I got to Willa Cather late. Despite encouragement through the years that I would find her a fellow traveller, I only got to My Antonía a few years ago. But it was enough to get me primed for more, and when a New Yorker article suggested that her 1922 novel One of Ours made a good pandemic read, I didn’t have to be convinced. The Great 1918 Flu does show up at the end of the book, but it’s far more about Nebraska–its beauties and its discontents. Based on the life of Cather’s cousin who died in World War 1, this cements Willa for me as among the great writers of the land–one of ours you might say. And so, another one from the backlist makes the Best Reads of 2020 at #7.
You can read my full review here, but here’s an excerpt:
[Cather’s] not immune to romanticism, but she knows it must be undermined to offer anything like a realistic portrait of this complicated nation. A young man takes center stage, but all around him are strong and interesting women, who are the agents of his awakening and who survive the follies of war and dreams. There are a lot of unfinished trajectories in this novel, things about which you want to know much more. Mostly what this country’s all about and how to rightly tell its story.