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Paperback O Pioneers! Book

ISBN: 0486277852

ISBN13: 9780486277851

O Pioneers!

(Book #1 in the Great Plains Trilogy Series)

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Book Overview

This powerful early Cather novel, a landmark of American fiction, tells the story of the young Alexandra Bergson, whose dying father leaves her in charge of the family and of the Nebraska lands they have struggled to farm. In Alexandra's lifelong fight to survive and succeed, Cather relates an important chapter in the history of the American frontier.

Customer Reviews

5 ratings

THE LAND TO WHICH WE BELONG...

In this, the author's second published work, the author writes about that which she knew best, early pioneer life in Nebraska, the place to which she and her family moved in 1883 when she was a mere slip of a girl. She eventually attended the University of Nebraska, graduating in 1895, at a time when most girls did no such thing. In this work, the author was on very sure footing. Her clear, straightforward prose lends itself capably to the story of early pioneers who went to Nebraska and set down roots, weathering the exigencies that often plagued a newcomer to a particular region. It is a surprisingly unsentimental look at pioneer life. This thematically complex, but simply written story focuses primarily on Alexandra Bergson, the intelligent, independent, resourceful, and strong-willed daughter of pioneer, John Bergson. Upon his death he did what was then the nearly unthinkable. He left his land in the hands of his oldest child, his daughter, Alexandra, rather than in those of his sons, recognizing in his daughter those qualities that would ensure that his land would prosper under her stewardship. This then is the story of not only Alexandra but of that land and those whose sustenance depended upon its fruitfulness. The reader follows the Bergson clan as they live their lives and interact with their neighbors. Under Alexandra's skillful management, the Bergson farm prospers. As the farm prospers, so does its environs. The area becomes a bustling center of activity with more and more settlers developing the land around that of the Bergsons. Thematically, the book explores the vicissitudes of life, as well as its life-affirming moments. As in all lives, the characters in this book experience moments of high drama and great tragedy, as well as memorable moments of love and hate. All this is grounded within the context of pioneer life, with all its hardships and privations, as well as its occasional abundance. The author skillfully re-creates a melting pot of the many nationalities that cultivated the land known as Nebraska. This is a book that those who like reading about pioneer life will certainly enjoy, as will those who simply like a well-written book with a tale to tell. This classic novel was also adapted for a Hallmark Hall of Fame film, starring Jessica Lange in the role of Alexandra Bergson.

THE LAND TO WHICH WE BELONG...

In this, the author's second published work, the author writes about that which she knew best, early pioneer life in Nebraska, the place to which she and her family moved in 1883 when she was a mere slip of a girl. She eventually attended the University of Nebraska, graduating in 1995, at a time when most girls did no such thing. In this work, the author was on very sure footing. Her clear, straightforward prose lends itself capably to the story of early pioneers who went to Nebraska and set down roots, weathering the exigencies that often plagued a newcomer to a particular region. It is a surprisingly unsentimental look at pioneer life. This thematically complex, but simply written story focuses primarily on Alexandra Bergson, the intelligent, independent, resourceful, and strong-willed daughter of pioneer John Bergson. Upon his death he did what was then the nearly unthinkable. He left his land in the hands of his oldest child, his daughter, Alexandra, rather than in those of his sons, recognizing in his daughter those qualities that would ensure that his land would prosper under her stewardship. This then is the story of not only Alexandra but of that land and those whose sustenance depended upon its fruitfulness. The reader follows the Bergson clan as they live their lives and interact with their neighbors. Under Alexandra's skillful management, the Bergson farm prospers. As the farm prospers, so does its environs, as the area becomes a bustling center of activity with more and more settlers developing the land around that of the Bergsons. Thematically, the book explores the vicissitudes of life, as well as its life-affirming moments. As in all lives, the characters in this book experience moments of high drama and great tragedy, as well as memorable moments of love and hate. All this is grounded within the context of pioneer life, with all its hardships and privations, as well as its occasional abundance. The author skillfully re-creates a melting pot of the many nationalities that cultivated the land known as Nebraska. This is a book that those who like reading about pioneer life will certainly enjoy, as will those who simply like a well-written book with a tale to tell. This classic novel was also adapted for a Hallmark Hall of Fame film, starring Jessica Lange in the role of Alexandra Bergson.

