Death Comes for the Archbishop

Death Comes for the Archbishop

3.3 28
by Willa Cather

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Willa Cather's best known novel; a narrative that recounts a life lived simply in the silence of the southwestern desert.


Willa Cather's best known novel; a narrative that recounts a life lived simply in the silence of the southwestern desert.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“A truly remarkable book . . . Soaked through and through with atmosphere . . . From the riches of her imagination and sympathy Miss Cather has distilled a very rare piece of literature. It stands out, from the very resistance it opposes to classification.”—NEW YORK TIMES“The most sensuous of writers, Willa Cather builds her imagined world as solidly as our five senses build the universe around us.”—Rebecca West“[Cather’s] descriptions of the Indian mesa towns on the rock are as beautiful, as unjudging, as lucid, as her descriptions of the Bishop’s cathedral. It is an art of ‘making,’ of clear depiction—of separate objects, whose whole effect works slowly and mysteriously in the reader, and cannot be summed up . . . Cather’s composed acceptance of mystery is a major, and rare, artistic achievement.”—from the Introduction by A. S. Byatt

Product Details

Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
Vintage Classics Series
Edition description:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.14(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.62(d)
1150L (what's this?)
Age Range:
14 - 18 Years

What People are saying about this

A. S. Byatt
What intrigues me about [Cather] is the intelligence with which she combines her formidable learning in European art and literature with her 'new' uniformed or formless American subjects, the settlers and pioneers with their unrecorded lives and their diverse heritages.

Meet the Author

Willa Cather was probably born in Virginia in 1873, although her parents did not register the date, and it is probably incorrectly given on her tombstone. Because she is so famous for her Nebraska novels, many people assume she was born there, but Willa Cather was about nine years old when her family moved to a small Nebraska frontier town called Red Cloud that was populated by immigrant Swedes, Bohemians, Germans, Poles, Czechs, and Russians. The oldest of seven children, she was educated at home, studied Latin with a neighbor, and read the English classics in the evening. By the time she went to the University of Nebraska in 1891–where she began by wearing boy’s clothes and cut her hair close to her head–she had decided to be a writer.

After graduation she worked for a Lincoln, Nebraska, newspaper, then moved to Pittsburgh and finally to New York City. There she joined McClure’s magazine, a popular muckraking periodical that encouraged the writing of new young authors. After meeting the author Sarah Orne Jewett, she decided to quit journalism and devote herself full time to fiction. Her first novel, Alexander’s Bridge, appeared in serial form in McClure’ s in 1912. But her place in American literature was established with her first Nebraska novel, O Pioneers!, published in 1913, which was followed by her most famous pioneer novel, My Antonia, in 1918. In 1922 she won the Pulitzer Prize for one of her lesser-known books, One of Ours. Death Comes for the Archbishop (1927), her masterpiece, and Shadows on the Rock (1931) also celebrated the pioneer spirit, but in the Southwest and French Canada. Her other novels include The Song of the Lark(1915), The Professor’ s House (1925), My Mortal Enemy (1926), and Lucy Gayheart (1935). Willa Cather died in 1947.

Brief Biography

Date of Birth:
December 7, 1873
Date of Death:
April 27, 1947
Place of Birth:
Winchester, Virginia
Place of Death:
New York, New York
B.A., University of Nebraska, 1895

