September 25, 2011

Our August Selection - O Pioneers! by Willa Cather

The Omaha Bookworms met in August to discuss Willa Cather's O Pioneers! and, let's be honest, talk about everything else going on in our lives. Since we're located in Nebraska, we've been talking for some time about reading a book by a Nebraska author. When it came time to choose our classic read for this year, we decided it was time to do just that.

"There are only two or three human stories, and they go on repeating themselves as fiercely as if they had never happened before; like the larks in this country, that have been singing the same five notes over for thousands of years."
Cather's O Pioneers tells the story of Alexandra Bergson, whose family has immigrated to Nebraska from Sweden. After eleven years of hard work to reach the point where the family is debt free, John Bergson dies, leaving Alexandra in charge of the farm, her mother and her three younger brothers. John has chosen wisely; Alexandra has a keen mind when it comes to farming. By listening to others and being willing to go against the general consensus, Alexandra manages to tame the land and help the entire family to prosper.

As attuned as she is to the land, Alexandra is not nearly as attuned to her feelings or those around her. It will be years before she realizes that she is in love with long-time friend, Carl Linstrum and even longer before she becomes aware of the feelings her youngest brother, Emil, has developed for a married woman.
"Marie often wondered if there was anyone else who could look his thoughts to you as Emil could."
"It was like a sigh they had breathed together, almost sorrowful, as fi each were afraid of wakening something in the other."
The greatest love story of the book, however is Cather's love of and respect for the land.
"Winter has settled down over the Divide again, the season in which Nature recuperates, in which she sinks to sleep between the fruitfulness of autumn and the passion of spring."
O Pioneers! was a hit with the Bookworms. Cather's writing particularly impressed; all of those who had finished the book raved about Cather's use of language to describe the land and the people who settled it. For a book that we all agreed is an easy read, this book is full themes to discuss: alcoholism, religion, love, temptation, forgiveness and feminism.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I was surprised how much I liked the book. I initially thought the story line would be dated, but it wasn't at all.