Required reading

What if Cather wrote the great American Novel and no one noticed? Upon repeated reading of O Pioneers, I sometimes wonder if that isn't just what happened. In the character of Alexandra, Cather has created, not a stereotype or carbon copy of heroines in earlier novels, but something entirely new to American Literature. Alexandra is no wispy, fainting Victorian heroine but instead strong, capable and (obviously) heroic. I don't know how other reviewers missed this obvious point. Perhaps strong female characters are common in todays writing, but not in 1913. Only Chopin's Awakening (1899) even comes close. And Alexandra seems transcendent compared to such earlier characters. Cather changed American Literature with this unconventional construct. And then there is the prose: "When the road began to climb the first long swells of the Divide, Alexandra hummed an old Swedish hymn, and Emil wondered why his sister looked so happy. Her face was so radiant that he felt shy about asking her. For the first time, perhaps, since that land emerged from the waters of geologic ages, a human face was set toward it with love and yearning. It seemed beautiful to her, rich and strong and glorious. Her eyes drank in the breadth of it, until her tears blinded her. Then the Genius of the Divide, the great, free spirit which breathes across it, must have bent lower than it ever bent to a human will before. The history of every country begins in the heart of a man or a woman." This well known quote from the book is perhaps the best example of Cather's lyric and thoughtful prose. Finally, Cather engages the reader with the significant themes of struggle and truimph, and people v the land. Again, these may seem commonplace today but Cather is the author that brought them to our attention and branded them into our national identity nearly a century ago. While I reccommend this book, you might also try My Antonia, The Song of the Lark, or One of Ours (for which Cather won the Pulitzer).

For a Dream, there is a Price

Cather published her second novel, O Pioneers, in 1913 at the age of 40. Together with My Antonia it is the novel for which she is best known. Years after writing the book, Cather wrote of it " Since I wrote this book for myself, I ignored all the situations and accents that were then thought to be necessary."The book takes place on the plains of Nebraska in the late 19th Century as the Prairie is settled be Swedish, Bohemian, and French immigrants trying to eke out a living from what appears to be a harsh, inhospitable land. The heroine of the book is Alexandra Bergson who inherits her father's farm as a young woman, raises his three sons and stays with the farm through the harsh times to become a successful landowner and farmer.The books speaks of being wedded to the land and to place. In this sense it is an instance of the American dream of a home. It also speaks of a strong woman, not in cliched, late 20th Century terms but with a sense of ambiguity, difficulty and loss.This is a story as well of thwarted love, of the difficult nature of sexualtiy, and of human passion. There is also the beginning of what in Cather's works will become an increased sense of religion, Catholicism in particular, as a haven and a solace for the sorrow she finds at the heart of human endeavor. Above all it is a picuure of stark life in the midwest.There is almost as much blood-letting in this short book as in an Elizabethan tragedy. Cather's picture of American life on the plains, even in her earliest books, is not an easy or simple one. Some readers may quarrel with the seemingly happy ending of the book. I don't think any will deny that Alexandra's happiness is dearly bought or that it is bittersweet.I tendend to shy away from this book in favor of Cather's later novels. I feared that it would be conventional and trite. The stereotyping was mine,however. This is a thoughtful, well written story of immigrant life on the plains and of the sorrow pain, and strength of the American experience.

Wow

I think that Cather could not have crafted a more beautiful book. The writing and the story are so wholey lovely, without pomp or ceremony. An immigrant father bequeaths his land to the care of his daughter on his deathbed, rather than to his sons, because he sees that her love of the land and her family runs deep and that she has the heart and spirit necessary to survive the harsh reality of the plains. So begins one of the greatest love stories of all time. I don't use the term love story loosely; this book contains love in its many intricate, shifting, and enduring forms: the love of the land, the love of a dream, love within families, love of the past, love of tradition, love of new opportunities, love between friends, the love between men and women, and the love of living. This book gets deep under your fingernails, like the very earth that it celebrates. And though, many of the events recounted are sad, it is the kind of sadness that is rich in hope
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