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One of Ours is Willa Cather's 1923 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel about the making of an American soldier. Claude Wheeler, the sensitive but aspiring protagonist, has ready access to his family's fortune but refuses to settle for it. Alienated from his uncaring father and pious mother, and rejected by a wife whose only love is missionary work, Claude is an idealist without One of Ours is Willa Cather's 1923 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel about the making of an American soldier. Claude Wheeler, the sensitive but aspiring protagonist, has ready access to his family's fortune but refuses to settle for it. Alienated from his uncaring father and pious mother, and rejected by a wife whose only love is missionary work, Claude is an idealist without ideals to cling to. Only when his country enters the Great War does he find the meaning of his life.


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One of Ours is Willa Cather's 1923 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel about the making of an American soldier. Claude Wheeler, the sensitive but aspiring protagonist, has ready access to his family's fortune but refuses to settle for it. Alienated from his uncaring father and pious mother, and rejected by a wife whose only love is missionary work, Claude is an idealist without One of Ours is Willa Cather's 1923 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel about the making of an American soldier. Claude Wheeler, the sensitive but aspiring protagonist, has ready access to his family's fortune but refuses to settle for it. Alienated from his uncaring father and pious mother, and rejected by a wife whose only love is missionary work, Claude is an idealist without ideals to cling to. Only when his country enters the Great War does he find the meaning of his life.

30 review for One of Ours: Historical Fiction

  1. 4 out of 5

    Jaline

    This novel is fascinating for many reasons. Published in 1922, Willa Cather won the Pulitzer Prize in 1923 and it was well-deserved. One of the fascinations for me is that people are people are people. Although there was a gentler and more polite tone within and between people, they still had the same thoughts and feelings and wonderings as people in our current times. Willa Cathers writing has a way of discovering the inner depths of people and through their thoughts and impressions, we feel This novel is fascinating for many reasons. Published in 1922, Willa Cather won the Pulitzer Prize in 1923 – and it was well-deserved. One of the fascinations for me is that people are people are people. Although there was a gentler and more polite tone within and between people, they still had the same thoughts and feelings and wonderings as people in our current times. Willa Cather’s writing has a way of discovering the inner depths of people and through their thoughts and impressions, we feel their feelings and experience their thoughts. One of the old-timers who had settled this area of Nebraska many years ago . . . had watched the farms emerge one by one from the great rolling page where once only the wind wrote its story. Much of this book centres on and through Claude’s life – his experiences as a young man determining who he is and what he is ‘here’ for. Where does he fit in his family? What is it he is meant to do? Who will he share his life with? In one sweet scene, They lingered awhile, however, listening to the soft, amiable bubbling of the spring; a wise unobtrusive voice, murmuring night and day, continually telling the truth to people who could not understand it. In this way, we come to know the people in this novel and discover that they – their lives and sensibilities – are not so much different than our own. There is also a war emerging – WWI, as it turns out. There are many immigrants in the area who fled European homes to find a better life for themselves in a land with what appeared to be better opportunities. Yet, then as now, war changes everything. When indiscreet or even overtly aggressive comments are made, neighbours sometimes turned on neighbours and brought charges against each other for speaking “unpatriotic” words: Defendant: “I have nothing to say. The charges are true. I thought this was a country where a man could speak his mind.” Judge: “Yes, a man can speak his mind, but even here he must take the consequences. Sit down, please.” For me, it is the blend of the inner and outer worlds of her characters that truly stands out in Willa Cather’s writing. Her clear-sighted compassion, her love of nature and the many lessons it displays, the inner and outer conflicts that are sometimes soothed by the individual’s environment and other times exacerbated by that same environment. I loved reading this novel and for those who enjoy reading older prize-winning novels, this is definitely a must-read. For those who love stories that flow with wisdom and beauty amidst our human travails, this novel will bring great satisfaction, too.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Duane

    Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1923. Claude Wheeler is a young man with, seemingly, everything. Well respected parents who own a good Nebraska farm that will someday belong to Claude, and he has a new wife. But Claude has bigger dreams that can't be fulfilled in this setting. His parent's are indifferent to his dreams, and his wife is only interested in her church and mission work. Then World War I comes along, and Claude sees this as his opportunity to do something meaningful with Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1923. Claude Wheeler is a young man with, seemingly, everything. Well respected parents who own a good Nebraska farm that will someday belong to Claude, and he has a new wife. But Claude has bigger dreams that can't be fulfilled in this setting. His parent's are indifferent to his dreams, and his wife is only interested in her church and mission work. Then World War I comes along, and Claude sees this as his opportunity to do something meaningful with his life. I won't say what happens, but Willa Cather is a master at bringing her characters to life, and giving the reader the essence of what it was like living on the Nebraska prairie in the early 20th century. This was her home, and these were her people. The character Claude was inspired by her cousin G.P. Cather, who was born and raised on the farm next to Willas family. Like Claude, G.P. also served in WWI. Definitely one of Willa Cather's finest achievements. Right up there with My Ántonia and O Pioneers!. Review revised on 9/2/15.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Cheryl

