“The history of every country begins in the heart of a man or a woman.” – O Pioneers! by Willa Cather
The American frontier … the prairie fields of Nebraska. It is a harsh and lonely life to be one of the pioneers in a young country. Willa Cather’s novel, O Pioneers! is a poetic look at the realities and struggles of these early pioneers – specifically the often unsung, over-looked women who fought and toiled in the country.
Swedish immigrants, the Bergson’s, work a farm near Hanover, Nebraska. When the patriarch, John Bergson, dies, his daughter Alexandra inherits the farm and despite set-backs that have neighbors giving up and moving on, she is determined to make it work.
The book was published in 1913, and really brings the harsh reality of pioneer life into focus. But along with this almost bleak life, we also see the other side of what it takes to be a pioneer – a love of the land, a respect for neighbors and a simple belief in doing what’s right.
There’s not a lot of action in a book like this, but we do manage to get some romance – between Alexandra and her childhood friend Carl, and between Alexandra’s younger brother Emil and Marie Shabata … a married neighbor.
I find Cather’s work to be very accessible. I don’t say this about very many books from this era but I enjoy her writing and I understand a little bit of that midwestern sensibility that I’ve found in some of her writing.
Looking for a good book? Willa Cather’s O Pioneers! is historical fiction, written about 100 years before the term became a category of literature, and every bit as poignant today as it was when it first was published.
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author: Willa Cather
series: Great Plains Trilogy #1
publisher: Open Road Media
Kindle edition, 117 pages