The Beatrice Public Library Book Discussion will feature Willa Cather’s "One of Ours." The program will be held Thursday, Aug. 23, at 7 p.m. in the Sargent Conference Room. The Discussion Leader will be Dr. Evelyn Haller, Professor of English at Doane College. This program is part of the community commemoration of the Centennial of the Armistice in cooperation with Beatrice Community Players, the Gage County Historical Society Museum and Southeast Community College. A preview of the Library’s original World War I Bond Drive poster collection will part of this program. This collection will be exhibited in the Vette Cultural Arts Center and the Thomas Heritage Room beginning in September.
This novel about an American soldier in the Great War won the Pulitzer Prize in 1923. When it was selected for this recognition, the New York Times described the book as the best presentation of “the wholesome atmosphere of American life, and the highest standard of American manners and manhood” in the novels published in 1922.
The story is based to a large extent on the life and death of Cather’s cousin, the first Nebraska officer killed in the war. Writing this book affected Willa Cather more intensely than any of her previous works which included the “Nebraska” novels "O Pioneers!", "The Song of the Lark," and "My Antonia". She began writing "One of Ours" in 1919 after reading the letters her cousin had written from France. She later used other soldiers’ diaries as major sources for the novel in addition to interviewing both men and women back from the war.
Cather read literally hundreds of books, magazine features and newspaper articles published about World War I. She also visited “the devastated part of France” in 1920, retracing scenes of her cousin’s experience and finding his grave. (He was later reburied in his hometown of Bladen.)
By 1928, as the disillusionment with the War increased, this book was being cited as Cather’s only failure. By the 1970s, it was being reconsidered as a work that had no illusions about the war and an example of the great complexities inherent in writing about World War I. By the 21st century, it was being recognized as “a major work of 20th century American war literature.”
Copies of the book are available to borrow from the Library. For more information about this program, contact the Library at www.beatrice.ne.gov/library or 420-223-3584.