Sunday, March 2, 2014

When you're famous

My observant husband recently pointed out that I hadn't done a book review for a long time on my blog. So I decided it was time to remedy that. However, I think this and other book reviews are really more like book "reports" as I won't be able to go into quite as much detail.

I've probably mentioned before that one of my favorite book genres is biography because you get the storytelling but learn something useful at the same time.

So a month or two ago I was thinking about classic children's books and Laura Ingalls Wilder came to my mind. Her books are so well-known; wouldn't it be interesting to learn even MORE about her famous childhood and the continuing story?



What I found was that 1) Some of the biographies are print-only, no digital version and 2) Many of the biographies got so-so reviews.

I am trying not to say too much because I don't want to spoil it for anyone who wants to read about Laura Ingalls Wilder. But here's the bottom line: "Laura Ingalls Wilder" as we know her is somewhat of a legend. Learning too much background information can take away the magic. This is what the reviewers warned about, and I was grateful to be able to make a conscious decision before my childhood image of the "Little House" books was replaced by reality.

Now, on to the content of the biography:

The book is called "Laura Ingalls Wilder: A Writer's Life (South Dakota Biography Series)" by Pamela Smith Hill. I thought it was going to be about the LIFE of a writer and it was more like the WRITING life of a writer. It takes you through the history of all of Laura Ingalls Wilder's published works. It details the writing and editing process as well as her communication with publishers and how readers responded. It describes the role of Wilder's daughter, Rose. And it puts the whole writing process in the context of what was going on in their lives at the time.

Meanwhile, the process of Laura Ingalls Wilder taking her own life and turning it into a book that people would enjoy reading did require some editing. Chronology is adjusted; real-life people are blended to become book characters; certain bleak events are omitted. Again I am not going to go into too much detail, but I think I will have a different feeling now reading the books.

Without having read other Wilder biographies, I would venture to guess that this particular one fills an important niche by focusing on the writing career. I wouldn't have minded reading more of a narrative of life events. But maybe I should just let the "Little House" books continue to play that role, fictionalizations and all.

2 comments:

  1. I've read just about every book on Laura that exists.... I grew up with her... The Little House books were the first books I ever bought with my own money - what a thrill that was! I'd read them all probably five or six times already and after purchasing them, I would read them at least yearly after that. Read them again in college, and again as a young adult and three or four times, at least to Aidan and Lydia. Yes; they are family.

    As an adult I "found out more" about her, but really if you read the books, you can tell that she became a much better writer (and possibly got more help from Rose) as time went on. The first book (Big Woods) is really boring, comparatively; it is mostly about "How Things Were Done Then". Or, at least once or twice is enough.

    One of the saddest events in the family (for me) was the sad end of Almanzo's father, who sold his beloved, prosperous farm and went down to Florida for a grand adventure. He ended up dying there, broke. But, the most surprising "positive" story was little Carrie becoming a famous female newspaper editor. Who would know?

    I should do some "Laura" blogging....

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  2. The part about Rose "helping" seems controversial! This book seemed to imply that Rose was a brilliant editor while it was Laura who really had the vision and gift for character development.

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