One of Ours, by Willa Cather *****

OneofoursI always seem to love Willa Cather’s writing. Just imagining the country as it was a hundred years ago or more is time-travel of the imagination, and Cather can help a person get started, with her meticulous research and careful, thought-provoking shaping of the protagonist and other characters as well. I feel that the cover description provided on this site is a spoiler, since it takes the reader at least halfway through the book; if you haven’t read it yet and like strong historical fiction, save the goodies as a surprise.

I don’t have any publishers to thank here. I bought this novel on my annual pilgrimage to Powell’s City of Books in Portland, Oregon, where I grew up. Once I’d read the first chapter, I wondered why I hadn’t read it before. It’s not as if I’ve ever been too busy for books.

Claude is a wonderful protagonist; he is flawed, and I find myself wanting to go up to him, as if he were before me, and tell him he needs to stand up for himself. And I want to yell, “Don’t DO it! Don’t marry her!” But he is at Cather’s mercy, and she shows us what love and beauty look like, but poor Claude also sees some real heartbreak. As a mother of grown sons, I identified somewhat with his mother, even though she is not a main character.

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