As Byatt on Willa cather


Soft, light, fluent, black. Also tough – Cather in this book writes as much about human stoicism as about human passion. The heroine’s father observes her energy and liveliness as she works. Cather writes: “But he would not have had it again if he could, not he! He knew the end too well to wish to begin again. He knew where it all went to, what it all became.” There is the same sense of slowness and inevitability in her characterisation of Alexandra, sitting in a rocking chair with her Swedish bible. “Her body was in an attitude of perfect repose, such as it was apt to take when she was thinking earnestly. Her mind was slow, truthful, steadfast. She had not the least spark of cleverness.”

This sense of life, birth, death and drama taking place on the undifferentiated black soil as the earth moves steadily through the seasons might be expected to have a pastoral charm, at the most. But Cather’s prose gives it a grim and exciting sense of mortality.

more from The Guardian here.