#CBR7 Review #140: The Professor’s House by Willa Cather

FINALLY! I am all caught up on my CBR Reviews!!! Now that I’ve celebrated, on to the review, eh?

Last summer, I developed a bit of a lady-crush on Willa Cather. I read The Song of the Lark, O Pioneers!, My Ántonia, Death Comes for the Archbishop, and A Lost Lady in shockingly quick succession. It might have turned into a Barbara Pym readathon had I not gotten distracted by other books. So maybe I will be going through another phase this next term…you’ve all been warned. But seriously, read yourselves some Cather. She’s a fantastic writer.

The Professor’s House focuses on Godfrey St. Peter, a professor at a university. His change in fortunes means a bigger and newer house than the one he and his wife rented for years. But the sudden change forces him to question the direction his life is headed in. His gentle nostalgia for the past takes a more melancholy turn when he reflects that part of his family fortune comes from the scientific discoveries of his favorite former student, Tom Outland, who died in World War I and left his fiancée (St. Peter’s oldest daughter Rosamund) the entirety of his money from the patents and profits. So St. Peter embarks on a journey from the past, including his relationship with Outland and the means by which Outland became a pivotal figure in the family’s life.

The thing I *love* about Willa Cather is the way she uses the largest settings to reveal the smallest character truths. She takes you from Lake Michigan to New Mexico and pueblo ruins in a way that takes your breath away, but makes you feel connected to the land and the characters. She understands the human heart and its capacity to grow in various settings, and she forges this relationship in a natural and evocative way. This book is similar in style and tone to Death Comes for the Archbishop, in that the struggle with nature reveals a similar kind of mental/spiritual struggle within oneself.

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