My Antonia

My Antonia

Book - 1918
Average Rating:
Rate this:
After the death of his parents, Jim is sent to live with his grandparents on the Nebraska plains. By chance on that same train is a bright-eyed girl, Antonia, who will become his neighbor and lifelong friend. Her family has emigrated from Bohemia to start a new life farming but soon lose their money and must work hard just to survive. Through it all, Antonia retains her natural pride and free spirit.
Publisher: Boston : Houghton Mifflin : c1918
ISBN: 9780451525796
Branch Call Number: F CAT NVD


From Library Staff

Depicts the pioneering period of European settlement on the tall-grass prairie of the American midwest, with its beautiful yet terrifying landscape, rich ethnic mix of immigrants and native-born Americans, and communities who share life's joys and sorrows.

From the critics

Community Activity


Add a Comment
Nov 01, 2017

What an absolutely beautiful collection of words, ideas, memories, forms, shapes, and feelings!! This book meant the world of my childhood articulated so precisely and accurately to me though I did not grow up in the MidWest, it made my love of the life my grandparents built in the American South even more clear and tender.

Jul 18, 2017

Wonderful book and will interest many readers with a plot including action, romance, friendship and remberance.

Apr 14, 2017

If you want to get a good, solid feel of life in the early 20th century mid-west, this book will do it. There was some drama, but mostly it was about the land and the people, especially those who came to America from Eastern Europe. I felt that I had lived in those times and knew those people well. Everything was real, nothing forced or fabricated right down to the weather on a particular day.

ArapahoeAndrew Aug 01, 2016

Brilliant, beautiful prose with strong characters in an alluring setting. Some passages make you close your eyes and feel the desolation and calm of the Plains as its inhabitants grapple with life itself. If the Midwest appeals to you at all, this book will make you feel at home.

Jan 08, 2015

Well-loved author, Kansas-Nebraska pioneer story. Great read.

Oct 07, 2014

My Antonia, written by Willa Cather, is the final novel in what has been called the Prairie Trilogy. It is story of Antonia Shimerda, told (years later) by one of her friends from childhood, Jim Burden, an orphaned boy from Virginia. Though he leaves the prairie, Jim never forgets the Bohemian girl who profoundly influenced his life (though I believes that he realizes this through the writing of the story). Set mainly in Nebraska, Jim focuses his story on the Shimerdas, an immigrant family whose daughter Antonia becomes one of his most dear childhood friends. Structured into five sections, the novel follows both Antonia and Jim from childhood through adulthood and the events that have shaped their lives. Antonia survives her father's suicide, hires herself out as household help, is abandoned at the altar, gives birth out of wedlock, but eventually achieves fulfillment in life and in the land. Jim, a successful East-coast lawyer, remains romantic, nostalgic, and but ultimately unfulfilled in life. This novel is everything you would expect from a Cather novel, straightforward prose, beautiful descriptions of the vastness of landscape and life on the plains and complex engaging characters. 4 ½ out of 5 stars.

Aug 28, 2014

Conventional narrative, emotional love.story.

Jul 11, 2014

An interesting reflection on the lives of women settling in the American Midwest in the late 1800’s, this is not exactly what I had been expecting. Much like Angle of Repose, this novel gives a detailed look at the hard life of pioneer women trying to establish their lives in a context of frequently ineffectual men. Curiously, both are narrated by men at the periphery of the central woman’s life.
My Ántonia is great in showing Nebraska prairie life, with the natural beauty of the grasslands in every season, and Cather’s poetic descriptions are quite evocative. Never having been there, I can see from her writing how people can find it beautiful. She also effectively contrasts the beauty with the summer heat and the harshness of the extreme winter. Her description of the first years of the immigrants’ life in a sod hut, and the neighbours’ more established wooden cabin, then the move to town life in Black Hawk, give a realistic picture of settler life. The range of characters is interesting, too, from the eccentricities of the farm hands, the prideful obstinacy of the Ántonia’s brother, the broken nostalgia of Ántonia’s father to the generosity and warmth of Jim Burden’s grandparents and neighbours. Even the bit characters, such as the spiteful town couple always fighting each other, show the range of life in a small town.
Most interesting and memorable are the women: Lena, the free-spirited cow herder, who scandalizes the townsfolk by dancing with any men she chooses, and then becomes a stylish and successful dress maker. Tiny, who leaves the farm to make a fortune in the Klondike and settle in San Francisco. And at the centre, Ántonia, the lively and spirited young girl who captivates Jim with her energy and cheerful disposition. She lives a hard life, and it is to Cather’s credit that she does not romanticize it. She works to support her family, falls for a man who abandons her, and finally starts from scratch again to build a family with a man she loves. Her life, even when she finally makes her family farm a success, is relentless work until her children are old enough to take on some of the chores. Yet through it all, she chooses to make her own way in spite of mistakes and setbacks. She is the figure of the resilient, pragmatic, hard-working American that has become the classic type of American legend. So is it merely ironic that she is a female surrounded by flawed men, an immigrant who never loses her accent, a Catholic who becomes an unwed mother? Cather, even writing in 1918, clearly wants to up-end the stereotype and show something of a different reality.
And what of Jim Burden in all this? As the story begins, he has lost his parents to disease and must go to live with his grandparents in Nebraska. He meets Antonia on the train, and is drawn to her, following her life on the neighbouring farm. As young friends, he falls in love with her, but does not seem to consider her a marriage partner, probably because of their different social status – he is to be a lawyer, and she is a farm girl. As a result, he ends up in a loveless marriage but affluent, while she eventually finds a man to love and turns him into a farmer. And Jim never stops thinking of her, even though he avoids contact for 20 years, and finally seems content when he rejoins her life as a sort of distant visiting uncle to her children. So in the end, he is fulfilled only by a connection to Antonia’s life force and the prairie, however tenuous that is as an eastern lawyer. And that, it seems, is to be his burden – he is privileged and civilized, but his life seems irrelevant – he describes it only in occasional references – and empty compared to the richness and beauty of Ántonia and the prairie.

fox11 Jul 01, 2014

I just finished listening to this beautiful novel on an audio tape. I'd like to respond to the commenter who asked about the relalationship between Jim and Antonia. This was the story line I was most interested in. I think the barrier between them stemmed from her view of him as just a young boy. I also think he missed any opportunity to be more than that when he didn't return home after hearing of her plans to marry. I regretted the way he let the distance between them grow but was happy when, at the end, he saw that their paths would once more intertwine.

Jan 28, 2014

This is a really lovely book. It reads like a love story to the farming experience. I am not surprised that none of the girls were "scarred" by the harsh experiences they endured, as the previous commenter said. People back then didn't expect their lives to be carefree and without challenges and hard work. This is how my grandmother lived, a few hundred miles north of where this story takes place. These kinds of conditions are potentially scarring and traumatic only if they are very far out of the ordinary, which wasn't the case. At any rate, the writing here is exquisite and poetic, and I also will be looking for more of Willa Cather's books.

View All Comments

Age Suitability

Add Age Suitability
Jun 05, 2014

carlastephenson thinks this title is suitable for 10 years and over

amysueoreilly Apr 27, 2012

amysueoreilly thinks this title is suitable for between the ages of 8 and 99


Add a Quote
Laura_X Feb 22, 2019

Winter lies too long in country towns; hangs on until it is stale and shabby, old and sullen.


Add a Summary

There are no summaries for this title yet.


Add Notices

There are no notices for this title yet.

Explore Further

Browse by Call Number


Subject Headings


Find it at NVDPL

To Top