O Pioneers! by Willa Cather
Reviewed by Jason Koivu
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Beginning with simplicity, innocence and hope, Willa Cather runs her pioneers through the ring of fire that is the hallmark of the pioneer's life and only some of them survive.
Perhaps I've made that sound more exciting than O Pioneers! actually is. There are far too many dull scenes in this book for me to call it a perfect classic, but it is a solid addition to American western frontier literature.
Writing from her experiences, Cather populated her novel with Scandinavian immigrants, gave them backbones and leathery hides, and set them upon the fields of Nebraska. Their characters bloomed into an organic array of flowers, weeds, fruit, and prickly briars. What she sacrifices in the way of drama and action, she more than compensates in personality and the study of human behavior.
The central figure is a strong-willed and whip-smart young woman, who grows into a successful lady of the land. Our heroine is also good-natured, well-loved and kindly even to killers. If it weren't for the slightest of faults, her named could be Mary Jane. However, she is too real to be thought of as some caricature of saintliness.
Cather's My Antonia outshines this novel in its stark-yet-evocative descriptions of immigrant life on the prairie, but this is a damn fine book and worthy of the accolades it has received.
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