Monday, August 18, 2008

O Pioneers! by Willa Cather

Source: Librivox
Length: 5 hr, 48 min
Reader: rachelellen

The book: In the 1880s, the plains of Nebraska were a forbidding place to make a home. This book, whose title is taken from a Walt Whitman poem, follows one Swedish immigrant family trying to farm the land in the face of drought, sickness, cold, and insects. Yet, one member of the family, the eldest daughter Alexandra, loves this wild land, and so her father wills the farm to her on his deathbed. Around Alexandra swirl the plots of her brothers Oscar and Lou and the tragedy of her youngest brother Emil.

This is a book following three parallel romances. The first, of Alexandra and her childhood friend Carl Lindstrom, is a romance complicated by the calculations of what is prudent. The second, of Emil and the married Marie Shabata, is complicated by passion and jealousy. I believe that the third romance, that between the pioneers and the land that is the most complex. It's a relationship of brain and heart, comfort and danger, life and death. This is a relationship that we don't often see with our seemingly tamed land, but it's what Cather wanted to document before it disappeared.

Rating: 8/10

The reader: Rachelellen reads beautifully. She has a clear American accent that is easy to listen to. Her phrasing and inflection compliments Cather's flowing prose. The recording has a very slight hiss and a breath on the /s/ sounds, but this is only discernible at high volume. As I mention in my review of her reading Silas Marner, rachelellen is a captivating reader for a story that could be considered boring were it not for her skill in bringing it to life.

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