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In Laura Ingalls Wilder: A Writer’s Life, Pamela Smith Hill delves into the complex and often fascinating relationships Wilder formed throughout her life that led to the writing of her classic Little House series. Using Wilder’s stories, personal correspondence, an unpublished autobiography, and experiences in South Dakota, Hill has produced a historical-literary biography In Laura Ingalls Wilder: A Writer’s Life, Pamela Smith Hill delves into the complex and often fascinating relationships Wilder formed throughout her life that led to the writing of her classic Little House series. Using Wilder’s stories, personal correspondence, an unpublished autobiography, and experiences in South Dakota, Hill has produced a historical-literary biography of the famous and much-loved author. Following the course of Wilder’s life, and her real family’s journey west, Hill provides a context, both familial and literary, for Wilder’s writing career. Laura Ingalls Wilder examines Wilder’s inspirations as a writer, particularly her tumultuous, but ultimately successful, professional and personal relationship with her daughter—the hidden editor—Rose Wilder Lane. Wilder produced her timeless classics with the help of, but not reliance upon, her daughter’s editorial insights. Over the course of more than thirty years, Lane and Wilder engaged in a dynamic working relationship, shifting between trust, distrust, and respect. Hill argues that they differed in their visions of the path Wilder’s career should follow, but eventually Lane’s editing brought out the best of her mother’s writing, and allowed her creativity, expression, and experiences to shine through.


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In Laura Ingalls Wilder: A Writer’s Life, Pamela Smith Hill delves into the complex and often fascinating relationships Wilder formed throughout her life that led to the writing of her classic Little House series. Using Wilder’s stories, personal correspondence, an unpublished autobiography, and experiences in South Dakota, Hill has produced a historical-literary biography In Laura Ingalls Wilder: A Writer’s Life, Pamela Smith Hill delves into the complex and often fascinating relationships Wilder formed throughout her life that led to the writing of her classic Little House series. Using Wilder’s stories, personal correspondence, an unpublished autobiography, and experiences in South Dakota, Hill has produced a historical-literary biography of the famous and much-loved author. Following the course of Wilder’s life, and her real family’s journey west, Hill provides a context, both familial and literary, for Wilder’s writing career. Laura Ingalls Wilder examines Wilder’s inspirations as a writer, particularly her tumultuous, but ultimately successful, professional and personal relationship with her daughter—the hidden editor—Rose Wilder Lane. Wilder produced her timeless classics with the help of, but not reliance upon, her daughter’s editorial insights. Over the course of more than thirty years, Lane and Wilder engaged in a dynamic working relationship, shifting between trust, distrust, and respect. Hill argues that they differed in their visions of the path Wilder’s career should follow, but eventually Lane’s editing brought out the best of her mother’s writing, and allowed her creativity, expression, and experiences to shine through.