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Death Comes for the Archbishop 3.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 28 reviews.
carlosmock More than 1 year ago
Death Comes to The Archbishop by Willa Cather, 1927. The primary character is Bishop Jean Marie Latour, who travels with his friend and vicar Joseph Vaillant from Sandusky, Ohio to New Mexico to take charge of the newly established diocese of New Mexico, which has only just become a territory of the United States. At the time of his departure, Cincinnati is the end of the railway line west, so Latour must travel by riverboat to the Gulf of Mexico, and thence overland to New Mexico, a journey which takes an entire year. He spends the rest of his life establishing the Roman Catholic church in New Mexico, where he dies in old age. The novel is notable for its portrayal of two well-meaning and devout French priests who encounter a well-entrenched Spanish-Mexican clergy they are sent to supplant when the United States acquired New Mexico and the Vatican, in turn, remapped its dioceses. Several of these entrenched priests are depicted in classic manner as examples of greed, avarice and gluttony, while others live simple, abstemious lives among the Native Americans. Cather portrays the Hopi and Navajo sympathetically, and her characters express the near futility of overlaying their religion on a millennia-old native culture. Cather's vivid landscape descriptions are also memorable. A scene where a priest and his Native American guide take cover in an ancient cave during a blizzard is especially memorable for its superb portrayal of the combined forces of nature and culture. The only reason I give the book three stars is that the prose is only a narrative. She never shows anything, only tells.... There is no action to speak of. Ms. Cather sometimes covers years in one sentence, and other times writes paragraphs for one minute. The book reads easy and since I've traveled the areas described, I found it interesting.
Melissa_W More than 1 year ago
I have come to love (and expect) the beautiful nature descriptions in Willa Cather's books and "Death Comes for the Archbishop" is no exception. Cather captures both the wonder and desolation of nineteenth-century southwestern US/northwestern Mexico borderlands in a book that also explores the life choices of a man devoted to serving God. The only stumbling point I encountered was that I expected more plot than was given (the novel is entirely character-driven) but once I adjusted my expectations I had no futher issues with the novel.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I picked up this book by accident, thankfully so; it has become one of my favorites. This book gives us a glimpse of the goodness that can be found in humanity, it expresses our desire to strive for something higher than ourselves.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I loved the story, the imagery, and the characters. I found myself going back and rereading pages just to savor the descriptions. Cather is truly a poet. I'm a better human for having read this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Our Book Club liked this a lot. It ranked sixth out of 40+ books we've read in the past three years.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
This book helped me understand other peoples way of living. It describes dignity and , kindness of people, beauty of nature and landscapes, and the enourmos diccipline it takes to be a good missionar in a remote country like New Mexico. It was an adventure to read this book!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Cather's outstanding use of imagery and setting propel the story to something that is beautiful. Most books today are action-packed plot-centered novels that are reminiscent of the books turned out in the fiction department of the Ministry of Truth in Orwell's 1984. This book is not meant to be centered around plot, but rather it is a series of snapshots in the life of a man stuck in an uncomfortable position as he rises above his circumstances. Moreover, Death Comes for the Archbishop, is a classic because of its timeless themes. I recommend this book to anyone who can think beyond a plot line.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I had to read this book for an assignment, but even then, it was not bad. The psycological complexities and relationships between the characters and the nature around them is truly fascinating....if you can derive it from the text. Most do not look upon books like this in such a way, but if you do, it will truly heighten your enjoyment of the novel.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed the book but it was very hard to get into to. I do not recommend to read for leisure purposes.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Great review. I loved the book, and could hardly put it down. It got slow in a few places but other than that its wonderful. Pretty good considering the teenage attention span is so small.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Charming tale of a priest and his life in the American West in the 1800's. I'm sure that if I knew more about the life of Ms. Cather, the book would get 5 stars. Epic in a television mini-series way, but proof that books are indeed superior.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I dont get it. I was reading some of these reviews and they make no sense at all. The book is not exciting at all. Title is deceiving. I had to read it because my school made me. If u have to read this for school, good luck! If u are just reading it cause it looks like a good book i strongky suggest that u dont do it. Thank me later
Guest More than 1 year ago
It truly wasn't that bad of a book to read, it wasn't boring at all. It wasn't an adventurous book but it was a book that was well written and had some deep underlying themes.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I got to page 66 and fell asleep, its a good book for insomniacs. the title Death comes for the Archbishop, i was hoping he would have ben murdered and the other priest had to solve the murder, no such luck. to say it was boring is an understatement!!! highly not recommended.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is by far the most boring book I've ever read. I admit it was a bit, A BIT, exciting, but it was difficult to get through the book. I couldn't help putting down the book just 5 minutes after picking it up. I don't recommend reading this book just to kill time because the book will just kill you.