Friday, 25 November 2011

Book #90 O, Pioneers! by Willa Cather

O, Pioneers!

O, Pioneers! was the first novel, published in 1913 of Willa Cather's Prairie Trilogy alongside My Antonia (1918) which is book number 35 in this challenge and Song Of The Lark (1915) which I have yet to read. Like My Antonia, O Pioneers! concerns the European immigrant communities of America's frontiers in this case a family from Sweden and like My Antonia charts their struggles working on the land and trying to live the American dream.

Though setting and theme are very similar to My Antonia, the overall stories though they bear comparison are ultimately different. Alexandra Bergson inherits the responsibility of her fathers farm following his death as he places more faith in her abilities than those of her brothers. Over the course of a relatively short novel we trace Alexandra's life from her teens to her forties with chapters often jumping large spaces of time.

Alexandra's relationship with childhood neighbour Carl bore some similarity to that of Antonia Shimerda and Jim Burden, but reminded me more of Corelli and Pelagia in Captain Corellis Mandolin. Although we get the resolution I expected in My Antonia in O Pioneers, i really felt more moved by Antonia and Jim than Alexandra and Carl.

The other main strand of the novel, the growth and relationships of Alexandra's brother Emil is the main thing which makes this story different from My Antonia. It shows how mistakes and frustrations of life as we know it, though they can be easily rectified in modern society, choices were permanent in those days, and to not adhere to choice was to bring shame.

Simplistically written, but none the lesser for that, O Pioneers is a sweet little book which is evocative of the era in which it is set. I would recommend My Antonia for it's tender nostalgic qualities, over this book though 7/10     

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