A Lost Lady

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Novel by Willa Cather, published in 1923.

Niel Herbert, a boy in the Midwestern town of Sweet Water, tells the story of Marian Forrester, who brings a knowledge of gracious living to the new country as the youthful wife of old Captain Forrester, retired railroad builder and aristocrat of the pioneer generation. Mrs. Forrester's beauty and charm set her apart from her crass, commonplace neighbors, as do her husband's rugged strength, integrity, and love of fine possessions. The captain is devoted to his wife, but her passionate nature causes her to become the secret mistress of his bachelor friend Frank Ellinger. When Forrester loses his fortune by assuming responsibility in the failure of his bank, he suffers a paralytic stroke. His wife nurses him carefully, but after his death she is left in financial straits. Ivy Peters, a pushy businessman of the new generation, acquires her beautiful home and becomes her lover, to the bitter disillusion of Niel, who regards her as “a lost lady,” although he never ceases to admire her. She goes West to her childhood home when Peters marries and occupies the Forrester mansion, and for Niel this symbolizes the end of the great era of the pioneers. Years afterward, he learns that she married a wealthy Englishman in South America, and until her death won admiration for her gracefulness, charm, and taste.

Subjects: Literature.

Reference entries

Willa Cather (1873—1947) American novelist and short-story writer

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