One of Ours heart-tugging glimpse into WWI era

Cover of One of Ours by CatherIn One of Ours, Willa Cather brings exceptional literary skill and an unusual perspective to a story that many novelists wouldn’t find worth a paragraph.

The novel is about Claude Wheeler, a Nebraska farm boy in the years before World War I.

Claude doesn’t know what he wants from life. He’s irritated by his jocular father, his religious mother, his materialistic brothers, and the image he has of himself as inept, unattractive, and misunderstood.

Claude’s yearning for something that’s worth giving his life to leads to a marriage to a woman who knows very well what she wants. Their deplorable mismatch ends with Enid happily leaving Claude.

Without Enid, Claude has nothing to keep him in Nebraska.

Claude volunteers for service in France, the first boy from his town to put on the uniform of the American Expeditionary Forces.

Trench warfare in “the region of martyred trees” is glorious for Claude: It gives him purpose, companions who share his ideals, and a realization that he is a valuable member of his outfit.

Cather’s One of Ours didn’t make the bestseller list in 1923, but it should have. It’s every bit as entertaining as Black Oxen and The Dim Lantern and much better written than they. It well deserves the Pulitzer Prize in Letters it won in 1923.

One of Ours
By Willa Cather
Published by Alfred A. Knopf, 1922
Copyright renewed 1950
Vintage Books paperback, 391 pages

© 2014 Linda Gorton Aragoni

A White Bird Flying Lets Your Spirits Soar

A White Bird Flying is formulaic, predictable, and utterly enchanting.

Laura Deal is a sweet girl, but odd. A keen observer of life in Cedartown, Nebraska, she’s too young and innocent to understand much of what she sees. Readers more mature than Laura draw their own conclusions.

After the death of her grandmother, who encouraged her literary ambitions, Laura vows never to marry but to devote herself to writing.

Laura  lives so much in her imaginary worlds that she doesn’t know her own mind. When her friendship for Allen Rinemiller deepens into love, Laura sticks to her vow, choosing to be a spinster writer and heir to her wealthy aunt’s and uncle’s fortune.

Predictably, Laura comes to her senses, marries Allen, and becomes a farm wife just as her grandmother was.

Bess Streeter Aldrich plots the novel well; her characters are distinctive, quirky, and thoroughly human. Her musings on marriage, aging, and cultural change are warm and perceptive.

Though Aldrich does everything right, she lacks the talent to make her novel great; however, I don’t think you’ll mind too much. Laura is a sweetheart and there’s enough food for thought to almost make up for the novel’s failings.

A White Bird Flying
By Bess Streeter Aldrich
D. Appleton, 1931
336 pages
1931 bestseller # 3
My grade B
© 2011 Linda Gorton Aragoni