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One of Ours Paperback – March 1, 2008
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''An astonishing power to touch an elegiac note right on the nerve without sentimentality.'' --Marina Warner, British writer, historian, and mythographer --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.
From the Inside Flap
Claude Wheeler, the sensitive, aspiring protagonist of this beautifully modulated novel, resembles the youngest son of a peculiarly American fairy tale. His fortune is ready-made for him, but he refuses to settle for it. Alienated from his crass father and pious mother, all but rejected by a wife who reserves her ardor for missionary work, and dissatisfied with farming, Claude is an idealist without an ideal to cling to. It is only when his country enters the First World War that Claude finds what he has been searching for all his life.
In One of Ours Willa Cather explores the destiny of a grandchild of the pioneers, a young Nebraskan whose yearnings impel him toward a frontier bloodier and more distant than the one that vanished before his birth. In doing so, she creates a canny and extraordinarily vital portrait of an American psyche at once skeptical and romantic, restless and heroic. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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But "One of Ours" is instead a eulogy for her cousin who served as an officer at the Western front. Only very small portions of the book actually occur during battle, and those that do are less about fighting than about a Nebraska boy who finds himself away from home, billeting with a French family and becoming friends with a fellow officer. Like some of her other works, "One of Ours" is a perceptive character sketch of a Midwestern youth struggling to escape the confinement of life on the farm.
The opening chapters follow Claude Wheeler from boyhood to an abortive college career, interrupted when his father insists that he leave school to work on the farm. One of the more absorbing sections describes his informal adoption by members of the Ehrlich family, who host a faux-bohemian parlor for their college-age friends and introduce Claude to Lincoln's social giddiness, intellectual intensity, and cultural pleasures: "He had never heard a family talk so much, or with anything like so much zest." After he returns home, his life begins a less satisfactory course, first by marrying an impossible woman and then by "escaping" to the war in Europe.Read more ›
Having read the critical comments of others, I sympathize with some of thier views. Cather did perhaps overreach in this novel. And certainly other of her works deserve more attention (Song of the Lark, My Antonia, Oh Pioneers). But for those of us who would read the technical specs for the muffler of a 73' Pinto if Cather had written them, this book is pure pleasure. Frankly, I can't imagine any of her books deserving less than 5 stars.
I also take exception to comments regarding the weakness of the final chapters. I found Cather's musings on fighting for a cause incredibly stirring. They offered resolution to the soul searching and final triumph of Claude. The epic scope of this story transcends the mere trials of finding oneself and speak to what it means to be human. No mere "fiddling" indeed.
Although strong and capable, farming is the worst profession imaginable for this red headed hero. Willa Cather shows every respect for the hard honest life of a Nebraskan farmer, but Claude makes a hard honest fiasco of the farming life. This book is the story of a soul. A strong daring soul that needs to wrestle something bigger than itself (even if it loses). Claude begins by trying to manage his father's farm. When he spends a few years at college, he is shown the world of social ambition, but neither of these experiences set his life on the right path. If you are interested in the dynamics of male/female relationships, Claude's marriage provides plenty of food for thought. Willa Cather chose a very interesting backdrop for her hero when she describes the home front of these two very black sheep.
This book may be the most realistic description of middle-west sentiment during the first world war. It describes the emotions of Americans who volunteered to fight for people they had only met via the black and white media of newspapers. The war becomes a sort of crusade, and Claude feels compelled to answer the call. Willa Cather gives a wise description of the issues, and even expresses the sentiments of honest German farmers in Nebraska. Claude's best friend is from the Bohemian old country, and doesn't quite agree with Claude's choices.
This book has received quite a few reserved reviews. I recommend this book without reservations.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I got hooked on Willa Cather and love all of her books. This one based on the World War One, and the choices made by the main character living in farming community and what was... Read morePublished 21 days ago by Mary C. Campbell
An American story rich with details of life in the middle of the country and how the war changed the path of the protagonist.Published 3 months ago by Judy A. Clark
Willa Cather captures this period of the towns and people who migrated to the plains.Published 4 months ago by Ginny Chable
I've made a commitment to begin reading Pulitzer Prize winning novels starting with the 1920s. This book by WIlla Cather, which is about a sensitive and idealistic Nebraska farm... Read morePublished 5 months ago by Montana Mackay
A lovely look into life before and during WW1. Our hero learns what is important and embodies the best of life's treasures before the end of the novel.Published 5 months ago by English Teacher
I did not care for it. Too much WW1. No happy endings. Left loose ends at home. I read several of her books and liked them much better.Published 8 months ago by D. Grace
This was so well written that it won the Pulitzer for Willa Cather. I was surprised to read some of the same sayings and thoughts expressed today. Read morePublished 9 months ago by MaryAnn Dodd