30 review for Laura Ingalls Wilder: A Writer's Life

  1. 5 out of 5

    Manybooks

    Well, those who are familiar with my reviews are likely well cognizant of the fact that I do not all that often grant five star ratings (and yes indeed, that I actually also and equally tend to be even more potentially critical with regard to non fiction, with regard to literary criticism, as my reading eyes usually do end up finding possible academic shortcomings and/or authorial musings at which I take umbrage and with which I do not agree). However and very much joyfully, appreciatively, Pamel Well, those who are familiar with my reviews are likely well cognizant of the fact that I do not all that often grant five star ratings (and yes indeed, that I actually also and equally tend to be even more potentially critical with regard to non fiction, with regard to literary criticism, as my reading eyes usually do end up finding possible academic shortcomings and/or authorial musings at which I take umbrage and with which I do not agree). However and very much joyfully, appreciatively, Pamela Smith Hill’s 2007 Laura Ingalls Wilder: A Writer’s Life is definitely a glowing and shining exception here, has been from beginning to end both an educational and enlightening total and absolute reading delight. For yes indeed, Pamela Smith Hill’s text most definitely (and of course in my opinion) is the most balanced secondary piece of writing on Laura Ingalls Wilder I personally have read to date, featuring not only a detailed analysis and portrait of Laura’s life (from birth to death) but also an appreciated dissection of how Laura Ingalls Wilder becomes a writer, why her Little House on the Prairie series is to be considered first and foremost as autobiographical fiction and of course also Laura Ingalls Wilder’s both personal and professional relationship with her daughter Rose Wilder Lane (with the author, with Pamela Hill Smith clearly textually demonstrating in Laura Ingalls Wilder: A Writer’s Life the often strained and fraught wit negativity ties between Laura and Rose but also pointing out that Laura Ingalls Wilder’s writing and daughter Rose Wilder Lane’s editing is what really does make the Little House on the Prairie series such an enduring and still today much beloved children’s literature classic). Meticulously researched (with extensive notes, a detailed bibliography and a handy index), I have indeed and definitely found Laura Ingalls Wilder: A Writer’s Life delightfully readable, enjoyable and as such a wonderfully engaging and enlightening reading experience. And as already mentioned above, a full and shining five stars for Pamela Smith Hill’s presented text, for an educational and always interesting non fiction gemstone that is both well written and superbly researched and also does not shy away from mentioning that there also exist a number of controversies about Laura Ingalls Wilder (but that thankfully, Hill also does not overly focus on this but generally keeps to her thesis statement, to her purpose in Laura Ingalls Wilder: A Writer’s Life, namely presenting Laura Ingalls Wilder’s life and the development of her literary skills, depicting how she became such a famous and much beloved author).

  2. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    I can hardly say enough good things about this book. It's exactly the sort of Laura Ingalls Wilder biography I've been wishing for: straightforward non-fiction (footnotes and everything!) with a steady focus on Laura, giving equal weight to the true details of her life and to her writing. As an author of children's historical fiction herself, Pamela Smith Hill gives ample insight into the craft of Wilder's writing, drawing attention to a great many elements of the structure and theme of the Litt I can hardly say enough good things about this book. It's exactly the sort of Laura Ingalls Wilder biography I've been wishing for: straightforward non-fiction (footnotes and everything!) with a steady focus on Laura, giving equal weight to the true details of her life and to her writing. As an author of children's historical fiction herself, Pamela Smith Hill gives ample insight into the craft of Wilder's writing, drawing attention to a great many elements of the structure and theme of the Little House books that I'd never put together myself. Based on those observations, Hill presents a compelling case that despite being steeped in historical and autobiographical details, Wilder's books are indeed fiction -- a personal history consciously trimmed and molded to fit the form and countours of the novel. Hill also tackles the fascinating editorial partnership between Laura Ingalls Wilder and daughter Rose Wilder Lane, pointing out with concrete examples how the combination of each woman's natural strengths and gifts contributed to the overall shape and tone of Wilder's novels. Thankfully, Hill manages to keep Rose's dynamic and voilatile personality from overpowering the second half of the book, all the while giving an uncluttered assessment of Rose's role in bringing the Little House stories to print. I have no complaints about this book. Not a single one.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Carlin

    I signed up for an online class about Laura Ingalls Wilder that is starting 9/22/14 and taught by Pamela Hill, the author of this book. It is one of the required readings as are Wilder's Little House series of books. I lived and breathed these books as a child, acted out the stories with my friend Mary in the prairie across the street from us east of Denver, had two dolls named Laura and Marisa (I liked that name better than Mary), and even named my daughter after Laura. I gave her all my Little I signed up for an online class about Laura Ingalls Wilder that is starting 9/22/14 and taught by Pamela Hill, the author of this book. It is one of the required readings as are Wilder's Little House series of books. I lived and breathed these books as a child, acted out the stories with my friend Mary in the prairie across the street from us east of Denver, had two dolls named Laura and Marisa (I liked that name better than Mary), and even named my daughter after Laura. I gave her all my Little House books years ago so I had to buy the series again in paperback to re-read for the course. Can't wait! I was transfixed by Ms. Hill's book. So much of Wilder's life was unknown to me other than what was found in her books. I knew nothing about the writing of the books, how much was fictionalized, and that her daughter Rose Wilder Lane was so involved in editing the stories. I was one of those girls who just believed the books told the whole story of Wilder's childhood, her marriage to Alonzo, and the "First Four Years" of their marriage (that book was not published till fourteen years after Wilder's death). Ms. Hill has done extensive research on the subject and in this book fleshed out the lives of the Ingalls' family and that of Wilder's husband and daughter. It was well-written, fascinating, and scholarly. I recommend this book to anyone who read Laura Ingalls Wilder or even those who watched the Michael Landon TV series, Little House on the Prairie. I look forward to learning more from Ms. Hill as the class progresses.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Beth Cato