    "Ruin and new birth; the shudder of ugly things in the past, the trembling image of beautiful ones on the horizon; finding and losing; that was life, he saw." A mother's love for a distressed son. A son's love for his emotionally-abused and pious mother. A young man pondering life and what it has to offer. A war that has to be fought. A protagonist who feels the pull of duty to a war that summons American lives. If this is not a book about the inner turmoils of war and one's psychological "Ruin and new birth; the shudder of ugly things in the past, the trembling image of beautiful ones on the horizon; finding and losing; that was life, he saw." A mother's love for a distressed son. A son's love for his emotionally-abused and pious mother. A young man pondering life and what it has to offer. A war that has to be fought. A protagonist who feels the pull of duty to a war that summons American lives. If this is not a book about the inner turmoils of war and one's psychological battle with life, I don't know what is. The "trembling image of beautiful ones on the horizon," this is what haunts Claude. As usual, Cather gives us a portrait of American landscape and personality, with World War I as a complementary backdrop. With male antipathy elucidated, this novel placed me within Claude's centermost thoughts, as he questioned what he deemed his lack of contribution to life, and his timidity as it related to his parents: He sneered at himself for his lack of spirit. If he had to do with strangers, he told himself, he could take up a case and fight for it. He could not assert himself against his father or mother, but he could be bold enough with the rest of the world. When we consider the brave men and women who go off to war, we consider the many factors that contribute to their decisions; it takes determination, drive, and perhaps some psychological factor that sets these individuals apart from the rest of us - this is what Cather seems to be exploring in this Pulitzer-prize-winning novel. The debris of human life was more worthless and ugly than the dead and decaying things in nature. Rubbish, junk...his mind could not picture anything that so exposed and condemned all the dreary, weary, ever-repeated actions by which life is continued from day to day...he could not help thinking how much better it would be if people could go to sleep like the fields; could be blanketed down under the snow, to wake with their hurts healed and their defeats forgotten. This is a slow-moving psychological journey I made with Claude: from naive young farmer, to worldly soldier and man. Although it takes some time to get going, the first half of the book is appealing, when the Nebraska landscape seems to move with Claude's inner thought. Disillusioned, he wonders whether the farming life is the life for him, especially since he craves the intellectual lives of his friends, the Elriches: Could it really be he, who was airing his opinions in this indelicate manner? He caught himself using words that had never crossed his lips before, that in his mind were associated only with the printed page. The last part of the novel was a disconcerting and painful read, as death was encapsulated. Although I wasn't always in concert with the war scenes and the subplots within the major war plot, I was always alongside Claude, so imagine my disappointment when he became the exemplification of disquietude. It's not too often that a main character draws you close to him and then abandons you; however, I rested assured that Claude found meaning in life. Safety and security weren't his goals, instead, he wanted his life to be a contribution to some cause greater than himself; and this it was: To be assured, at his age, of three meals a day and plenty of sleep, was like being assured of a decent burial. Safety, security; if you followed that reasoning out, then the unborn, those who would never be born, were the safest of all; nothing could happen to them.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Whitney Atkinson

    I'm crying as I write this review??? And it was a book for class???? This book is set during World War I, but the first half of this book talks about the main character's life at home and how he feels discontent with working on the farm and discontent with the marriage he fell into and discontent with living a life that was meaningless. I thought his inner struggle was so compelling and even somewhat relatable, and I adored his personality as well. The latter half of this book is when he is I'm crying as I write this review??? And it was a book for class???? This book is set during World War I, but the first half of this book talks about the main character's life at home and how he feels discontent with working on the farm and discontent with the marriage he fell into and discontent with living a life that was meaningless. I thought his inner struggle was so compelling and even somewhat relatable, and I adored his personality as well. The latter half of this book is when he is deployed to France, a section I felt was a bit dryer because the descriptions grew a lot more geographical and clinical descriptions of machinery and war and I wish it had stayed as character-based. By the end of the book, I couldn't remember which generals/lieutenants/colonels were who. Nevertheless, there were some very powerful passages at the end that just tore me up, even though I don't entirely understand what exactly just happened. Maybe after we discuss this in class tomorrow it'll be able to sit better with me, but I feel as if I'm wanting a little bit more? Regardless, it's a gorgeously crafted story that goes beyond a war narrative to explain the troubles in his home life and his inner personal struggle, which I loved. I totally get why it won the Pulitzer.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Meredith Holley

    Leave it to Willa Cather to write the most peaceful book about war I have ever read. One of Ours is not my favorite story about World War I or my favorite Cather, but it is truly beautiful. Cather's description of the destruction caused by war and America's participation in global economy is fascinating, and I was surprised to find a perspective that I think of as common in post-Vietnam writing in a book published before the Great Depression. One of the characteristics I love most about Cather as Leave it to Willa Cather to write the most peaceful book about war I have ever read. One of Ours is not my favorite story about World War I or my favorite Cather, but it is truly beautiful. Cather's description of the destruction caused by war and America's participation in global economy is fascinating, and I was surprised to find a perspective that I think of as common in post-Vietnam writing in a book published before the Great Depression. One of the characteristics I love most about Cather as a writer is her ability to give her characters positions or traits that she obviously disagrees with, and still be compassionate towards them. This story was no exception. Although Claude, the hero of the novel, makes the wrong decision every time he comes to a crossroads, it does not make me (or, I felt, Cather) like him less, and I don't feel like she's beating me over the head with the fact that he's wrong. It makes me so uncomfortable to read a story where the author is mean and petty to the characters. That is not to say life is always a cheery place in Cather's books, but I never feel like she has a vendetta against people she includes in her story, or like she manipulates events to pull the rug out from under them. Maybe because that is such a pet peeve of mine, I appreciate authors who seem unconditionally comfortable with their characters.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Chrissie

