Hailed by reviewers and readers for its originality, vitality, and truth, this novel secured Willa Cather a place in the first rank of American writers. Cather called My Antonia "the best thing I've done." For Oliver Wendell Holmes, My Antonia had "unfailing charm, perhaps not to be defined; a beautiful tenderness, a vivifying imagination that transforms but does not distort or exaggerate." H. L. Mencken declared it "one of the best [novels] any American has ever done." Cather drew deeply on her childhood days in frontier Nebraska for her fourth novel, published in 1918. Old immigrant neighbours inspired many of the characters, particularly the heroine. Antonia Shimerda is memorable as the warm-hearted daughter of Bohemians who must adapt to a hard life on the desolate prairie. She survives and matures, a pioneer woman made radiant by spirit. W. T. Benda's illustrations further illuminate the fiction of a writer who drew so extensively on actual experience.