O Pioneers! by Willa Sibert Cather


5 Critic Reviews

The prose is clear and – as befitting the subject matter – pared down to often brutal effect. This is an austere world of emotional expediency and personal sacrifice...


This Prestwick House Literary Touchstone Classic includes a glossary and notes to help the modern reader appreciate the richness of Cather's writing. WILLA CATHER TOOK THE TITLE for her novel of immigrant determination from a Walt Whitman poem, which reads in part: All the past we leave behind;/We debouch upon a newer mightier world, varied world,/Fresh and strong the world we seize, world of labor and the march. Pioneers! O Pioneers! Unlike Whitman's rousing and lyrical poem, Cather takes a sober and honest look at life on the nineteenth-century American prairie, as Alexandra Bergson, the determined leader of a transplanted European family, struggles to understand farming, weather, the "wild land," and the subtleties of love. O Pioneers! captures both the wonder and the worries of its characters, while never shying away from the physical and emotional challenges of carving out a new life in a new territory. Like Cather's other classic, My Antonia, O Pioneers! vividly and memorably portrays immigrant life in frontier America.

About Willa Sibert Cather

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Willa Siebert Cather was born in 1873 in the home of her maternal grandmother in western Virginia. Although she had been named Willela, her family always called her "Willa." Upon graduating from the University of Nebraska in 1895, Cather moved to Pittsburgh where she worked as a journalist and teacher while beginning her writing career. In 1906, Cather moved to New York to become a leading magazine editor at McClure's Magazine before turning to writing full-time. She continued her education, receiving her doctorate of letters from the University of Nebraska in 1917, and honorary degrees from the University of Michigan, the University of California, Columbia, Yale, and Princeton. Cather wrote poetry, short stories, essays, and novels, winning awards including the Pulitzer Prize for her novel, One of Ours, about a Nebraska farm boy during World War I. She also wrote The Professor's House, My Antonia, Death Comes for the Archbishop, and Lucy Gayheart. Some of Cather's novels were made into movies, the most well-known being A Lost Lady, starring Barbara Stanwyck. In 1961, Willa Cather was the first woman ever voted into the Nebraska Hall of Fame. She was also inducted into the Hall of Great Westerners in Oklahoma in 1974, and the National Women's Hall of Fame in Seneca, New York in 1988. Cather died on April 24, 1947, of a cerebral hemorrhage, in her Madison Avenue, New York home, where she had lived for many years.
Published January 1, 1994 by Penguin Classics. 168 pages
Genres: Other, Literature & Fiction, Education & Reference, History, Children's Books, Health, Fitness & Dieting, Self Help, Parenting & Relationships, Westerns, Action & Adventure, Religion & Spirituality, Romance, Law & Philosophy, Mystery, Thriller & Suspense, Crime, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Science & Math, Travel, War, Crafts, Hobbies & Home, Arts & Photography. Non-fiction
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Critic reviews for O Pioneers!
All: 5 | Positive: 4 | Negative: 1


Reviewed by WB Gooderham on Aug 23 2013

The prose is clear and – as befitting the subject matter – pared down to often brutal effect. This is an austere world of emotional expediency and personal sacrifice...

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NY Journal of Books

on Sep 06 2011

Ms. Cather has mastered her craft and delivered a literary masterpiece.

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City Book Review

Reviewed by Diana Irvine on Jan 01 2008

Cather’s gift for descriptive prose is exceptional. Take time to enjoy her words.

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Deseret News

on Mar 29 2007

Willa Cather's dramatic novel-turned-play is a solid, wonderful piece.

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Seattle PI

Below average
on Dec 19 2012

While I loved the descriptions and prose, the dialog seemed a bit stilted; it just didn't seem as if that's how the characters would speak, especially when among friends and relatives.

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