    He is convinced that the people who might mean something to him will always misjudge him and pass him by. He is not so much afraid of loneliness as he is of accepting cheap substitutes; of making excuses to himself for a teacher who flatters him, of waking up some morning to find himself admiring a girl merely because she is accessible. He has a dread of easy compromises, and he is terribly afraid of being fooled. This is a quote taken from the story. It describes the central protagonistClaude “He is convinced that the people who might mean something to him will always misjudge him and pass him by. He is not so much afraid of loneliness as he is of accepting cheap substitutes; of making excuses to himself for a teacher who flatters him, of waking up some morning to find himself admiring a girl merely because she is accessible. He has a dread of easy compromises, and he is terribly afraid of being fooled.” This is a quote taken from the story. It describes the central protagonist—Claude Wheeler. He is an idealist without ideals. He is perpetually dissatisfied with himself and ponders the futility of life. If you are looking for a happy story with a happy ending, this is not a story for you. I find it sad that Claude only finds happiness in life through war. Such a way of looking at life is disagreeable to me. Yet still, I like this book a lot. Why? The ending is as it should be and the prose is beautiful. Willa Cather has a remarkable talent for describing nature and places and people. Faces, she draws them so you can see not just what is visible but also what lies underneath. An individual’s personality is shown in the jutting of a chin. Heavy hooded eyes are not the same as eyes that twinkle with merriment, and they describe people with different temperaments. Similarly, how a person holds their shoulders indicates the kind of person that person is. Cather draws people so we know who they are underneath. Landscapes and nature and places are drawn with a similar flair. The atmosphere of a time and place is drawn, which is more than what is seen. Cather has observed and gives back to us what she has seen so we too recall and appreciate past remembrances. Not only the color of flowers but also how they move and bend in the wind or hold droplets of moisture are details captured in the prose. Cather’s descriptive prose is lovely. The landscapes described are in Nebraska. Then Claude goes off to war, and he is in France. It is the First World War and war is not pretty, and Cather draws it as it is. She does not draw a pretty story. That isn’t to say that the red and blue of poppies and cornflowers don’t color the countryside. The yellow sun shines in the dazzling blue sky. The horror of what man does in war is there beside the beauty of nature that lies alongside. The contrast becomes more gripping because of the contrast itself. The story is kept simple. This too is as it should be. Kirsten Underwood narrates the audiobook. She reads slowly and clearly. I particularly appreciate the lengthy pauses that are inserted; this allows the listener to appreciate the lyrical prose. The American soldiers in France struggle with French words. This makes Underwood’s school-French work just fine. The narration performance I have given four stars. ********************** My Ántonia 5 stars One of Ours 4 stars O Pioneers! 3 stars Sapphira and the Slave Girl 2 stars A Lost Lady 2 stars Death Comes for the Archbishop TBR

  7. 4 out of 5

    Daniel Chaikin

    The 1923 Pulitzer doesn't exactly stand out from Cather's other works, but there are some things she does more intensely here than anywhere else. She slows the story down, relying more on her storytelling mastery, and she brings in critical research and eye-witness interviews. This is a World War I book, and Cather is quoted as hating that classification. But it's here she takes us to France, into the trenches and so on. Inspired by a close neighbor who was a casualty of war, Cather, the one The 1923 Pulitzer doesn't exactly stand out from Cather's other works, but there are some things she does more intensely here than anywhere else. She slows the story down, relying more on her storytelling mastery, and she brings in critical research and eye-witness interviews. This is a World War I book, and Cather is quoted as hating that classification. But it's here she takes us to France, into the trenches and so on. Inspired by a close neighbor who was a casualty of war, Cather, the one time news reporter, went to France and walked the battle fields, and interviewed numerous veterans. And, of course, she partially grew up in Nebraska. Claude Wheeler, her main character, is partially her neighbor, and, apparently, partially Cather herself. There is nothing about WWI in the opening, and no foreshadowing, no hint. Cather is again writing about Nebraska and, again, from a different perspective. Claude is the son of a prosperous farmer who has the money to send him away to school, in Lincoln Nebraska, but not the interest. So Claude, who never seems to get anything right, suffers through a second-rate religious school run by close-minded ministers who he can see through, and then comes home and works the farm, with a few other characters, all wonderfully drawn. Claude's dad is especially curious, outwardly kindly, inwardly sharp, calculating and all business. Claude will see through some of this, but still get worked over by his father, then stumble into a marriage without the awareness of what he's doing, and then have to figure out what to do next. Seems he never is able to see too far ahead, and neither are we. All this takes half the book. Cather takes us through casually, and it's terrific. Of course, this is a WWI book, and Claude will volunteer and leave little behind beyond a compromised mother who is happy to see him off (another terrific and complicated character). I'm going to leave this review off here because WWI has its own draw, and an effort at an accurate depiction will draw in whomever it does, and, as always, leave us readers wondering what is rosy and what is real. I think it's safe to say Cather doesn't flinch from anything, but she is hopelessly in love with atmosphere and landscape and she couldn't possibly keep herself in those trenches without a walk around. Also, her last page is worth the rest of book. I can't keep myself from adding that Homer and Virgil seem to be in every book I read recently. The simple tricks Homer uses in the Odyssey to keep the listener's attention as the story switches gears, toying with the underworld, arguably the central part of Virgil's Aeneid, and have their echo here too. Travel in general and the underworld, specifically, with its mixed awful and cleansing properties, seem to be cornerstones in all literature. Cather so far comes recommended by me in all forms. Here is another. Terrific stuff. ----------------------------------------------- 44. One of Ours by Willa Cather published: 1922 format: Kindle book (roughly ~350 pages) acquired: August read: Sep 2-21 time reading: 13 hr 52 min, ~2.4 min/page rating: 4½

