Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Book 25: A Change of Opinion.

One of the reasons I am starting to really love this process of reading and rereading the classics is that it is giving me the opportunity to go back and try again. So often we read things and dislike them, without understanding why. This is why I am a huge fan of rereading books in general.

Usually on the second time through, I find a lot more to cherish in books I love, and perhaps can find something to like in books I hated. Unless it is, of course, Great Expectations. I am afraid I will never be fond of that monstrosity.

But even authors and books I thought I would hate have become dear friends in this process. I was wary of Crime and Punishment but I ended up loving it. I also have fallen back in love with some old friends, like The Odyssey, Ethan Frome, and Much Ado About Nothing.

Then there is this novel by Willa Cather-O Pioneers. I swore to myself, way back in ninth grade to never read anything by Cather ever again since I hated My Antonia so much.

And now I sort of feel like I am cheating on my poor little ninth grade self because I am starting to fall in love with Cather's writing. It could be that it reminds me of those books I read over and over and over again as a little girl. I'm talking about The Little House on the Prairie novels by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Those books WERE my childhood. My grandma had old editions that my aunts read when they were kids and I read those until my mom bought me my own copies. I love the description of the farms and the way of life. I wanted to be a pioneer.

I am seeing the same in O Pioneers. While Cather doesn't have all the tiny details down like Wilder did, it is still magnificent. I love tales of the West. I love the bravery of the people who decided to move there with the passage of the Homestead Act and tried to make something of the land. It was an incredibly inspiring time and I wish I could have lived in it.

But I also love that Cather takes the relationships between her characters much more seriously than Wilder ever did. They are far more real and tangible. Their struggles and relationships are what make this little novel so powerful (and I am only 3/4 through).

So I have learned from Cather that she is a good writer. I bet my ninth grade self just couldn't appreciate the beauty of her descriptions. I have to remember that at that time in my life, I didn't have a degree in history and didn't appreciate literature the way I do now. My tastes have changed, but Cather has not.

It really does just reaffirm my belief that books have to be read at the right moment, and sometimes, try as you might, that book is not meant for that moment. That is not to say that there are not books that are ever right, but sometimes, you just have to give them a second chance and a change of opinion.

Thanks Willa. You're my home girl now. :)


  1. I too loved Little House on the Prairie when I was a kid, and when I read O Pioneers, I couldn't help but make comparisons. I'm glad you changed your mind about Willa Cather. I love her so much.

  2. I am glad that you loved the book second time around. Its a good point you make about re-reading. I absolutely hated Tess of The Durbervilles when I read it, and this post has made me think that maybe I should try it again!

  3. I had to read Death Comes for the Archbishop in 10th grade, and made a similar vow about never reading Cather again. But you've definitely inspired me to give her another chance!

  4. "I sort of feel like I am cheating on my poor little ninth grade self because I am starting to fall in love with Cather's writing."
    Hahaha, I love you.

  5. I have heard a lot of great things about Willa Cather, though I've never read her. I've heard many positives about My Antonia, and I think I have that book... but maybe I'll start with O, Pioneers, if it's THAT good :-)

  6. I love Willa Cather, and I never read anything by her until I was in 30s. I think many wonderful authors have been spoiled for people because they were forced to read them at the wrong time in their lives.

  7. This is a beautiful post. I know exactly what you mean about there being a 'right moment' for certain books and authors. I read Willa Cather's A Lost Lady when I was 18, and I fell in love with it - but when I picked up My Antonia right afterwards, I didn't like it at all. I think I'll give it a second chance one of these days.