exceptionally memorable. Cather is able to successfully create a vivid portrait of prairie life in Nebraska during the late 1800's to the early part of the 20th century but the interminable descriptions of nature and the rural environment are excessively tedious.

Unfortunately, the story is exceptionally dull with bland characters. Jim Burden nostalgically narrates his experience of growing up as a young boy on his grandparent's farm and his relationship with the an immigrant Bohemian farm-girl named Antonia except his story comes across as painfully insubstantial. There are moments of lyrical beauty (such as the above quote) but these moments are rare. The novel's concern with allegory, feminism, sexuality and autobiography vs. fiction would be topics of interest for those concerned with performing an in-depth analysis but I remain far too indifferent towards Cather's novel to engage in such literary criticism. 

Read from May 28  to 31, 2011  

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