In my latest authors binge, I’ve decided that Willa Cather needed to be next on my list. I really liked The Professor’s House a lot, and thought that Lucy Gayheart should come next. I was really intrigued to see what Cather would do this go-round.
Lucy Gayheart has some interesting similarities to The Song of the Lark in that the coming-of-age of the artist, but she diverges in the end. Lucy Gayheart is a young music student from Haverford, Nebraska, raised by a widowed father and a much older sister. Her life is centered in Haverford, including her quasi-boyfriend Harry Gordon. But to give her a chance at a music career, Lucy moves to Chicago for the fall, winter, and spring months, taking voice and piano lessons with a premier teacher. There, she meets the charismatic but troubled opera singer Clement Sebastian, and falls in love with him as a singer and a person. Her short-lived love affair with him is disrupted and it will forever affect her life.
This novel is haunting, melancholy, and deeply, deeply beautiful. Cather is a master at creating characters and scenes in her novels that stick with you. You understand the power of Lucy’s mind to attach to Sebastian the way it does, just as you sense the beauty and emptiness in Haverford that would cause a brilliant mind to feel penned-in and restless. I’m sad that there isn’t more acclaim for Lucy Gayheart. It is a gorgeous novel, and one that I could not put down.