Archive for September, 2011
My absolute favorite of all the Little House books, and not because of the falling in love part of the story, but because of the beginning part when Laura is teaching school at the hateful Brewster school and boarding with the family where the wife is batsh*t crazy and hates her. And then Almanzo drives 40 miles each Friday to take her home to her parents for the weekend, and drives her back every Sunday night. Okay, so maybe it is the courtship part I love.
I also love her descriptions of the clothes, her work ethic, the happy descriptions of her family and the emotion she feels at finally realizing that once she marries Almanzo, she will leave her parents and sisters for good.
This is just about my favorite book in the whole series, detailing Laura’s happy school years with her friends, her feisty resistance to a terrible teacher, her cozy family life, and the budding social life in their growing town, where a handsome man with an outlandish name (Almanzo Wilder) starts “seeing her home” from church and other events.
I would be willing to bet that over the past 30+ years, I have read this book a dozen times or more. I never get tired of it.
This is the book I read when times get tough for us and I think things really suck. I read about the blizzards the Ingalls family and the people in their town went through, their near-starvation, the weeks and months when all they had to eat was bread made from seed wheat ground in a coffee mill and how they huddled around a stove that burned only twisted sticks of hay since they had run out of firewood.
And then, after reading it, I always make myself a fat supper and count my blessings.
I looked forward to this book for months, since I am a huge fan of the series. Mary Russell is the wife of the fictional character Sherlock Holmes and the previous ten books developed their story from their early friendship with Holmes as a mentor to the young Mary Russell, to their working partnership, to their marriage and travels around the world.
This book was such a disappointment. The first 75% of it was straight up convoluted and boring. And worst of all, there was almost nothing about Sherlock Holmes in that part. Mary Russell is somehow roped into becoming a production assistant in a silent film about a production of a Gilbert and Sullivan opera? Or something? I don’t know. I was skipping pages at that point.
When Holmes finally comes in, I was essentially just reading to finish it. I was so very disappointed that a brilliant author seemed to have either phoned it in or just missed the mark so spectacularly. I hope the next one is better.
I re-read this book after reading it aloud to my nine year old daughter and some things just never get old. I love this book and this series, especially when Laura gets Nellie Oleson to wade in the murky water and get leeches all over her legs.
If you ever read Laura Ingalls Wilder’s series of Little House books, you will understand how fascinating it is to read someone’s account of researching the books and visiting the sites of the stories.
Wendy McClure breaks down the cultural phenomena of Wilder’s stories, and shows us where Laura was bluntly honest and where she embellished, rewriting her own personal history. Rather than diminishing the power of the books, this knowledge made them seem more dear to me.
We find out about details left out of the books, and there are many hilarious sidebars by the author comparing the books to the emotionally drenched adaptation Michael Landon put on television in the early 70s and 80s.
She and her boyfriend visit the location of the sod house from On the Banks of Plum Creek (where the dugout is gone but the stream and swimming hole remain), the approximate location of the house in Oklahoma territory where “Little House on the Prairie” was set. She spends time in DeSmet, South Dakota at a Little Town on the Prairie festival, and time in Mansfield, Missouri where Laura and Almanzo spent their final years.
Throughout the book, the author comments on how the books affected people (especially girls) and how their stories are a treasure and a commentary on the transformation of America from frontier to civilization.
It is moving, and hilarious, and informative, and hilarious, and man, is it a great read!
Here’s what you should know about this book: it was a re-release in my advance reader copy service but was actually written over 40 years ago. And after reading it, almost immediately every detail of it drained from my mind. I’m not kidding. I do not recall one single thing from the book. At all. I know I read it, but that’s all. There’s your review. 😦