It is scientifically proven that Willa Cather is my favorite ever, so I took the opportunity over winter break to read this little gem. For a variety of reasons, I have stacks and stacks of books that I want to read because I think they will be terrible, or because someone recommended them to me so I feel an obligation. I often forget to read books I think I will love. And, you know, I think a lot of why I do that is because often I love the terrible books or the recommended books, and they are so much more social than books I’m drawn to on my own. So, this is not a social review, and it is one of those reviews cursed by unconditional love, and probably not very useful either for that reason.
The book itself is Cather’s first. Like O Pioneers, it is more focused on plot than her later books, which are much more character driven. Alexander’s Bridge
is about two lovely women, who are both lovely in different ways, and it is about the way love works out for them. The book is so careful in its plotting that it gets pretty predictable, and there is a part about twenty pages before the pivotal moment where it’s pretty obvious what will happen. But! The description of the pivotal moment is one of those confusing action scenes where you can’t exactly tell where everyone’s standing or not standing, so I wasn’t totally sure that my prediction had come true for a little while. Those are probably faults of the book, though they didn’t ruin anything for me. For me, the ending is more about whether the ending itself is extremely just or extremely unjust. I can’t decide. Anyway, that probably won’t mean anything to you because you probably have not, and won’t, read this book. And you probably shouldn’t because others are better. I do love it, though.
Now I am going to tell you my Cather rankings:
1. O Pioneers
2. My Antonia
3. The short story Coming, Aphrodite!
(and all of Youth and the Bright Medusa, but that one is my favorite favorite)
4. The Professor’s House
5. My Mortal Enemy
6. One of Ours
7. Death Comes for the Archbishop
8. Alexander’s Bridge
9. The Song of the Lark
I have all of her last three novels left to read, as well as her poetry, essays, and the Hermione Lee biographies. Those rankings aren’t totally fair, though, because I think that The Song of the Lark
is by far
the worst I’ve read of hers, and I really love all of the others, so I added a lot of spaces between them to make that clear. Song of the Lark
has a wonderful story within the story, though, so it’s good. It’s just obviously the awkward transition from plot to character focus, and the character focus is not very balanced at that point. Protagonist is pretty ridiculous. But, it is the first that has a magical story within the story, and those make my heart beat faster every time. Anyway, this is not supposed to be a review of that book.
So, Alexander’s Bridge
is about how the shadows of our youth can creep up behind us and ruin our lives if we let them – how we can’t live as who we are now and who we used to be, even if we want to. I think that is beautiful. And this book is about seven pages long, so it takes that on in a short, sad way. It was my favorite I’ve read in a while.