  8. 5 out of 5

    Scott Axsom

    One of Ours is another in a long line of beautiful works by Willa Cather, and the one she won a Pulitzer for. If youre a Cather fan already, well, youre used to her stories generally going not much of any place in particular. If youre new to her work, prepare for a languorous, yet profound, journey through the lives of remarkably ordinary people. One of Ours hews to her style of magnificently in-depth characterizations and elegiac descriptions of the early twentieth century American West. This One of Ours is another in a long line of beautiful works by Willa Cather, and the one she won a Pulitzer for. If you’re a Cather fan already, well, you’re used to her stories generally going not much of any place in particular. If you’re new to her work, prepare for a languorous, yet profound, journey through the lives of remarkably ordinary people. One of Ours hews to her style of magnificently in-depth characterizations and elegiac descriptions of the early twentieth century American West. This book centers around a second generation Nebraska farmer who’s just entering his twenties and discovering that the life his family, and convention, have mapped out for him doesn’t hold the promise for learning and adventure that his own spirit seems to harbor. He knows and loves a wonderful cast of characters in his hometown but he can’t seem to shake the nagging feeling that there’s more, somewhere out there, waiting for him. To say that Willa Cather is a master of characterization seems to sell her short, somehow. She has the ability to, time and again, shine a brilliant, honest light deep into the soul of just about every character she brings to life. In describing a father contemplating what advice to impart upon a young man who’s asked for his daughter’s hand in marriage, she told it thusly: What he wanted to do was hold up life as he had found it, like a picture to his young friend; to warn him, without explanation, against certain heart-breaking disappointments. It could not be done, he saw. The dead might as well try to speak to the living as the old to the young. Gradually, One of Ours brings World War I to the Nebraskan heartland and Cather tenderly takes the reader on a journey through the highs and lows felt by a young man who's already experiencing what are likely to be his life's greatest glories. His realization of this stark fact is immensely powerful, and Cather portrays it with masterful grace and compassion. One of Ours is not a war story, however. Rather, it's simply another superb exploration of the most basic hopes and dreams and fears of our fellow travelers, delivered with typical virtuosity by Willa Cather. And it's one that’s well worthy of the prize it earned.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Sara

    3.5 stars, rounded up. The first half of this novel is Willa Cather in her element. She knows the plains and its people, and as long as Claude was on the farm and in his small town, I found each word true and compelling. The second half of the novel, which takes place in France during WWI, does not ring as true and loses its grip on the characters somewhat. The horrors of the trenches of WWI are well-known and any idea that a man could feel happy to be there seems far-fetched. Happy to go, yes, 3.5 stars, rounded up. The first half of this novel is Willa Cather in her element. She knows the plains and its people, and as long as Claude was on the farm and in his small town, I found each word true and compelling. The second half of the novel, which takes place in France during WWI, does not ring as true and loses its grip on the characters somewhat. The horrors of the trenches of WWI are well-known and any idea that a man could feel happy to be there seems far-fetched. Happy to go, yes, happy to stay, no. With so much death and destruction around you, how could you not look back at your life and family with a bit of longing and nostalgia. As a matter of fact, I should have thought that Claude would find a much deeper appreciation of his life in the States by being in France at this moment in time. Cather won the Pulitzer for this novel, and I think it is one of those selections that must be put into the context of the time. Having recently emerged from WWI, I think the world was anxious to look at the war as something worthwhile and the men who died there (and those who came home in pieces) as having been enhanced by the experience. This novel might be more of a case of how we “want” to see things than a case of how they actually were. I did enjoy this story, found it particularly appealing as a coming of age tale in the portions that take place before the war. I would have liked a different ending or at least one that made a different statement. But, this is Cather’s tale, not mine. When I had finished, I went and pulled a photograph of a WWI soldier that I happen to have in my possession. I looked at his face and those of his simple, farming family. He stands proudly in his uniform, and I tried to impose Claude’s thoughts onto him...it wouldn’t work for me. I think Hemingway got the war right; I think Cather did not.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Jon

    The story of Claude Wheeler, a college-age farmer's son in Nebraska, just before and during World War I. I try to put my finger on what is so appealing about Cather's prose, besides the sensitive and subtle presentation of her characters and her vivid descriptions of the physical world. I guess it's her non-judgmental choice of words--she presents some pretty repellent characters, but she never describes them in a way to prejudice the reader; she lets other characters be repelled by them. What The story of Claude Wheeler, a college-age farmer's son in Nebraska, just before and during World War I. I try to put my finger on what is so appealing about Cather's prose, besides the sensitive and subtle presentation of her characters and her vivid descriptions of the physical world. I guess it's her non-judgmental choice of words--she presents some pretty repellent characters, but she never describes them in a way to prejudice the reader; she lets other characters be repelled by them. What she actually thinks can only be inferred from the twists and turns she places on the plot. Most of this novel is about the dissatisfied meanderings of the main character, who thinks his life is useless and suspects/distrusts almost everyone he meets, assuming that they are out to embarrass or get the better of him in some way. He makes a disastrously heartbreaking marriage and seems destined to live out his life in irritation at his unlucky lack of prospects. The war breaks out, he enlists, and the last third of the novel describes his adventures in France and in the trenches. Cather apparently took some criticism for presenting the war in too positive a light; but I can't imagine more horrifying details than she presents. Far worse than anything shown in Saving Private Ryan, same place, different war. She does, however, try to show that a heroic and selfless enterprise can have its positive effect on a man like Claude. I was inspired to read this because of an epigraph in a Lawrence Block novel: "Even the wicked get worse than they deserve." The quote comes from a scene on a troop ship en route to France, the soldiers stricken with influenza, dysentery, and God knows what. The doctor, with insufficient supplies, some of which have been stolen for his own use by the chief steward, finds that the steward himself is stricken and will die painfully in a few days. He remarks that "in normal life" he's a Presbyterian, and he'll probably be one again, but right now he feels not Calvinistic, but pitying, even of wicked men like the steward. The troop ship is named The Anchises, a reference to Virgil's Aeneid, Cather's favorite poet and poem. I have never read another author who so thoroughly "gets" the whole Virgilian sense of "lacrimae rerum"--the tears of things.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Sketchbook

