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For a Dream, there is a Price,
This review is from: O Pioneers! (Vintage Classics) (Paperback)
Cather published her second novel, O Pioneers, in 1913 at the age of 40. Together with My Antonia it is the novel for which she is best known. Years after writing the book, Cather wrote of it " Since I wrote this book for myself, I ignored all the situations and accents that were then thought to be necessary."
The book takes place on the plains of Nebraska in the late 19th Century as the Prairie is settled be Swedish, Bohemian, and French immigrants trying to eke out a living from what appears to be a harsh, inhospitable land. The heroine of the book is Alexandra Bergson who inherits her father's farm as a young woman, raises his three sons and stays with the farm through the harsh times to become a successful landowner and farmer.
The books speaks of being wedded to the land and to place. In this sense it is an instance of the American dream of a home. It also speaks of a strong woman, not in cliched, late 20th Century terms but with a sense of ambiguity, difficulty and loss.
This is a story as well of thwarted love, of the difficult nature of sexualtiy, and of human passion. There is also the beginning of what in Cather's works will become an increased sense of religion, Catholicism in particular, as a haven and a solace for the sorrow she finds at the heart of human endeavor. Above all it is a picuure of stark life in the midwest.
There is almost as much blood-letting in this short book as in an Elizabethan tragedy. Cather's picture of American life on the plains, even in her earliest books, is not an easy or simple one. Some readers may quarrel with the seemingly happy ending of the book. I don't think any will deny that Alexandra's happiness is dearly bought or that it is bittersweet.
I tendend to shy away from this book in favor of Cather's later novels. I feared that it would be conventional and trite. The stereotyping was mine,however. This is a thoughtful, well written story of immigrant life on the plains and of the sorrow pain, and strength of the American experience.