Plot summary (from the publisher): The Song of the Lark is the self-portrait of an artist in the making. The story revolves around an ambitious young girl, Thea, who leaves home to go to the big city to fulfill her dream of becoming a famous opera star. Along the way, her realization of the mediocrity of her peers propels her to greater levels of accomplishment, but in the course of her ascent she must discard those relationships which no longer serve her.
Warning: Spoilers below!
- I am almost always intrigued by stories of success, so there were some aspects of this novel that appealed to me. I liked that Thea was able to rise above her small-town beginnings to achieve that “$1,000-a-night” status that her aunt bragged about so much. Thea’s road wasn’t easy and she definitely deserves some credit for staying the course.
- Cather does a good job of showing how many people are behind the success of one great artist. If Thea didn’t have timely financial help at exactly the right moments on her journey, she would have ended up teaching piano lessons in Moonstone for her whole life.
- I loved that Thea and Fred were driven into a cave together by a ferocious storm. This scene totally reminded me of the exact same situation with Aeneas and Dido in Virgil’s Aeneid. That had to be the inspiration, right??
- I liked how Cather showed various folks from Moonstone popping up in New York to see Thea perform. That seemed like a totally natural reaction, as people everywhere are always willing to cheer on one of their own.
- I wasn’t too thrilled with the idea that all of Thea’s financial help came from men who were in love with her. She wasn’t that beautiful or even personable, so I found the idea of Ray Kennedy, Dr. Archie, and Fred all coming to her aid to be a bit of a stretch. Then again, what were the alternatives back in those days? It’s not as though she could have gotten a bank loan on her own or anything!
- The chronology of events wasn’t always laid out in a linear fashion, which served to confuse me on a couple of occasions. For example, when Dr. Archie and Thea were talking about how Thea failed to make it back to Moonstone after her mother died, I had to thumb back through several chapters to see if I had somehow missed that episode. But no, it was explained in detail only later in the book.
- Thea wasn’t particularly remarkable or interesting to me. The only thing that set her apart from run-of-the-mill folks was her singing voice, and that’s obviously not something that can come through on the printed page. Other than singing, she was dull and even sort of ungrateful to some of the folks that had helped her.
Having enjoyed some of Cather’s other works, I’d hoped for similar success with The Song of the Lark. But although this book does have its merits, I found the protagonist uninteresting and the story a bit too long for my tastes. I give it 3 stars out of 5.