My Ántonia

By Willa Cather,

Book cover of My Ántonia

Book description

Set in rural Nebraska, Willa Cather's My Antonia is both the intricate story of a powerful friendship and a brilliant portrayal of the lives of rural pioneers in the late-nineteenth century.

Part of the Macmillan Collector's Library, a series of stunning, clothbound, pocket-sized classics with gold-foiled edges and ribbon markers.…


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Why read it?

4 authors picked My Ántonia as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

Every discussion about the evolution of writing in ‘the West’ has to start with Willa Cather, who was the first writer from the west to be awarded a major literary award when she won the Pulitzer Prize for One of Ours, which isn’t even one of her five best novels. Cather wrote openly about alcoholism, domestic violence, and other painful topics, transforming western writing from cardboard cutout characters to real people. My Ántonia has become an American classic, not just in western literature but in all literature. My Ántonia is told from the point of view of a young…

From Russell's list on by women writers in the west.

This may be the most surprising pick on my list. While Cather’s 1918 novel has been celebrated as a classic of midwestern literature and as an insightful feminist critique (rightly, in both cases), but it is also a book that is obsessed with memory and time. How, if at all, do we preserve memories of the times that shaped us? Does the passage of time diminish memories or give them iconic status? Does writing preserve or distort that which has happened? This is a book that can be read at any age, but the more you think about it, the…

I love this book for many reasons: the friendship between Antonia and Jim that does not turn into romance but something much deeper; the setting on the sweeping plains and the sense of place it evokes; and the tenderness of Jim’s memories all make this quiet book so beautiful. After all the books about travel and wandering, this is an eloquent reminder of how important a sense of place is.

Does a “Western” have to have good guys, bad guys, and shoot-outs? If you think so, My Ántonia is not the book for you. Rather than a high-stakes tale of white hats vs. black hats, it offers a nearly plotless portrait of the challenges of late 19th-century farming. Focusing on the friendship between an orphan sent to Nebraska to live with his grandparents and a girl on one of the neighboring farms, My Ántonia isn’t exactly action-packed. It’s filled instead with quiet emotion and authenticity. It might not be a “Western” to some, but it’s one of the great depictions…

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