A spare, brutal novel about a Swedish family trying to survive in the windswept prairielands of Nebraska at the turn of the 20th centuryFirst published in 1913, and reissued by Hesperus Press in celebration of its centenary, this slim novel features the travails of Alexandra Bergson and her three brothers: Swedish immigrants attempting to maintain a foothold on the windswept prairielands of Nebraska at the turn of the 20th century. The prose is clear and – as befitting the subject matter – pared down to often brutal effect. This is an austere world of emotional expediency and personal sacrifice, of lives in thrall to family loyalty and long-harboured grudges. It’s an existence dominated by the primitive force of nature where “the great fact was the land itself, which seemed to overwhelm the little beginnings of human society that struggled in its sombre wastes”. In fact, at times this landscape threatens to overwhelm the novel itself, dwarfing its protagonists so that characterisation appears thin, and tragic events are rendered as almost incidental. But then the reader is pulled up short by a flash of lyricism, as Cather allows a glimpse into the depths of emotion that lie beneath this deceptively simple …read more

Via: The Guardian | Books