Publisher: Houghton Mifflin, 1918
Genre: Classic Fiction
My Rating: A+
Jim Burden was a ten year old Virginia boy whose parents died within a year of each other. As the story opened Jim was on a train with Jake, a hired hands. They were on their way to Nebraska to live with Jim’s grandparents.
Also on the train was a Bohemian family, the Schmirdas. The Schmirdas were newly immigrated and also heading to a farm in Nebraska. They would become neighbors.
The only one of the Schmirdas who spoke English was Antonia (an-tone-nee-a), a girl a few years older than Jim. Antonia and Jim would become fast friends on neighboring farms. It was a friendship that would last the rest of their lives.
My Antonia is told in five parts, spanning three decades. Jim is the narrator as he relates the story of the extremely hard life of those pioneers who first turned over the sod of the Nebraska prairie. Even though Jim and his grandparents moved to town, we still hear the story of the country folk. Antonia and some of the other country girls came to town to work as hired girls so they could send money back to the farm.
This book is loaded with the most fascinating, realistic and mostly loveable characters. All of these people revolve around Jim and Antonia. I especially loved Jim’s grandparents, Mrs. Harling and her daughter Frances, and Lena. I’ve decided these characters had to have been real people in the life of the author, Willa Cather.
Ms. Cather came to a Nebraska farm from Virginia when she was nine. And then her family also moved into town. I can see the parallels between her life and the story in My Antonia. Miss Cather saw first-hand the struggles the early settlers experienced and knew the people well.
Willa Cather wrote three books in this pioneer trilogy. My Antonia was the third book after O ‘Pioneers and The Song of the Lark. If you haven’t read any of these books, I’d recommend reading this one first. Each book stands alone so you won’t miss anything. If you like this period in history, early twentieth century, then this is one you should check out.