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Read of the Week: O Pioneers! by Willa Cather

Written by The Reader, 2nd November 2016

Another Wednesday, another Read of the Week to see you through the midweek lull. Our recommendation this week, O Pioneers! by Willa Cather, comes from Schools Project Worker Kate.


Flaming like the wild roses,

Singing like the larks over the plowed fields,

Flashing like a star out of the twilight;

Youth with its insupportable sweetness,

Its fierce necessity,

Its sharp desire,

Singing and singing,

Out of the lips of silence,

Out of the earthy dusk." - Willa Cather, O Pioneers!

Set in the vast landscape of the Nebraskan ‘Divide’ the first book of Willa Cather’s Great Plains trilogy, follows the fortunes of the Bergson family.

As John Bergson’s life comes to an end he recognises in his daughter Alexandra an intelligence and an all-important love of the land which his elder sons lack. So it is to her, against all the conventions of the time, that he entrusts the fortune of the family and the overall running of the farm.

What drew me into this novel from the start was the contrast between the vast and the minute; wide American landscapes narrowed down to the smallest detail of a child’s dress. Together they paint a rich narrative picture of the land, and also the people of the novel who’ve come to make this landscape their own.

As the story unfolds the land and its people become harder to separate, and the landscape permeates the thoughts, actions and dreams of the characters. The landscape drew me in, but it was Alexandra who captured me; standing tall, unbowed in the face of society, while bending with the will of the land she loves.


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