Book Review: Shadows on the Rock

Marnie Burkett Parmenter // Blessed Bookshelf


March 29  

Shadows on the Rock, while not Willa Cather’s most well-known novel, is my personal favorite. Set in colonial Quebec in the waning days of the 1600s, it is more portrait than story, more contemplative than narrative. The novel is set at a historical moment of seismic proportions, which Cather captures brilliantly—the opening of the New World to the Old World. We are introduced to Euclide Auclair and his young daughter, Cecile, and their circle of friends and acquaintances in and around Quebec. As we follow their lives over the course of a year, Cather offers us a glimpse into their hearts and minds. In their particular lives and stories, a bigger picture comes into focus—the legacy and beauty of European culture, as well as its decadence and hypocrisy. We see the symbiotic shaping—the land forming the people, the people shaping the architecture and culture of the land. While the novel is slowly paced—more thoughtful and “poetic” than plot-driven, Cather’s richly drawn characters and prose speak to us of human things and of permanent things: bravery, holiness, longing, transformation, regret, mercy, devotion, death, and simple human joy.

Proclaim the Genius & Share!
  • Thank you for inspiring us Marnie! I see this is one of your personal favorites, but would you recommend this for teens? Just curious what your recommendation would be?

  • I had my 9th grade students read this in our US History and Literature class at co-op. It’s not a cumbersome book at all- I think middle school age students could easily handle it.

  • Marnie, great book choice! My mom has been a lover of Willa Cather for a long time and I have inherited that love too. Shadows on the Rock has really stuck with me. So strikingly beautiful and peaceful. A refreshing read in today’s world 🙂

  • I agree with Susan! Shadows on the Rock would be quite appropriate for teens. As it is a “meditative” book, it may not be something teens would pick up on their own, but I think they would get much out of it they persevered in reading it.

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