    Who's the GREAT American writer ? Not Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Wharton, Faulkner. Here she is : Willa Cather.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Sidharth Vardhan

    At one point, an army officer thinks about scolding his soldiers for mixing with French women who had been living in a territory just freed from Germans but decides not to because it would be like scolding birds. You could basically say the same about reviewing Cather. There is no defining why exactly I love her writing so much. You could say she writes about Prairies or rural life so beautifully and you could say, about this particular book, that she created a magnification character in Claude At one point, an army officer thinks about scolding his soldiers for mixing with French women who had been living in a territory just freed from Germans but decides not to because it would be like scolding birds. You could basically say the same about reviewing Cather. There is no defining why exactly I love her writing so much. You could say she writes about Prairies or rural life so beautifully and you could say, about this particular book, that she created a magnification character in Claude - an idealist whose wish for an idealist world was left unfulfilled in an increasingly materialist (thanks to indsutrial revolution and consumerism) world, who seems like a man born in a wrong era and yearns for good old days when there were proper social connections, a man who feels the dullness of inactivity of Utopia-like happy Society he is forever to live in .... until the world war I comes in giving him an opportunity to fight for his ideals; to show to him that there are people still willing to die for an idea (His need for a war, to be able to play the hero, the lack of purpose he would feel in peace he fights for all kind of reminds one of Captain America) ..... But saying all that is still not doing justice enough to Cather. She writes far more like poetry and the poetry is made of material of emotions that, unlike words, refuting analysis in their purest forms. In Father's case, the emotion used as material in three books by her I have read is same .... Longing.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Joe

    Willa Cather has been one of my favorite authors since I was a kid. I'm a Nebraskan, it's a law that we love Willa. I picked this one up at the library without knowing much about and was quite pleased with what I found. "One of Ours" is the story of Claude Wheeler, a small town boy at the turn of the century. The first half of the book moves at a deliberate pace and shows how Claude became the man he would ultimately be. The second half is all about Claude's time fighting in WWI. Cather does a Willa Cather has been one of my favorite authors since I was a kid. I'm a Nebraskan, it's a law that we love Willa. I picked this one up at the library without knowing much about and was quite pleased with what I found. "One of Ours" is the story of Claude Wheeler, a small town boy at the turn of the century. The first half of the book moves at a deliberate pace and shows how Claude became the man he would ultimately be. The second half is all about Claude's time fighting in WWI. Cather does a fantastic job of putting the reader in such a specific time and place. I believe this is what it would have truly been like to be a soldier at the time. You make friends, some you lose track of and never see again, some are killed, some grow old. While the writing was beautiful, this one doesn't quite rise to the level of some of my favorites of hers but that would be quite a high bar! A fantastic book.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Dan

    I started out liking Claude Wheeler, the young man from Lincoln Nebraska who is at the center of this novel. Claude gives up his dreams when his father convinces him to take over the lucrative family farm. Claude soon finds himself drafted into WWI. But as the novel moved apace, I became disinterested. I didnt feel that when the story transitioned away from the farm that it was authentic any longer. This novel was written in 1922 shortly after the war ended and won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. I started out liking Claude Wheeler, the young man from Lincoln Nebraska who is at the center of this novel. Claude gives up his dreams when his father convinces him to take over the lucrative family farm. Claude soon finds himself drafted into WWI. But as the novel moved apace, I became disinterested. I didn’t feel that when the story transitioned away from the farm that it was authentic any longer. This novel was written in 1922 shortly after the war ended and won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. Some ninety years later it pales in comparison to some of the other WW1 novels like the Three Soldiers, All Quiet on the Western Front, A Farewell to Arms or to the many famous Memoirs and Poems about the Great War. Cather is a great writer but this particular novel did not have a strong anti-war message or depict the horrors of trench warfare in more than a cursory manner. I would point out however that Mrs. Wheeler, the mother back in Nebraska, is portrayed convincingly and her stoic feelings about her son’s involvement in the War seemed authentic. Here are a few lines from the book that showcase Cather’s descriptive writing chops “One afternoon that spring Claude was sitting on the long flight of granite steps that leads up to the State House in Denver. He had been looking at the collection of Cliff Dweller remains in the Capitol, and when he came out into the sunlight the faint smell of fresh-cut grass struck his nostrils and persuaded him to linger. The gardeners were giving the grounds their first light mowing. All the lawns on the hill were bright with daffodils and hyacinths.” and this one about Claude’s bride Enid “Enid was thought very pretty,—in itself a humanizing attribute. She was slender, with a small, well-shaped head, a smooth, pale skin, and large, dark, opaque eyes with heavy lashes. The long line from the lobe of her ear to the tip of her chin gave her face a certain rigidity, but to the old ladies, who are the best critics in such matters, this meant firmness and dignity.” So probably worth a read but there are better war books out there and better Willa Cather books too. Interestingly Cather did not view her work as a war novel.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Ensiform

    Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, this is the story of Claude Wheeler, an American farm boy who grows to manhood convinced that there is something more splendid about life than the quotidian existence he sees around him, that will be his future. Frustrated at his inability to attend anything but a small religious college, and entranced by glimpses of a more daring family who engage in intellectual debate and love the arts, he gets married but finds that his wife, too, lives only for Christian Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, this is the story of Claude Wheeler, an American farm boy who grows to manhood convinced that there is something more “splendid about life” than the quotidian existence he sees around him, that will be his future. Frustrated at his inability to attend anything but a small religious college, and entranced by glimpses of a more daring family who engage in intellectual debate and love the arts, he gets married but finds that his wife, too, lives only for Christian missionary work; sex and making a family mean nothing to her. He volunteers when World War I breaks out, and finds what he is looking for overseas. He becomes convinced he has found his true place in the world when he reaches the French countryside, despite the fierce fighting and disease that he faces. It’s a slow-moving, lyrical novel, a portrait of a rural, agricultural, unsophisticated, isolationist, labor-intensive America, an America on the cusp of modernity, with no more wilderness to tame but without the worldliness and comforts of the post-WWII boom. I believe the book has been criticized for its third-hand scenes of war, but I found nothing particularly jarring or awkward about them as a reader; indeed, I was impressed with Cather’s ability to write so easily about this very male world. In all it’s a good book, perhaps a bit dated now and so not apt to change the reader’s life; but this very American tale of redemption and risk, of a man making his own way in a stifling world, is enhanced by Cather’s strong, romantic prose.

