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My Ántonia

My Ántonia is the unforgettable story of Ántonia Shimerda. The novel fictionalizes Willa Cather's (the author's) youth in rural Nebraska. The book begins with the epigraph, "Optima dies...prima fugit" - Virgil. Translated from Latin, this means "the best days are the first to flee." This sets the tone for the novel; the memoir of Jim Burden's childhood with Ántonia and growing up with memories of her. This epigraph makes an appearance in the book; when Jim is away at college, studying Latin, he comes across this quote.
As I sat down to my book at last, my old dream about Lena coming across the harvest-field in her short skirt seemed to me like the memory of an actual experience. If floated before me on the page like a picture, and underneath it stood the mournful line: "Optima dies...prima fugit."
-Page 174, My Ántonia
It reminds him of his childhood; the best days of his life so far. The entire novel is nostalgic for his past; Ántonia and growing up on the prairie. As he grows up, and moves away, his life changes drastically from his childhood. And his memories are all that remain. While this is true for many people, some, like Ántonia, remain where they grow up; their memories and present day in the same place. I have never been out west, or on a farm, yet as I was reading, I was immersed in visions of the prairie  Cather's beautiful prose evokes the Nebraska landscape. Exemplifying this is a passage where Jim and Ántonia are watching the sunset.
"On some upland farm, a plough had been left standing in the field. The sun was sinking just behind it. Magnified across the distance by the horizontal light, it stood out against the sun, was exactly contained within the circle of the disk; the handles, the tongue, the share—black against the molten red. There it was, heroic in size, a picture writing on the sun." -Page 156, My Ántonia 
While this is not on the Board of Modern Library's Choices list, is is on the Reader's list, cementing its status as a cornerstone of American literature. I highly recommend you to read it as soon as you get the chance. Rating: ★★★★★

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