This book follows the lives of various characters in a French colony in Quebec in the late 1690s. This book is essentially plotless, as a lot of Cather’s books are, but this one feels, in some weird ways, even more plotless than usual. Whereas something like Death Comes for the Archbishop is very much a book without much in the way of narrative drive, it does at least feel that each section has a narrative. In this book, even the individual sections, of which there are six, seem to just be character sketches and random events. I would say that this feels the least finished of all of Cather’s novels. There are no real character arcs in my opinion and this doesn’t even have the visceral beautiful prose of My Antonia, the Cather book this most reminded me of. Like that book, it’s very disconnected and doesn’t seem to have a clear focus. But whereas My Antonia had a masterful sense of time, place and atmosphere, Shadows on the Rock is mostly a bland affair. Only a few of the characters really came to life for me. Count de Frontenac was the most interesting, I’d say; he’s the ruler of the colony, but he’s a man with few of the foibles of nobility. There’s a wonderful section that revolves around the central family of the story spending Christmas together. But, by and large, this one just doesn’t add up to much and I found myself pretty lukewarm on it. 2 ½ stars.
tl;dr – surprisingly bland prose & overly meandering, this Cather novel feels surprisingly unfinished, though there are some nice sections. 2 ½ stars.