Books Read in 2016: ‘Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography’ by Laura Ingalls Wilder | Part 3
Book Summary from Goodreads:
Pioneer Girl follows the Ingalls family’s journey through Kansas, Missouri, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, back to Minnesota, and on to Dakota Territory sixteen years of travels, unforgettable experiences, and the everyday people who became immortal through Wilder’s fiction. Using additional manuscripts, letters, photographs, newspapers, and other sources, award-winning Wilder biographer Pamela Smith Hill adds valuable context and leads readers through Wilder’s growth as a writer. Do you think you know Laura? Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography will re-introduce you to the woman who defined the pioneer experience for millions.
Read Part 1 here (covering Little House in the Big Woods, Little House on the Prairie, and On the Banks of Plum Creek)
Read Part 2 here (covering By the Shores of Silver Lake and The Long Winter)
Part 3 (covering Little Town on the Prairie and These Happy Golden Years):
I only posted one status update on Goodreads while reading the part of Pioneer Girl that is covered in Little Town on the Prairie and These Happy Golden Years . . . mainly because these are my two favorite books in the series.
- 05/12 Little Town on the Prairie marked as: currently-reading
I love Little Town on the Prairie (second-favorite in the series) probably for the very same reason that Caroline Ingalls was so adamantly opposed to moving again once they’d settled in De Smet—because there was a town and a school and a church and society and a social life for the characters to be involved in. While the pioneering stuff in the earlier books is interesting, and the whole “triumph of the human spirit” thing can be inspirational, the constant struggle, even when presented gently as in the earlier novels, gets wearing. Plus, as I started reading these books on my own, as a middle-grade/tween reader, I was closer to the age Laura is in LTOTP, so I found the depictions of school and town and the social events she was starting to take place in much more interesting. From a character-development standpoint, it’s also where we start seeing Laura truly develop relationships with others outside her family. Ida Wright (Brown) and Mary Power and others whom she knew from school bring out aspects of Laura’s personality and development as a person that we don’t get to see in the earlier books when it’s just the Ingalls family out on their own and with no one else but the immediate family around to see how this character develops different types of relationships.
As mentioned, for someone who was reading romance novels at a very early age, things started getting much more interesting when Laura started noticing (and being noticed by) the opposite sex in Little Town…—and there’s even more of this in Pioneer Girl.
- 05/15 Little Town on the Prairie marked as: read
05/15 These Happy Golden Years marked as: currently-reading
There are quite a few details that were changed from the memoir (or apparently remembered incorrectly) in the “Brewster School” sequence that happens in the beginning of These Happy Golden Years, some of which were left out of the novel and which were surprisingly worse than what actually made it to the fictionalized version. It’s amazing to me how Hill and the researchers at the Pioneer Girl Project were able to track down so many of the people that Laura mentioned in her memoir, given that many times she was going off of childhood memories for names and spellings of names—even to tracking down the students/families who lived in the Bouchie (a.k.a., Brewster) settlement where Laura taught her first term of school.
It’s also my least favorite part of my favorite book in the series . . . except for, like Laura, looking forward to those Friday afternoons and hearing the jingle-bells on Prince and Lady’s harnesses when Almanzo arrived to take her home for the weekend.
- 05/16 These Happy Golden Years marked as: read
As evinced in the portion of the memoir that became Little Town on the Prairie, Laura had a crush on Cap, even though he was going with her friend Mary Power for a while. And while she managed to keep most of that out of the novels, she was much more honest about it in her memoir, to the point that this passage made me giggle aloud when I read it:
05/16 on page 297 of Pioneer Girl (74.0%): “I had not seen Manly since the sleighing had gone, nearly three months, but he had come as soon as he could buy a buggy. I hadn’t known that I missed him, but it was good to see him again, gave me a homelike feeling.”
I credit These Happy Golden Years with being one of the first romance novels I ever read and fell in love with. So one might think that reading the “real” story behind the fictionalized courtship might take some of the sparkle off of it.
Not in the least. In fact, there were many details in the memoir that made reading how she ended up writing about it in the novel all the more sweet.
As the annotations point out, the memoir does end on the somewhat same “happily ever after” note that we get at the end of THGY—with Laura and Almanzo almost literally riding off into the sunset together to their happy little gray home in the west. Even though we know what happened next—and that it wasn’t “happily ever after”—it’s nice to see that Laura could find a way to give herself, both in the memoir version and in the fictional version, and all of those who would read it, a hopeful, happy ending. Which is exactly how I like my books to end. (Which is why I never read The First Four Years, either).
05/17 Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography marked as: read
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