Friday, March 17, 2017

What I Read in January 2016 Part II

What I Read in January 2016 Part II . . . 

Pioneer Girl :The Annotated Autobiography by Pamela Smith Hill, Laura Ingalls Wilder

Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography

If you ever wondered why the Little House books were shelved under fiction or wanted to know where fact and fiction diverge then this book is for you. The editor has taken three known manuscripts of Laura Ingalls Wilder's memoir that served as the basis for the series and combined them in this definitive edition. I found it very fascinating how the novels were so carefully crafted to fit in with the ideal image of the west at that time yet still be a compelling story that we all know and love. Real life was a lot darker and grittier than even the novels show. Real life makes life in the Walnut Grove of the TV show seem like a walk in the park. I was surprised at how aware Laura was of what the elders were discussing, though she didn't understand it. Real life Ma didn't utter "Little pitchers have big ears" once in the memoir.

Understandably, the novel does contain some descriptions and depictions of American Indians that make modern readers uncomfortable. There are also some songs that are very tasteless by modern standards, however, none of that detracts from the fabulous writing. We can't judge people of the past for their beliefs and Laura never out and out says anything racist, she merely relates what people thought and did in her youth. It is what it is.

There are a couple of asides in the Appendices that I didn't read as they weren't really relevant to the story. The writing in the memoir isn't as polished or lovely as the final published novels but this memoir does show the evolution of Laura's writing and how she became more adept at writing descriptions and telling a good story. She inherited it naturally from her Pa. There is absolutely no doubt as to who wrote the novels. Rose Wilder Lane was a tabloid biography writer at the time and went on to borrow incidents from the memoir for future novels - not always with her mother's knowledge. Laura Ingalls Wilder was a gifted and talented writer who would probably be amazed at her legacy and how many people adore her novels. She sadly died in 1959 but at 90 that was pretty amazing considering she almost died several times in her youth. She lives on through her novels and now through this memoir, we can get to know the real Laura and learn about her childhood. This is a must read for every Little House fan!

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