Friday, May 23, 2014

A Wilder Rose

Last week, I was talking to my grandmother and she was enthusiastically telling me about this wonderful book about Rose Wilder Lane, the daughter of Laura Ingalls Wilder.  I listened, exclaimed that it sounded wonderful, then promptly forgot about it.  However, she was persistent, and so now I've read the book, too.  And what a wonderful read it was!

A Wilder Rose is the fictionalized account of Rose Wilder's often-fraught relationship with her mother, particularly when helping her mother write the Little House books.  From unpublished diaries and letters, historians and writers are beginning to see that Rose Wilder pretty much wrote the Little House books herself.  Rose was a very skilled editor, journalist, and writer and had a lot of experience in the publishing world.  Laura, on the other hand, and pretty much no skill, but she had a lot of good stories. Laura and Rose's relationship when writing the Little House books is the basis of this book.  According to this book (and who knows how much of this is fictionalized and how much is really based on fact), Rose spent her whole life feeling like Laura didn't quite approve of her.  This feeling only intensified when, at the age of 3, Rose was left alone while Laura was sick.  Wanting desperately to help, Rose put too much wood on the fire and burned the Wilder's little house down.  Rose writes of still remembering that sickening realization of what she had done.  This was just the start of many years of severe poverty and hard living. Rose agreed to basically write these books for her mother with no credit because she always felt indebted to her parents because of all the loss they had suffered.
Rose Wilder Lane

Once Rose grew up, she was determined to make something of herself and so attended high school in Louisiana with one of Almanzo's (her father) sisters.  After that, she attended college and began a high-powered writing career.  She had a brief marriage which collapsed shortly after the death of her only son.  When the Depression came, Rose returned to the Ozarks to live with her parents.   That was when she had her mother began working on the Little House books.  The journey from a very unpolished memoir that Laura wrote to the polished stories that we know of today is a fascinating one.

The book is told by Rose to a young aspiring journalist who is living with her.  This made for some kind of confusing foreshadowing that I think the author could have worked a little harder to make clear.  However, that is my only complaint.  I was surprised at how different these well-known characters appeared to be.  Laura became a very different, but 3-dimensional, character.  This book portrays her as a very domineering, grasping, not-very-nice person.  But in spite of these less-than-perfect character traits, we come to identify with and pity both Laura and Rose through this story.

I recommend this book to anybody who has read the Little House books, which is a pretty large percentage of the population!  The story is well-told and gives the reader another perspective into these well-known stories.  I think that I am going to read a non-fiction book that has just come out about Laura and Rose's relationship.  I'll let you know what I think of it and how it compares to this book.

As usual, I have the amazon links for this book and the A Ghost in the Little House, the non-fiction book I'm going to read.


    

8 comments:

  1. When a couple of years ago I read Little House in the Big Woods aloud to my son I was newly impressed by how simply but artfully written it is. What a complicated, sad story, but it's good that now the grown-up truth behind the children's classics is coming to light. I hope to read one of these accounts soon.

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    1. I know! I felt oddly sad to know the truth about the story, but it is good to know the background. My favorite little house book was always Little House in the Big Woods. The little pioneer domestic details always charmed me.

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  2. In my opinion the illustrations for the Little House books by Garth Williams give the books much of their charm. I wish someone would tell how that collaboration came about.

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    1. I do too! If you discover a book about that, let me know. It's thanks to you that I read this!

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  3. Agree, I loved A Wilder Rose too! You might also like Travels With Zenobia, RWL's travel journal from a road trip to Albania in the '20s.

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    1. Did you do a blog post about A Wilder Rose? If you did, I'd love to read it. And I think it would be wonderful to read that travel journal. It would be nice to hear some of the stories mentioned in this book straight from the horses mouth, so to speak. :)

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    2. I have done one now!! LOL - thanks for the inspiration!!
      http://everydayhas.wordpress.com/2014/06/03/little-house-the-next-generation/

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    3. I just did - thank you for the inspiration!! :)

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