    I bought this during my visit to Laura Ingalls Wilder's Rocky Ridge home in Mansfield, Missouri, last summer, though I have had it on my wish list to acquire for some years. I have already read Hills' fabulously edited, annotated book of Wilder's Pioneer Girl manuscript. A Writer's Life covers much of the same material, of course, but is a quick and fascinating read as it specifically focuses on Laura Ingalls Wilder's development as a writer. This begins with her childhood writings through her da I bought this during my visit to Laura Ingalls Wilder's Rocky Ridge home in Mansfield, Missouri, last summer, though I have had it on my wish list to acquire for some years. I have already read Hills' fabulously edited, annotated book of Wilder's Pioneer Girl manuscript. A Writer's Life covers much of the same material, of course, but is a quick and fascinating read as it specifically focuses on Laura Ingalls Wilder's development as a writer. This begins with her childhood writings through her daughter Rose's rising career, to the Pioneer Girl manuscript and the subsequent Little House books. The publication story behind the books truly intrigues me. As an author myself, I have some insight into the baffling world of New York City publishing, and it amazes me how little some things have changed in eighty years! I really like how Hill handles the controversy of the authorship of the books. The book abounds in citations--this is a scholarly work--and her research is meticulous as she demonstrates through existing letters the role that Rose played in the development of the series. In all, a great read for anyone with an interest in the real stories behind the Little House books, and definitely a faster, cheaper, and more accessible read than the full tome of Pioneer Girl (though I highly recommend that, too).

  5. 5 out of 5

    Amanda

    Loved it! Brilliant analysis of Laura vs. Rose and how the books came to be. I think this is the closest I'll ever get to reading Pioneer Girl (LIW's original manuscript), so this was especially meaningful. It separated the real Laura from Book Laura, and although it was a bit bittersweet to lose some of the wonder of reading the books, the historian in me has more respect for the 'real' LIW, and even a begrudging respect for Rose Wilder Lane's struggle while living in her mother's literary shad Loved it! Brilliant analysis of Laura vs. Rose and how the books came to be. I think this is the closest I'll ever get to reading Pioneer Girl (LIW's original manuscript), so this was especially meaningful. It separated the real Laura from Book Laura, and although it was a bit bittersweet to lose some of the wonder of reading the books, the historian in me has more respect for the 'real' LIW, and even a begrudging respect for Rose Wilder Lane's struggle while living in her mother's literary shadow. Highly recommended for those who want to separate fact from fiction.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Candace

    I loved this book. I was shocked and kinda heartbroken to learn that the Little House books were not complete truth but fiction based on her life. This book helped me come to terms with that and I now appreciate Laura Ingalls Wilder as a writer and retain my love for the character Laura Ingalls. I'm now anxiously awaiting her autobiography Pioneer Girl that Smith Hill is working on. I loved this book. I was shocked and kinda heartbroken to learn that the Little House books were not complete truth but fiction based on her life. This book helped me come to terms with that and I now appreciate Laura Ingalls Wilder as a writer and retain my love for the character Laura Ingalls. I'm now anxiously awaiting her autobiography Pioneer Girl that Smith Hill is working on.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Kelly Ferguson

