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The Professor's House (Vintage Classics) Paperback – October 31, 1990

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Editorial Reviews


'She is undoubtedly one of the twentieth century's greatest American writers' OBSERVER *'Her voice, laconical and richly sensuous, sings out with a note of unequivocal love for the people she is setting down on the page' MARINA WARNER *'Cather makes a world which is burningly alive, sometimes lovely, often tragic' HELEN DUNMORE --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

From the Inside Flap

A study in emotional dislocation and renewal--Professor Godfrey St. Peter, a man in his 50's, has achieved what would seem to be remarkable success. When called on to move to a more comfortable home, something in him rebels.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 258 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reissue edition (October 31, 1990)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679731806
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679731801
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (73 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #64,774 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

103 of 109 people found the following review helpful By Eric Brotheridge on March 1, 2000
Format: Paperback
Somewhere I read that Cather will eventually top Hemingway as America's finest and most esteemed writer. This book floated Cather above Hemingway in my estimation and this was only the fourth book of hers that I have read. A wonderful, timeless story set in the early twenties (could very well be today!). A remarkable tale of how the appearance of a young man in the lives of one family can have such impact. Cather develops each character around their reaction to the man, Outland. Outland, a perfect name for a character that sweeps in, lives intensely, whose intellectual capabilities create wonder and who gives it all away.
The main character, the Professor, begins by tutoring Outland, even as Outland tutors the Professor's own daughters. Outland betrothes the eldest who benefits from Outland's creations with enormous riches. The youngest daughter languishes in the shadow of her older daughter's consumerism, which the mother encourages, much to the disinterest and dissatisfaction of the Professor.
The middle and last sections of this three-part book are wondrous and provide the ultimate redemption and "tutoring" for the Professor who is "saved" by the life which Outland has lived.
The setting for this book moves from the attic-office of the Professor in a small college town set on Lake Michigan to the mesas of the southwest. Each setting is beautifully described, in economical and lovely language.
This novel is a wonder! Perfect, and the best that I have read in a very, very long time.
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54 of 56 people found the following review helpful By K. Eames on December 26, 2000
Format: Paperback
This Cather novel can best be compared to a small symphony in a minor key. It is a gentle, bittersweet portrait of a successful scholar who finds himself emotionally isolated from his family in a transitional time in the family's development. A move from their familiar, too-small home to a newer, larger home highlights tensions and jealousies between his newly married daughters and the distance between himself and his wife. The first portion of the novel focuses on the professor's disappointing relationships with his family and colleagues, relationships he observes with poignancy and sadness. A smaller but equally important portion of the novel tells the story of Tom Outland, a young man whose life and death provide a backdrop for the professor's story. Cather's prose is lean and unadorned, giving every word meaning. This lends itself particularly well to her treatment of the southwest. Her portrait of the professor as ineffectual and alienated is consistent with Cather's general treatment of males and reflects her distrust of marriage. It is nevertheless a poignant and realistic portrayal of a man confronting the disappointments of an otherwise successful life. It is a must read.
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42 of 43 people found the following review helpful By mrgrieves08 on July 19, 2000
Format: Paperback
I have to admit that when I was assigned this book for an Amer. Lit. class I was anything but excited at the prospect. A further contribution to my misguided dread was born from the rather poor synopsis of the book on the back cover which fails miserably in "selling" the great story hidden within its pages. Yet another example of why one shouldn't judge a book by its cover. It is far more than just another story of inward rebellion and emotional "renewal"; it is instead, a story about the American dream, the family, higher education, friendship, nature, and the elusiveness of American history. The way that Cather blends this varied subject matter is a testament to her great talent as a writer, but more impressively, this book bears witness to her keen insight into the deepest recesses of the American psyche. The story centers around an aging professor(St. Peter) , and his close and yet mysterious friend Tom Outland. Complicating this is the professor's strained relationship with his own family,(his two daughter's and their husbands and his wife). Cather's nonlinear narrative of their interactions and the various relationships that result works to pull the reader ever deeper into a work that soon spirals out of the professor's small study into a world of arid mesas, mysterious strangers, ancient skeletons and forgotten yesterdays. In the end, this story could be seen as an exposition on the American dream, one that probes deep below the surfaces of what that dream entails, and what is lost to acheive it.
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30 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Robin Friedman HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on July 5, 2002
Format: Paperback
Willa Cather's early novels of life on the American prairie, such as "My Antonia" and "O Pioneers" are well known. Her novel "The Professor's House" is much less familiar, but it is Cather at her best.

The book tells the story of Professor Godfrey St. Peter. When we meet St. Peter, he is a respected academic and scholar, age 52, who has written an eight volume history called "Spanish Explorers" dealing with the Spanish in Mexico and the American Southwest. He has persevered in his writing and received awards. As a result, St. Peter and his family are able to build a new house and move away from the ramshakle rented quarters in which the Professor and his wife have lived and raised their family.

The family consists of two daughters who, when we meet them, have married and gone their own ways. The younger daughter is married to a struggling news reporter who has impressed his bosses by his ability to turn out hack prose-poems for the paper on a daily basis.

The older daughter was at one time engaged to a man named Tom Outland who is, perhaps the real hero of the book. Outland invented an important scientific device and willed it to her upon his death in WW I. She then marries an engineer and entrepreneur who develops and markets Outland's invention. The couple build a large home and name in "Outland".

The book tells a story of change, frustration and acceptance. The Professor is unhappy with the new home and refuses to leave his old study. His relationship with his wife and daughters has cooled. He is unhappy with the modernization of the university and of academic learning with its emphasis on technology and business rather than study and reflection. Most importantly, he is dissatisfied with his honors, his leisure, and his comforts.
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