I am so pleased that the first book for The Hill Book Club is Willa Cather's romantic masterpiece My Ántonia. This is my second reading of this novel, and I admit that I have a newfound appreciation for this work this time around. I first read My Ántonia in high school, promptly erasing it from my mind as 1) I was reading it for the grade, 2) I was not a romantic nor feminist back then, and 3) immigration was not a hot topic of conversation. Re-reading this after taking an extensive course in Romantic literature in college and developing a firm grasp on what it means to be a feminist was so eye opening in regards to what I had been missing in my youth: a true appreciation for nature and for womanhood.
I feel that Cather was ahead of her time. The narrator Jim's observations of his small town's views on immigrants and women still hold relevance today, nearly 100 years later. I find Cather's writing interesting in that she writes from the perspective of a male, an imperfect yet romanticized version of an American male, who is shaped primarily by the women with whom he has grown. Perhaps she felt the audience would see the women as more human if told from a male perspective; no matter, I so appreciate her showcasing the diversity in the personalities of women from Jim's good-natured grandmother to the spite-filled Mrs. Shimerda; from hardworking, salt-of-the-earth Ántonia to dreamy, happy-go-lucky Lena. Cather allows us to see the spectrum of womanhood and the diversity in strength within the various female characters.
This truly is a book for romantics. It is slow and introspective, a book to read while cozy with a hot drink nearby when one is in the mood to escape from city life, to see the beauty that lies within rural landscapes despite the hardships one must endure to live and thrive there. It is a book to read if one so feels the urge to slowly break, repair, and strengthen one's heart.
Inspiration for this photo: "I had never seen anyone eat so many melons as Peter ate. He assured us that they were good for one - better than medicine; in his country people lived on them at this time of year."
Why I chose this cover: As I sifted through the various copies of this work, I assumed that I would choose a copy with Ántonia in a field with a neutral color scheme, but something about this orange grabbed my attention. I also found it curious that Penguin Books would choose Cather for the letter "C" in their Drop Caps series, though I now completely understand this decision (and wise one it was!). This along with the orange hues of autumn made this the perfect copy for me to add to my little home library.