    Of the Laura bios, Smith Hill's in one of my faves. After the smear campaign of Dr. Holtz (Ghost in the Little House) it was fascinating to read a more balanced view of Laura's life, her daughter Rose Wilder Lane's life, and the writing of the Little House books. Wisely, Smith Hill remains true to her focus, "A Writer's Life," and this gives her biography a cohesive focus. Hill treats both women with respect as authors, and describes in fascinating detail the back-and-forth that took place in how Of the Laura bios, Smith Hill's in one of my faves. After the smear campaign of Dr. Holtz (Ghost in the Little House) it was fascinating to read a more balanced view of Laura's life, her daughter Rose Wilder Lane's life, and the writing of the Little House books. Wisely, Smith Hill remains true to her focus, "A Writer's Life," and this gives her biography a cohesive focus. Hill treats both women with respect as authors, and describes in fascinating detail the back-and-forth that took place in how these women collaborated. A few bummers are exposed between the realities of Wilder's life and how these truths were crafted into Young Adult novels, but nothing was "spoiled" for me. As an adult woman, I enjoyed meeting the adult Laura Ingalls and her daughter. Hill's main point is that Lane functioned more as editor than ghostwriter, and I thank her for that, because in my reading of original work by both authors I agree. In the writing of my own book, I found Smith Hill to be an invaluable resource both in terms of research and measured opinion. I also had the pleasure of watching Pamela Smith Hill present at Laurapalooza 2010. She gave a great presentation on the writing life in general. My favorite part was when she showed a slide of Moses receiving the Ten Commandments on the mountain, to poke fun of the trope that artists simply receive transmissions from The Great Beyond. Those of us who write, know that what reads easily on the page reflects hours of drafting, revision and editing.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Rachel Jones

    Meh. This biography was not what I was expecting. It read more like an outline for a thesis or something. The main theme of Hill's writing was to hammer it home to us Laura Ingalls Wilder fans that she did, indeed write her own books, that editing is a certainty in publishing and that her Little House series was based on factual circumstances, with a few creative liberties thrown in. No duh. I have a hard time believing that anyone who picks up this dry, erudite book put out by a very small publ Meh. This biography was not what I was expecting. It read more like an outline for a thesis or something. The main theme of Hill's writing was to hammer it home to us Laura Ingalls Wilder fans that she did, indeed write her own books, that editing is a certainty in publishing and that her Little House series was based on factual circumstances, with a few creative liberties thrown in. No duh. I have a hard time believing that anyone who picks up this dry, erudite book put out by a very small publishing house as part of a historical series isn't somewhat familiar with what an editor does or that great non-fiction events still must be told as a story to become successful. Maybe there just wasn't much else to say about Wilder's life than what she already wrote herself, but I felt that so much was missing from this book. A one paragraph description or quote about the time in which Laura lived, or her father's appearance, or a journey-by-wagon into Missouri isn't enough to make me see it or feel it. I did learn about Laura's life but I didn't get swept up into her personality or her remarkable achievement at all!

  9. 5 out of 5

    Noel

    This was a very interesting take not only on the woman Laura Elizabeth Ingalls Wilder, but the CHARACTER Laura Ingalls, and the literary partnership that shaped them both with her daughter Rose Wilder Lane. We tend to accept the Little House books as autobiography. They're not, really. They're fiction. Fiction has to tell a story and have a specific plot. Life doesn't, necessarily! Laura's life was a great deal harsher than the Little House books portray, though I don't think that is a secret. The This was a very interesting take not only on the woman Laura Elizabeth Ingalls Wilder, but the CHARACTER Laura Ingalls, and the literary partnership that shaped them both with her daughter Rose Wilder Lane. We tend to accept the Little House books as autobiography. They're not, really. They're fiction. Fiction has to tell a story and have a specific plot. Life doesn't, necessarily! Laura's life was a great deal harsher than the Little House books portray, though I don't think that is a secret. The characters we tend to accept as people were sketches of those people -- and sketches for kids, at that. It doesn't ruin the stories for me to know more about the humans that inspired them. The book talks a great deal about the Wilder-Lane partnership and gives some interesting glimpses into the relationship between the two woman. While some assert that Lane was the real force behind the books, Hill asserts (correctly, I think) that while the series required Lane's editorial input, to brush aside Wilder's writing is rather nonsense. If you love the Little House series and are interested in following up on some of the behind the scenes stories, check it out.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Cari

