The Song of the Lark by Willa Cather
The Song of the Lark is Book 2 of the Great Plains Trilogy. But don’t worry if you haven’t yet read book 1- O Pioneers! because it is not a continuing story. In fact, none of the characters are the same, the setting is in a different state, and the only thing tying the stories together is an unknown distant relative who is barely mentioned and has no effect on the plot. In fact, even if you purposefully skipped Book 1, you missed very little. It is interesting to note just how much Willa Cather’s writing improved between 1912 and 1915. The Song of the Lark is written so much better.
Book 2 is the story of Thea Kronborg. Thea is one of seven children of the Swedish Methodist Reverend Peter Kronborg. Growing up in rural Colorado in the 1890s, the plot centers around various residents of Moonstone, members of the Kronborg family, Thea’s musical talent, and her struggle to achieve recognition and fame. It’s the age-old story of the sacrifice and hardship suffered by artists in their relentless pursuit of their passion.
The characters are a bit one dimensional… especially Thea. In the opening scene Thea is eleven years old. Already there are admirers, suitors, and mentors of all ages who adore her and would literally do anything for her. And although she is not portrayed as a selfish person, she does not hesitate to take advantage of every opportunity to further her musical education and career. This wins the disapproval of resentful family members and gossipy neighbors… all suffering from a small-town mentality. They have no idea how serious Thea is about her ambitions.
Over a 20 year span, The Song of the Lark follows Thea from Moonstone where she plays piano for the church choir to Chicago where she studies under a famous musician, and ultimately on to Germany and New York where she performs at the Metropolitan Opera House. It’s quite a triumph for a woman in the early 1900s.
There is always a price to pay for fame and fortune and at the end of this story, the question remains… was it all worth it?
As with O Pioneers! and My Antonia, The Song of the Lark achieved recognition for bringing attention to the life of ordinary people who lived on the prairie, and today- more than ever- is appreciated for authentic descriptions of life in the American West 100 years ago.
Rated 3.5 Stars.
All contents © 2015 Lois Weisberg. All rights reserved.