  16. 5 out of 5

    ☕Laura

    I loved the beginning of this book, then felt sort of bogged down in the middle, but was again very engaged at the end. I almost gave this book 3 stars because of the middle, but the parts of it that were beautiful were so beautiful that I think it deserves 4. One of my favorite passages was "Most of the boys who fell in this war were unknown, even to themselves. They were too young. They died and took their secret with them -- what they were and what they might have been", but there were many I loved the beginning of this book, then felt sort of bogged down in the middle, but was again very engaged at the end. I almost gave this book 3 stars because of the middle, but the parts of it that were beautiful were so beautiful that I think it deserves 4. One of my favorite passages was "Most of the boys who fell in this war were unknown, even to themselves. They were too young. They died and took their secret with them -- what they were and what they might have been", but there were many beautiful passages I highlighted along the way. I think my issue with the middle of the book may have been more related to the fact that I'm just not that interested in war stories in general than to any fault of the writing itself. I will read more by Willa Cather.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Nathan

    The Nebraska half of the novel is good. I just couldn't get behind what Cather had to say about the experience of war once Claude goes to France. I have no doubt that many, many wonderful people find a home and a meaningful life in the military. I just struggle with the message that World War I trench combat made anyone's life whole. I've never been a soldier and I've never been in a war, but I've read the stories of many talented writers who've lived that experience and this story didn't ring The Nebraska half of the novel is good. I just couldn't get behind what Cather had to say about the experience of war once Claude goes to France. I have no doubt that many, many wonderful people find a home and a meaningful life in the military. I just struggle with the message that World War I trench combat made anyone's life whole. I've never been a soldier and I've never been in a war, but I've read the stories of many talented writers who've lived that experience and this story didn't ring true.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Dawn Michelle

    I love Cather so much. Her writing is so pure and lyrical and really takes to the heart of wherever she is writing about; you feel what the people in the story are feeling and what they are seeing etc. This book is no exception. So well written, so heartbreaking on so many levels; I totally see how this won the Pulitzer - it is so worthy of that prize. A MUST read for any Cather fan.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth A.G.

    Beautifully descriptive writing that brings an emotional, almost spiritual, appreciation of nature, family, friends, and particularly of the search for purpose in life that is meaningful. The characters are presented realistically human in their faults and strengths while Cather remains nonjudgmental, allowing the reader to decide their own attitudes toward them. I particularly liked the character of the cook and housekeeper Mahailey who was devoted to the Wheeler family and in particular to Beautifully descriptive writing that brings an emotional, almost spiritual, appreciation of nature, family, friends, and particularly of the search for purpose in life that is meaningful. The characters are presented realistically human in their faults and strengths while Cather remains nonjudgmental, allowing the reader to decide their own attitudes toward them. I particularly liked the character of the cook and housekeeper Mahailey who was devoted to the Wheeler family and in particular to Claude. Claude Wheeler has entered manhood but senses that his life is without meaning and fulfillment even though he has "fallen" into marriage and resigned himself to continue to farm the land he will inherit. He has had to give up dreams of an educated, artistic life and must take over farming the land as is expected by his father. Life is put upon him; he has not made truly independent decisions to achieve "something more." After his wife, who cares little for her husband, leaves for China to assist her missionary sister in China, Claude closes up the house he built for them; he feels he doesn't "fit" and yearns for purpose. World War I has been escalating and Claude and his mother followed the war news and its progression into previously peaceful France; Claude comes to believe that the war is his opportunity, a cause worth living for, a greater purpose that is meaningful. It is not the act of war that is important but perhaps the greater cause of defending against tyranny. He falls in love with the country of France and endures wartime hardships in the military to support this greater cause, thus achieving some degree of happiness. Emotional ending to the story will be left for you to read!

  20. 5 out of 5

    Susan

    I have always enjoyed stories about how people lived years ago, and this one certainly didn't disappoint me, giving a great insight into not only the everyday practicalities of living at this time, but also looking closely at the characters themselves, thier hopes, fears and personalities. I've read many books about The First World War, but never from the perspective of American Servicemen travelling so far to fight a war which must have seemed so remote and distant, especially when you consider I have always enjoyed stories about how people lived years ago, and this one certainly didn't disappoint me, giving a great insight into not only the everyday practicalities of living at this time, but also looking closely at the characters themselves, thier hopes, fears and personalities. I've read many books about The First World War, but never from the perspective of American Servicemen travelling so far to fight a war which must have seemed so remote and distant, especially when you consider it was in an age when crossing the Atlantic wasn't then the easy step it is now. The second part of this book moves seamlessly to Europe, and brilliantly describes a country torn apart by war. I thought the author did a fantastic job of portraying the heartbreaking events unfolding in this dreadful conflict, and I was frequently moved by her writing.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Nicky

