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O Pioneers!

Willa Sibert Cather

Book Overview: 

O Pioneers! tells the story of the Bergsons, a family of Swedish immigrants in the farm country near Hanover, Nebraska, (a fictional town near Glenvil) around the turn of the 20th century. The main character, Alexandra Bergson, inherits the family farmland when her father dies, and she devotes her life to making the farm a viable enterprise at a time when other immigrant families are giving up and leaving the prairie. The novel also concerns two romantic relationships – one between Alexandra and family friend Carl Lindstrom, and another between Alexandra’s brother Emil and the married Marie Shabata.

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Book Excerpt: 
. . .Oscar kept looking at Lou as if he expected him to say something, and Lou blinked his eyes and frowned at his plate. It was Alexandra herself who at last opened the discussion.

"The Linstrums," she said calmly, as she put another plate of hot biscuit on the table, "are going back to St. Louis. The old man is going to work in the cigar factory again."

At this Lou plunged in. "You see, Alexandra, everybody who can crawl out is going away. There's no use of us trying to stick it out, just to be stubborn. There's something in knowing when to quit."

"Where do you want to go, Lou?"

"Any place where things will grow," said Oscar grimly.

Lou reached for a potato. "Chris Arnson has traded his half-section for a place down on the river."

"Who did he trade with?"

"Charley Fuller, in town."

"Fuller the real estate man? You see, Lou, that Fuller has a head on him. He's buying and trading for ev. . . Read More

Community Reviews

This book gets high marks from the critics, and One of Ours won the Pulitzer Prize, but of all her prairie novels, My Ántoniais my favorite. But they are all well written, all very readable, all worth reading.

Beginning with simplicity, innocence and hope, Willa Cather runs her pioneers through the ring of fire that is the hallmark of the pioneer's life and only some of them survive.

Perhaps I've made that sound more exciting than O Pioneers! actually is. There are far too many dull scenes in this book...more

I read this book many times. Why? Its a beautiful book (and georgous stage play).
This was the first professional-'Equity'- play our daughter was in (at the age of 9).

I want to read another Willa Cather book soon.

"My Antonia" was also wonderful.

A book I haven't read yet ---and would like to is:...more

"The history of every country begins in the heart of a man or a woman."

I don't know why I haven't read this before -- it seems like the kind of novel I should have been assigned in 9th grade -- but I'm glad I read it as an adult because I wouldn't have appreciated it as much when I was younger. I...more

Alexandra looked at him mournfully. “I try to be more liberal about such things than I used to be. I try to realize that we are not all made alike.”

Everything in O Pioneers! is beauty to me. I am so in love with this book. Maybe it is because I have it in my brain that pioneers by definition suck...more

Can we even imagine what it was like for the early homesteaders and pioneers, arriving (most likely) from somewhere in Europe in a last-ditch effort to make something out of nothing? There it is before them – a vast, lonely, rolling plain of earth meeting a vast, lonely, infinite sky. Where does...more

I was entranced by the Nebraska prairie and a wonderful leading woman, living a century ago: a time and place I have never been, but which leaped from the pages, with simple craftsmanship, to sculpt the landscape of my mind’s eye, as Alexandra transformed both her fields and the lives of those ar...more

Once again, a second time, I was at the mercy of Willa Cather's writing, and closed this book with a feeling of accomplishment: as a reader as well as a human being.

In my world, more than a century after this novel was written, we still battle nature on a daily basis and we are aware that nature...more

Isn't it queer: there are only two or three human stories, and they go on repeating themselves as fiercely as if they had never happened before; like the larks in this country, that have been singing the same five notes over for thousands of years.
If you've read Willa Cather's famous My Antonia...more

Alexandra Bergson at a young age , has to take care of her family and farm, in Nebraska, with the untimely death of their father John, he wished his oldest child, ( and smartest ) to guide the poor immigrants from Sweden in the 1880's, everyone agrees at first, struggling on the harsh prairie, ar...more

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