    Fact: the Little House books were one of the two most important literary aspects of my childhood (the other being the Anne of Green Gables series, of course). As a result I was excited to read this biography, so excited I was bouncing a bit when I finally sat down to read, and Pamela Smith Hill didn't disappoint. This is more like a dual biography, focusing on both the real life Laura Ingalls Wilder and the Laura of her books. Hill intertwines the two, comparing the sequences in the books with th Fact: the Little House books were one of the two most important literary aspects of my childhood (the other being the Anne of Green Gables series, of course). As a result I was excited to read this biography, so excited I was bouncing a bit when I finally sat down to read, and Pamela Smith Hill didn't disappoint. This is more like a dual biography, focusing on both the real life Laura Ingalls Wilder and the Laura of her books. Hill intertwines the two, comparing the sequences in the books with the real experiences of Laura Ingalls Wilder and presenting an excellent example of facts versus the truth of a story. As a biography this is quick, keeping everything quick and to the point, giving readers the necessary details without delving so deep you suffocate on unnecessary information. Certain parts begged for more study but, as a general rule, I was perfectly satisfied with Hill's approach. A definite read for Laura Ingalls Wilder fans and a solid offering by Pamela Smith Hill.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    I love the cover of this biography. I had never seen this image before, Laura looks lovely and quite stylish. I purchased this biography while vacationing in De Smet, South Dakota this past June. It seemed a perfect read for our trip into the land of Laura. This biography is not an in depth look at the details of Laura’s life, but more a look at what shaped Laura as a writer. I was very interested that she had the idea jotted down for writing children’s’ book about her pioneer childhood back in 1 I love the cover of this biography. I had never seen this image before, Laura looks lovely and quite stylish. I purchased this biography while vacationing in De Smet, South Dakota this past June. It seemed a perfect read for our trip into the land of Laura. This biography is not an in depth look at the details of Laura’s life, but more a look at what shaped Laura as a writer. I was very interested that she had the idea jotted down for writing children’s’ book about her pioneer childhood back in 1902 after Pa’s death. She saved her first foray into literature with a poem that she wrote in school. It seems that becoming an author was a lifelong dream of Wilder’s. Laura earned extra income as an adult writing articles on farm life for the Missouri Ruralist and other papers. I found it interesting that she also was published in a major magazine, McCall’s, as well due to urging from her daughter Rose. Laura and Rose had a unique relationship. They actually both became established authors at the same time, but Rose was known on the national level, while Laura was local. Rose pushed Laura to write and helped her when she first tried to publish her autobiography, Pioneer Girl. Rose also helped herself to using Laura’s story from Pioneer Girl in her own adult fiction. This caused understandable fiction in the family. It was interesting that the biography noted that if they wouldn’t have been mother and daughter, Rose would have ended up in court due to plagiarism charges. With Rose’s help, Laura crafted children’s books from Pioneer Girl. Laura was a gifted writer and Rose was a gifted editor. It was very interesting how they took a true story and fictionalized it to tell a tale. There has been much debate about this through the years as well as on the true authorship of the books, but research has shown that Laura wrote the novels with Rose’s editorial guidance. They had a great partnership. Favorite quotes: “I began to think what a wonderful childhood I had had. I had seen the whole frontier, the woods, the Indian country of the Great Plains, the frontier towns, the building of railroads in wild, unsettled country, homesteading and farmers coming in to take possession. . . Then I understood that in my own life I represented a whole period of American history.” - Laura Ingalls Wilder “Did Wilder’s adolescence, spent describing people, places, and scenes for Mary, contribute to her development as first a storyteller and later a writer? “ – I’ve always wondered this myself. “The snow was scudding low over the drifts of the white world outside the little claim shanty. It was blowing thru the cracks in its walls and forming little piles and miniature drifts on the floor and even on the desks before which several children sat, trying to study, for this abandoned claim shanty that had served as the summer home of a homesteader on the Dakota prairies was being used a s a schoolhouse during the winter.” - This was from a column Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote in 1924. She already had perfected her vivid descriptions that she used in her later fiction. “Nevertheless, she struggled with the idea that her worked lacked artistry, that she wrote what sold rather than what would endure.” Rose Wilder Lane. I’ll admit, I’ve only read her fiction because of her mother and it lacks the artistry and enduring quality of her mother’s work. Overall, Laura Ingalls Wilder: A Writer’s Life is a great work on the process Wilder went through to create her classic works and the great partnership that Wilder and Lane had that allowed this work to flourish. This is a must read for Laura Ingalls Wilder fans. Book Source: Purchased at the Ingalls Family Homestead in de Smet, South Dakota This review was first posted on my blog at: https://lauragerold.blogspot.com/2017...

