Saturday, December 6, 2014

Book 59- My Antonia

Ah nostalgia! My Antonia by Willa Cather is a book about the things from our past that shape our lives and stick with us forever. Willa Cather set the novel in her childhood state of Nebraska, a place that very few if any novels deign to  talk about. The version of the story that I read included a foreword  that likened My Antonia to a quote by Virgil "For I shall be the first, if I live, to bring the Muse into my country". I do feel very nostalgic about my little hometown while still looking forward to the future. I have yet to write a novel, but perhaps one day I will do justice to my tiny island upbringing...

As far as novels go this one was not bad. I read it in fits and starts, hunkering down and reading large chunks  of the novel and then abandoning it for days. It took me almost the entire month to read this novel as a result.

As far as nostalgic fiction goes, it was pretty good, but it could never beat Laura Ingalls Wilder's books including Little House on the Prairie. I have very distinct memories of reading them as a tween just becoming a woman. I had a vintage boxed set that I picked up at a garage sale from back in the day when I regularly visited garage sales with my mom and aunt. Perhaps they are so poignant for me as a result of being tied to my own history. Hmm.

This novel has some great quotes in it about childhood and memories:

"I guess everybody thinks about old times, even the happiest of people"

"...this had been the road of destiny, had taken us to those early accidents of fortunate which predetermined for us all that we can ever be"

"the best of days are the first to flee"

The novel does a very good job of describing a scene and I can't tell you  how many times I could feel just what the author was describing as though I was right there. The colours were vibrant, the seasons were clear, the the feelings were very real. This novel is also a novel of storytelling. It includes many little snippets of oral stories told by various characters. Antonia tells several and the narrator is told several more by many different people. I think we are losing a little bit of our oral history in this modern, digital age. For most of us we are lucky if we manage to carry on a conversation face to face with anyone in a given day let alone anything that would include something that resembles passing down our history That makes me sad.

It is often said that writers should write about what they know. This novel proves that point to a tee. No one would probably think that an engaging novel  could be set in Nebraska. Willa Cather definitely set them wrong. I hope to one day use my experiences to create something that is engaging, while still being inimitably me.

As we enter the Christmas season, My Antonia leaves us with two fantastic quotes and reminds me that the symbols of Christmas are deeply important. It also reminds me that no matter what faith we are, there is something deeply beautiful about people acting out of their own personal faith. Speaking of the Christmas Tree they threw together with stuff from around the house:

"Our tree became the talking tree of the fairy tale, legends and stories nestled like birds in its branches. Grandmother said it reminded her of the Tree of Knowledge"

"The prayers of all good people are good." 

No matter what faith you are I pray that the magic and mystery of the Christmas seasons will find its way into your heart.

1 comment:

Ann R said...

I read My Antonia a few years ago. I loved Cather's elegant and lucid writing. Yes, she pulls the reader to fully experience the setting.