The Song of the Lark by Willa Cather (1915)

The Song of the Lark by Willa Cather - cover

From the original review in The State Journal, Raleigh, NC, December, 1915: Willa Cather‘s The Song of the Lark is a book which merits more than ordinary notice. The story is easy to summarize, because it is so simple, so entirely the story of the development of a single personality.

Thea Kronborg, born into the family of a Swedish Methodist minister in a Colorado village, has a voice, an ambition, and a native sense of the true and fine — qualities all in contrast with the cheapness and tawdriness about her.

Two or three childhood friends who have faith in her suffice to fix her determination. From the time in her early girlhood, when her ambition takes definite form, to her triumph as a prima donna at thirty, her whole life is moulded by her supreme desired for artistic perfection.

Obstacles to overcome

She has the help of a few sympathetic friends; but she also has oppressive discouragements — her own crudeness and ignorance, criticism and lack of understanding on the part of her family, poverty, and, perhaps worst of all, the cheap success around her, the eclat of superficial art, of voices without brains or artistic feeling behind them.

Through it all she clings to her ideal, and in the end has the satisfaction of winning not only the recognition of the larger public, but also the unstinted praise of the few who really know and understand her and her ideal.

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song of the lark by willa cather

Song of the Lark on Amazon
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Merits and faults of the novel

The story has its blemishes. The characterization is sometimes labored; the concluding section is too long-drawn-out; the duplicity of Thea’s lover is inconsistent and has the effect of an artificial device.

But these are faults that are easily forgiven in consideration of the story’s merits: its seriousness and utter sincerity, its painstaking workmanship, its large free pictures of the Western plains and the Arizona canyons, the simplicity and restraint with which the more emotional parts are handled.

The faults are of the kind that can be overcome; the merits are of the kind that make fine things in fiction.

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Olive Fremstad

You might also like:
Willa Cather’s Inspiration for The Song of the Lark, Olive Fremstad

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