"The world is little, people are little, human life is little. There is only one big thing — desire." -Willa Cather, The Song of the Lark
Willa Cather's The Song of the Lark is one of the best books on artistic awakening. The second volume of Cather's Prairie Trilogy, The Song of the Lark is generally overshadowed by its companions, O, Pioneers! and My Antonia. It should not be, though. In my opinion, it is far better than either of those two books.
First published in 1915, The Song of the Lark follows Thea Kronborg through her childhood in the fictional town of Moonstone, Colorado -- set on the Eastern Plains -- through her move to Chicago to learn to sing. Then, she travels on an eye-opening trip southwest to Arizona and Mexico City, before moving to Germany in order to become a professional opera singer, and in the final act, the story focuses on her life as a famous opera singer living in New York City.
I really can't say enough about how good this book is. A young person with big artistic dreams from a tiny town in Colorado? It's appealing to me, on several different levels, as I'm sure it is to many folks out there.
Willa Cather was born in 1873 and died in 1947. The Song of the Lark is considered her most autobiographical novel. Cather is one of the most overlooked American authors, but few have depicted the American West and the lives of those who settled it as well as she did. In addition to capturing the West, she also writes about artistic desires better than just about anyone. Really, you should read all her books, but if you only have time for one make it The Song of the Lark.
(P.S. Death Comes for the Archbishop is also fantastic, even though it takes place in New Mexico and not Colorado.)
Have you read The Song of the Lark before? If so, what did you think? If not, will you be checking it out? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.