Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather

Death Comes for the Archbishop (1927)Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

While the subject matter is not my usual thing, I read this for a book club and quite enjoyed it, I think it's perfect for a wide audience of people.
The novel is a series of vignettes on two priests traversing the old west, New Mexico and area, in the mid 1800's.
The writing is beautiful, and though literary with a wide vocabulary, it's still relatable and a book written to read, rather than a book written to admire. I see other reviews have called it dry or slow and I sometimes wonder if I'm reading the same book as these people. It's not The Bourne Ultimatium, but there's sex, violence and murder on nearly every page.
I do agree with other reviews that the characters are not very likeable but the stories presented come off more as fairy tales, morality tales you can see being passed around the old west, and are all incredibly charming.
Being written when it was, the book avoids the modern questions of religion and faith, which I was glad of. While I don't understand the need or the audacity of French men to travel thousands of miles to convert self-reliant indiginous peoples to a crazy religion, I think the explanations for such behavious would only have riled me up. Taking this motivation as a given, I was able to focus more on the story itself.
Lastly, I thought the title was an interesting idea. You reveal the last page of the book in the title, something I've not seen before, but by focusing on his death, you also focus on his life, and can contemplate on it alongside the archbishop, closed up in that dark room murmuring in French.

Tres bon.

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