Lucy Gayheart (VMC) (英語) ペーパーバック – 1985/12/31
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It is 1901, and Lucy Gayheart with her 'singular brightness of young beauty', is studying music in the magical smoky city of Chicago. She is courted by handsome Harry Gordon, the most eligible bachelor in Haverford, the Midwestern town she comes from. But Lucy falls in love with middle-aged Sebastien, a famous singer, whose talents and tenderness change her life forever. First published in 1935, this novel of 'achieved simplicity' displays the depth of Willa Cather's sympathy, both for the world of high art and for the reticent decencies of small town life.
"The unity of Miss Cather's design, the clarity and distinction of this book, should put it beside her first great success, My Ántonia." —The Times Literary Supplement (London) --このテキストは、ハードカバー版に関連付けられています。商品の説明をすべて表示する
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In Chicago she meets a great but disillusioned and world-weary singer, Clement Sebastian, and has the opportunity to work with him as an accompanyist. There are wonderful descriptions of Schubert song-cycles: the Winterreise and the Miller's Lovely Daughter. She ultimately is seemingly faced with the choice between Sebastian and her hometown sweetheart.
Faced with tragedy from both men in Chicago, Lucy returns home. She gears herself to begin life anew but tragedy again intervenes.
There is a great deal of description in the book of the snow andthe cold, in both Chicago and Haverford. The book also has for me a feel for the tragic sense of life, with a hint of the power of art and religious faith to overcome it. The opposition between city life and provincial town life is similar to Sinclair Lewis's Main Street but with more depth and craft in the writing. The love for music, the human voice and the piano eloquently comes through the book.
This is a beautifully wrought book which deserves to be better known.
My book discussion group is reading "Lucy Gayheart" because we've all read the "major" Cather works. We chose this one because none of us knew anything about it. It will never be considered one of her great works, but it certainly can stand against the works of many other writers. Cather delicately touches on the subjects of change as a part of leaving home and growing up, the yearning for what is ethereal and lovely, and the difficulty & loneliness of creating a life as an artist.
The story--similar to "The Song of the Lark"--follows an artistically gifted women out of her small town, and into a large city (Chicago) full of promise and angst. The adultry of the young artist falling in love with an older, married, successful artist has an Anna Karanina tinge (a book much admired by Cather): of subdued moral complexity. There are never blanket moral diatribes, but one gets the feeling that not all is well, especially near the end of the book.
Ultimately, this book is about the immortality of youth, and especially art. Cather admired art, in all its forms, which is profoundly reflected in this book.
(If you have read Alexander's Bridge, note also the similar metaphor of drowning: the weak bringing down the strong.)
The novel is a compelling case-in-point; it is a quiet yet powerful book that tells the story of a repressed yet passionate young woman named Lucy Gayheart from Haverford by the Platte River. Taught and fostered by her father in the art of music, Lucy Gayheart has a sensitive outlook to the deeper meanings of what it is to be artistic. A longtime beau, who many assume will be Lucy's future husband, sees the artistic nature as a more feminine inclination that really has nothing to do with the harsh realities of life. But Harry cannot really see beneath the surface of art, and he is rather a lightweight in the scope of humanistic thought and understanding. In that regard, they are complete opposites. Just because they look good together, it does not necessarily mean that they are. To try to further her talent, she goes to Chicago to showcase her skills under the tutelage of her professor, Paul Auerbach. From then on, she is attached Clement Sebastian, a renowned singer from Europe, and he is everything representative of Lucy's vision of what an artist is and should be: restrained, cultured, strong, studious in his craft and always seeking to take art to a level that it has never before been to. However, when tragedy strikes Clement Sebastian, it forces Lucy back to her little world in Haverford, where the citizens, though compassionate, caring and hard working, are limited in many ways. It is here where Lucy confronts the old order of things against the new, which has been emblazoned unto her impressionable mindset. She cannot go back to what she previously was, for her new experiences will not grant her that. She is in limbo, stuck in perpetual reflection with the past and what will never be.
With that suffering, Harry, her former beau, is also in a similar rut. He can't imagine having anyone else as his wife except Lucy Garhart, but when she spurned him when he visited her, the gall was too strong to digest, and his ego would not allow him to forgive her. While in Haverford, Harry would come across Lucy quite frequently, but he would always approach her with an icy civility that went beyond the manner of aloof. He made her living in Haverford nearly impossible, no matter how hard she tried to be friendly to him. She made her bed, and she had to lie in it. That was Harry's brutish approach, and he would not diverge from it. Lucy's only help and communication would come from the community at large, but her evolution from young village waif to refined and cultured musician distanced her from everybody. She was not the good ol' Lucy that people remembered. She was ostracized, but it was largely her own doing, for she cold not relate anymore to the life. That would have consequences come towards the end of the novel.
Tragedy is key in this novel, because it is the insight that gets conveyed after the fact, especially for Harry when he looks at the old Gayheart homestead; that makes the work very deep. Harry looks back with longing and regret, knowing that the past cannot be altered. He, in a way, is living his own punishment that he inflicted upon Lucy. He's married to a woman who he is really not in love with, and he is alone, despite the fact that he is embraced by the community. He too is shunned, but again, it is by his own doing. And in that regard, he and Lucy are a perfect tragic match.
What I liked about Lucy Gayheart was the conveyance of those fleeting moments in time that are so special you want to recapture them and never let them go. It's like looking at a photo album and remembering times past with innocence and fondness. But with Cather, you get hardcore realism besides just the simple beauty of remembrances of what used to be. With a Willa Cather novel, I always come away with a sense of loss but also deep gratitude.