This is the sixth book by Willa Cather which I’ve read and as usual I wasn’t disappointed in fact I really enjoyed it, the only trouble is it was all over too quickly for me, it is a very short book, a novella I suppose. Somewhow I’ve managed to read her books completely out of order, I should have started with this one.
It wasn’t exactly what I expected it to be, as that word ‘pioneer’ always makes me think of Little House on the Prairie and patchwork quilts, but this book isn’t exactly all sugar sweet and towards the end it did take an unexpected twist, as far as I was concerned anyway.
The story begins in Nebraska with Alexandra and her very youngest brother Emil visiting the nearest town to ask the doctor to visit their father who is ill. Alexandra knows that her father isn’t going to get better, her father has already accepted his situation and spends what little time he has left ‘stocktaking’ adding up how much he will be leaving for his family in the way of land and goods.
He makes Alexandra promise never to sell any of the land, the improvement of which has really curtailed his lifetime, he knows that given the chance, his two remaining older sons would sell up and go back to Chicago.
Alexandra takes over the business side of the farm, she learns all she can from other farmers in different districts and makes a great success of everything, but in the meantime her older brothers don’t see her as a separate human being at all, as far as they are concerned she is there just to be a cornerstone of the family but should have no ambitions for herself outside it.
So that’s a brief bit of Alexandra’s story but there are so many likeable characters, even the spoiled and petted Marie is adored by Alexandra, who always seems to see the best in people, but her innocence and friendliness have unexpected consequences.
I know, I’ve already said it, but I wanted this book to continue, because I was right there, in that red land where farming was just beginning to be mechanised but women still enjoyed making their own aprons and embroidering intricate cross stitch designs on them, as well as being businesswomen. For me Willa Cather strikes a perfect balance, description-wise, whether it’s the landscape, houses or people’s clothes and jewellery.
I downloaded this book from Project Gutenberg, I’m sure you’ve already read it but just in case you haven’t, you can get it here.