Book Reviews

The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir (1949)

Simone de Beauvoir (1908 –1986) was a French author, existential philosopher, political activist, feminist, and social theorist whose most popular and enduring work is The Second Sex. Published in 1949, it was considered quite radical for its time and made de Beauvoir an intellectual force to be reckoned with. The book has inspired generations of women to question the status quo and strive to change it.

De Beauvoir, who wasn’t yet forty when her magnum opus was published, explored the history and mythology of the female gender. It was first published it in two volumes, Facts and Myths and Lived Experience (Les faits et les mythesL’expérience vécue). Read More→

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My Mortal Enemy by Willa Cather — Two Opposing Reviews

My Mortal Enemy by Willa Cather is a novella by this eminent American author, published in 1926. Cather sketches a character study of a woman and a life not particularly well-lived. In this slim work, the story of an ill-considered marriage unfolds. My Mortal Enemy is considered a minor work by Cather, and there has been debate as to whether it has stood the test of time.

Unlike the nearly universal praise for her major works —My ÁntoniaDeath Comes for the Archbishop , and O Pioneers!  among others, My Mortal Enemy has been received with praise as well as met with disappointment. Read More→

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A Lost Lady by Willa Cather (1923)

A Lost Lady (1923) is a shining example of Willa Cather’s gift for concise expression and talent for vivid character studies. Marian Forrester, a young woman of beauty and grace, brings an uncommon air of sophistication to the frontier town of Sweet Water. She wound up in this town, which lay along the Transcontinental Railroad, through her marriage to the much older Captain Daniel Forrester.

The novel is written from the viewpoint of Niel Herbert, a young man who has grown up in Sweet Water. He idealizes Mrs. Forrester, even as he witnesses her decline. As a contemporary edition of A Lost Lady concludes, “The recurrent conflict in Cather’s work, between frontier culture and an encroaching commercialism, is nowhere more powerfully articulated.” Read More→

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Liana by Martha Gellhorn (1944)

Martha Gellhorn was married to Ernest Hemingway when Liana, her fifth novel, was published in 1944. She had already made quite a name for herself as a war correspondent by that point and it rankled her to be described as “Mrs. Ernest Hemingway” in reviews of her books.

Though her fiction varied in its quality and critical acclaim, her book of linked stories titled The Trouble I’ve Seen (1936), based on her actual observations as a journalist during the Depression, earned her a great deal of respect.

Her brief marriage to Hemingway was already in jeopardy the year that Liana appeared. In her capacity as a war correspondent, Gellhorn wanted to cover the action, wherever it happened to be. Read More→

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O Pioneers! by Willa Cather (1913)

O Pioneers! by Willa Cather is one of this esteemed American author’s most iconic novels. One of her earliest full-length works, it was published in 1913.

Written in the kind of  spare, lyric prose that would become her trademark, the story explores themes of destiny, chance, love, and perseverance.

It explores the ideas of community, family ties, and the dignity of work. Never sentimental or verbose, Cather delivers her plots with gentle forward motion. Her characters may be flawed, but they’re rarely weak.  Read More→

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