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Cather is usually read as a nostalgic celebrator of the American past. Lee explores a stranger and more complex Cather, whose life and work are rife with split identities, sexual conflicts and stoic fatalism.
“The extremely well-traveled, versatile, and prolific Willa Cather (1873-1947) was a private person and hence ‘a resistant subject, even an obstructive one’ for a biographer. Lee’s book, however, is ‘not a biographical tour,’ for when Cather begins writing novels Lee turns away ‘from what happens in her life to what happens in her language.’ The result is excellent reading for anyone who knows something of Cather’s novels and stories, students seeking clear interpretations, or laypersons looking for a solid introduction. Lee sees Cather’s fiction as more complex than popularly thought, more rife with conflict and fatalism. The author consistently links Cather’s writing and life and justly emphasizes some largely overlooked but valuable novels.” —Library Journal