    2.5* Unfortunately while this is Willa Cathers pulitzer prize winning novel, it is the first of hers I have read and it will not be making me reach for another anytime soon. The first half of this book set in Nebraska was much stronger than second part in the midst of WW1, which was not very convincingly portrayed. I think this is one of the most sedate depiction's of WW1 I have read until the last 10 pages. 2.5* Unfortunately while this is Willa Cather’s pulitzer prize winning novel, it is the first of her’s I have read and it will not be making me reach for another anytime soon. The first half of this book set in Nebraska was much stronger than second part in the midst of WW1, which was not very convincingly portrayed. I think this is one of the most sedate depiction's of WW1 I have read until the last 10 pages.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Katy

    Worthy of the Pulitzer. Wonderful writing that brings the reader to Nebraska and then France during WWI. A sad and touching coming of age story.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Christopher Sutch

    This fine novel is deceptively easy to read, but I think was Cather's most complex and significant work up to the time of its publication (1922; won the Pulitzer Prize). Rather than stating explicitly where the novel is going or, when the narrative finally moves toward its climax, the links with the events that happened earlier), Cather's style becomes here much more high modernist (without the technical stylings of Faulkner or Hemingway, both concerned at times with similar subject matter): This fine novel is deceptively easy to read, but I think was Cather's most complex and significant work up to the time of its publication (1922; won the Pulitzer Prize). Rather than stating explicitly where the novel is going or, when the narrative finally moves toward its climax, the links with the events that happened earlier), Cather's style becomes here much more high modernist (without the technical stylings of Faulkner or Hemingway, both concerned at times with similar subject matter): surface details prevail in the text while what occurs in the subjectivity of the protagonist are only hinted or indicated in a roundabout way. In other words, Cather is just as concerned with subjective consciousness as her modernist contemporaries, but instead of tackling this concern extravagantly (a la Faulkner in _The Sound and the Fury_ or _Absalom, Absalom!_), she uses a much more subtle impressionism to hint at the turmoil inside Claude Wheeler and the interaction of his past with his present circumstances in the latter half of the novel. This is a wonderfully complex and beautiful book, certainly much more significant that _O Pioneers!_ or _My Antonia_, and more ambitious in its scope that those earlier works.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Rachel

    Apparently, Willa Cather did not want this book to be classed as a war story, and after reading it, that makes a lot of sense to me. Yes, Hemingway et al. did get their manties in a twist about how feeble the (surprisingly scanty) war parts were, but really, boys, that would seem to be missing the point. I mean, its right there in the title. No All Quiet on the Western Front for Cather; its One of Ours, and I read the Ours as we good old US of A-ers and the One as our hero, Claude Wheeler, and Apparently, Willa Cather did not want this book to “be classed as a war story,” and after reading it, that makes a lot of sense to me. Yes, Hemingway et al. did get their manties in a twist about how feeble the (surprisingly scanty) war parts were, but really, boys, that would seem to be missing the point. I mean, it’s right there in the title. No All Quiet on the Western Front for Cather; it’s One of Ours, and I read the “Ours” as we good old US of A-ers and the “One” as our hero, Claude Wheeler, and the book being about whatever young men can do to find purpose in the early 20th-century world. A good old coming-of-age story, you see, with a WWI stone on One’s maturity path. Poor Claude. He yearns to achieve…something, but he’s trapped in a small (in many senses) farming town in Nebraska. He tries finding fulfillment in various ways – education, marriage, soldiering – while balancing that desire with his place in society. The book has a few oddities, though. Looks like the year it was published, 1922, is officially Modernism, Year One, but you'd never guess that from reading it. Not that its post-frontier themes are irrelevant to the modern age, but Cather’s style has an almost Victorian flavor: paeans to the land, an extremely delicate touch with things like socially unacceptable diseases and homosexuality, the occasional shift into flowery language, emotional scenes of home and hearth. She’s got some more contemporary sentiments in there, though, about gender ideals and social movements. And Cather would seem to have a rather different view of the war, the world, and how to pursue true purpose than her protagonist, whom she neither exalts nor derides. The fun is in trying to tease out the ambiguity. In spite of its 1923 Pulitzer, One of Ours doesn’t really get much respect. Maybe the Cather style that people lapped up in the 1910s was just too out of step with the ‘20s? Maybe the post-war world wanted their literary WWI down and dirtier? Maybe more things were broken in the ‘20s social scene than could be compellingly embodied in a docile farmboy’s search for meaning? I dunno. Doesn’t seem quite fair that changing literary fashion should force this perfectly decent book into obscurity for the best part of a century. Because the book really has its own beauty and historical value. I’m quite glad I read it. Maybe everyone should just close their eyes and pretend One of Ours was written in 1918. Then we can all get what we get and not pitch a fit.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Shawn

    One of Ours - Willa Cather was given the Pulitzer Prize for this book in 1923, although, in my humble opinion, it is not her best work. The story follows Claude Wheeler, a thoughtful yet inexplicably restless son of a Nebraska farmer, through his early adulthood and into the trenches of World War One. The book is unique among Cathers works as it was considered by her contemporaries as a war novel. Claude is a second generation Nebraska and, as such, he comes of age twenty or twenty-five years One of Ours - Willa Cather was given the Pulitzer Prize for this book in 1923, although, in my humble opinion, it is not her best work. The story follows Claude Wheeler, a thoughtful yet inexplicably restless son of a Nebraska farmer, through his early adulthood and into the trenches of World War One. The book is unique among Cather’s works as it was considered by her contemporaries as a “war novel”. Claude is a second generation Nebraska and, as such, he comes of age twenty or twenty-five years after the families of her Great Nebraska Novels first broke the topsoil of their land-claims. The book begins with the same gentle and eloquent descriptions of the land and the people of the plains as are present in all Cather works, yet, for some reason it does not reach the amazing magnificence of My Antonia or Song of the Lark. The writing is still by any mortal’s comparison quite good. Her dialog is also affirming and terribly familiar as her characters truly express themselves as my parents and grandparents would have. However, as much as I love all of Cather’s works, the plot is too formula. The young aspiring and sensitive hero/heroine confined by rural living and the devout Christians/sincere traditionalists unable to develop human connections with anyone whom they disagree. Cather wrote those plot lines as well as anyone, perhaps because she felt like it reflected her own experiences; but I cannot help but become skeptical when I see it written about again. Still this is a solid four stars. I love Cather’s truly decent and positive personalities and the amazing visual portraits of landscape.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Ron

