My Antonia, Willa Cather.
Procured: 2004 or 2005 for a Literature class that I ended up dropping before the quarter began, but after I had already ordered all the books online. They were all early American canon, so I kept them for later enrichment. 4-5 years later and I have read exactly one of them. I finally picked it up and finished it on my recent trip to the cheese and dairy havens of NYC and VT.
Before starting this book, I was won over by the heft and feel of this particular edition. It's a paperback that has cleraly made its way from shelf to shelf, but still carries a substantial weight that feels full of promise. The paper is smooth and heavy, but not so heavy that it feels wasteful or needlessly thick. The binding is tight and secure, but the pages also open invitingly with little encouragement. With new, tightly bound books it can feel like prying open a clam just to read a few pages, which spoils some of the reward that I get from reading. This one was my perfect dimension, size, weight and feel. 10 points for aesthetics.
Is it a love story? Yes. But it wasn't the story I expected. It was as much about a love affair with the early pre-settled west as with anything else, and I found it peaceful to read about the whims of the land and the weather as if it were a woman, with the same good fortune and tragedies that any woman has.
The protagonist is a likeable guy. He has the good sense to see that the "proper" girls in town aren't nearly as interesting as the hired 1st or 2nd generation immigrant girls who work in their homes, and explains how decades later they were the ones who managed to make better lives for themselves with their dedicated industry. Without spoiling the ending of this book: I was frustrated at some of his choices.. particularly when he chose action vs. inaction; these moments had me cursing at the pretty, smooth pages. "Don't be a tool!" "Why would/wouldn't you do that!?" Etc.
The pace is slow compared to more contemporary fiction. I found this refreshing, but it could just as easily be a pain in the ass, depending on what you're looking for from a book at a particular time. I really liked the experience of reading it, so I want to recommend it to others, like the three people who read this blog. You three: I can only recommend this to you if you feel like sitting on a warm front porch for a few hours sipping iced tea. Or maybe if you feel like a nice hike would be good right about now. Or maybe, just maybe, if an industrious afternoon in the garden, followed by a hot bath to soak your aching muscles sounds particularly rewarding today.
Up next: A Walk in the Woods, Bill Bryson.