    Pulitzer Prize winner or not, I almost quit during the first fifty pages. The opening is a dreadful bore. By modern standards, Cather commits almost every storytelling gaff. Even by 1922 standards, she should have compressed the first half of her story into half the space. The story really begins when the Great War intrudes on the life of rural America. The protagonist breaks his provincial shell and enters the greater world. His life--and the story--begins as he sails past the Statue of Liberty Pulitzer Prize winner or not, I almost quit during the first fifty pages. The opening is a dreadful bore. By modern standards, Cather commits almost every storytelling gaff. Even by 1922 standards, she should have compressed the first half of her story into half the space. The story really begins when the Great War intrudes on the life of rural America. The protagonist breaks his provincial shell and enters the greater world. His life--and the story--begins as he sails past the Statue of Liberty bound for the battlefields of France. Cather’s thorough research and love of her characters shows, but her sentimental point of view is perhaps so foreign that modern readers may not understand what she says. The Second World War so overshadows the First that most Americans know next to nothing about it. This story is a helpful corrective, at the man-in-the-trenches level, though hopelessly idealized. Coincidentally, I read this 1922 story of life on the plains while my wife read Laura Ingalls Wilder’s first Little House on the prairie book: Little House in the Big Woods. Both are fiction or almost fiction based on fact. Wilder is a better story teller and better describer of how life was lived: Cather more literary. Wilder’s almost-autobiography does not grab the deep emotions as Cather historical fiction does.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Devyn Duffy

    Willa Cather deserves a nomination as the greatest American author. For some reason, One of Ours doesn't seem to move many people, but I found it to be a wonderfully written story of a young man who can't seem to figure out how to live. The characters seem real, as they do in all of Cather's work, and Cather is one of the few authors I know of who can describe scenes in vivid detail without being boring. I don't want to spoil the story for anyone who hasn't read it. You probably already know, Willa Cather deserves a nomination as the greatest American author. For some reason, One of Ours doesn't seem to move many people, but I found it to be a wonderfully written story of a young man who can't seem to figure out how to live. The characters seem real, as they do in all of Cather's work, and Cather is one of the few authors I know of who can describe scenes in vivid detail without being boring. I don't want to spoil the story for anyone who hasn't read it. You probably already know, however, that Claude goes off to fight in the First World War late in the story. Cather's picture of war is quite nuanced, from somewhat graphic depictions of injuries and death to idyllic village scenes to meditations on what it must have meant for so many young men to finally find meaning in their lives just when they were most at risk of losing everything. Cather shows the war as a monstrous thing that was fought by decent-hearted people in defense of their fellow human beings. I can't believe it took me this long to discover Willa Cather's works. I've already checked out another one.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Carol Douglas

    Many people who read Willa Cather's books like My Antonia and Death Comes to the Archbishop don't know that she wrote a book about World War I, One of Ours, or that that book won the Pulitzer Prize. I finally read the book and like it as well as anything else she wrote. One of Ours is the story of a Nebraska farm boy who is by far the brightest in his family but whose attempts to expand intellectually are shot down again and again. Cather describes Nebraska, and indeed every place, Many people who read Willa Cather's books like My Antonia and Death Comes to the Archbishop don't know that she wrote a book about World War I, One of Ours, or that that book won the Pulitzer Prize. I finally read the book and like it as well as anything else she wrote. One of Ours is the story of a Nebraska farm boy who is by far the brightest in his family but whose attempts to expand intellectually are shot down again and again. Cather describes Nebraska, and indeed every place, wonderfully. She can see the beauty in any scene. World War I comes, and Claude goes to war, elated at escaping his life and traveling across the sea. But of course the war is more terrible than he could have imagined. Cather was inspired by the life of one of her relatives who fought in the war. She interviewed hundreds of soldiers to learn exactly what it was like. The result is a fine book.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Angie (Bussen) Siedell

    I've read My Antonia, O Pioneers, and Neighbor Rosicky. I mistakenly thought that what I loved so much about Cather are her prairie/pioneer/struggling to make a living off the earth/work ethic themes. I've long avoided reading One of Ours, because I feared the WWI setting would lull me to sleep. The truth is, Willa Cather could write banking manuals and make me fall in love with the characters. She's just a truly great writer. I so enjoyed this story. I love stories, and Willa Cather is one of I've read My Antonia, O Pioneers, and Neighbor Rosicky. I mistakenly thought that what I loved so much about Cather are her prairie/pioneer/struggling to make a living off the earth/work ethic themes. I've long avoided reading One of Ours, because I feared the WWI setting would lull me to sleep. The truth is, Willa Cather could write banking manuals and make me fall in love with the characters. She's just a truly great writer. I so enjoyed this story. I love stories, and Willa Cather is one of few truly great story tellers.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Ann

    Amazing to discover a Cather work written in 1922 and recipient of the Pulitzer Prize in 1923 - over 90 years ago - and have it thoroughly embrace you as though it were recently written. I was totally drawn in. Felt it was as much the story of a young man's growing up and early adult years in Nebraska, as it was a tale of the Great War, World War I. Loved it. Recommend.

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