  12. 5 out of 5

    Susan

    Laura Ingalls Wilder a Writer's Life I'm taking an online course this month about Laura Ingalls Wilder. I'm not getting into it "whole hog," but I am reading "Laura Ingalls Wilder, A Writer's Life" for it, as well as watching the video lectures. It's interesting. I've read the Little House series multiple times, and have also read many books about Laura. This is yet another. I found the book's tone a bit scholarly for my tastes (it continually referred to Laura as "Wilder," and each time I'd have Laura Ingalls Wilder a Writer's Life I'm taking an online course this month about Laura Ingalls Wilder. I'm not getting into it "whole hog," but I am reading "Laura Ingalls Wilder, A Writer's Life" for it, as well as watching the video lectures. It's interesting. I've read the Little House series multiple times, and have also read many books about Laura. This is yet another. I found the book's tone a bit scholarly for my tastes (it continually referred to Laura as "Wilder," and each time I'd have to think for a second to realize who they were talking about). A fairly big deal is made about the fact the the Little House books aren't totally "true" (the family didn't move continually west, Little House on the Prairie events happened before Little House in the Big Woods events, Jack the dog didn't die while with the family but was given away with Pet and Patty -- okay, the bit about Jack did bum me out a little). Maybe it's because of my own experience writing a memoir, but this doesn't bother me at all. When you write about a life, you realize that you have to create a story arc. Let's face it: most people's lives, written on a day-to-day narrative, just aren't that interesting. As Laura herself said, "There were so many ways of seeing things and so many ways of saying them." The real thing I took from the book was sympathy for Laura in dealing with her only daughter, Rose. Rose seems as though she came into the world with a defiant attitude, and she kept it throughout her life. Yes, she edited Laura's work, but she often did it while making condescending remarks to her and making derogatory comments about Laura to her friends. Rose wanted a stone cottage, so she had one built at her parent's farm -- then told them that she was giving it to them, while Rose moved into their own lovingly-built home. As an adult, Rose wrote that she "hated everything and everybody in (my) childhood." She also wrote, "I lived through a childhood that was a nightmare." Hardly what we'd expect from the child of cheery, determined Half Pint! Rose struggled with depression and wild mood swings throughout her life, characterizing herself as manic depressive. Honestly, I found myself thinking that "The Long Winter" must have been nothing compared to surviving this daughter. It's just sad the way personalities can clash and wreak so much havoc in families.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Patricia

    I undoubtedly know about this book because the author is a Portlander, but I would have found it anyway. I tend to read everything I come across that has to do with Wilder. This was a very readable, accessible book that traces Wilder's journey as a writer and seems specifically to have been written to discount the theories that some authors have put forth that Wilder's daughter Rose Wilder Lane wrote the Little House Series. I had discounted those theories already as they seemed to overlook the wr I undoubtedly know about this book because the author is a Portlander, but I would have found it anyway. I tend to read everything I come across that has to do with Wilder. This was a very readable, accessible book that traces Wilder's journey as a writer and seems specifically to have been written to discount the theories that some authors have put forth that Wilder's daughter Rose Wilder Lane wrote the Little House Series. I had discounted those theories already as they seemed to overlook the writing career Wilder had before she began her famous series. The book follows Wilder's life chronologically, and, in her early years, compares and contrasts Wilder's unpublished autobiographical manuscript Pioneer Girl with details in the Little House series. This in itself was interesting. A teacher at my school was annoyed at her student teacher for labeling the Little House series as fiction. "They are autobiography!" she firmly stated. I kept quiet, and wondered just how they are shelved at the official library. I have read enough to know that her books are not the whole truth of her life. Hill does an excellent job of highlighting the changes Wilder made to her own story to establish the mythos of her family--her experiences, heightened by her story telling and shaped by her and her daughter's editing, have become the pioneer experience for millions of people across the world. The other point gleaned from this book is to have a tough hide if your own daughter is your editor. Wilder and Lane were close, but Lane rejected the life her mother chose--leaving it as soon as she could. Hill provides evidence, again and again, of a mother daughter relationship probably familiar to many. It is a relationship both close and strained, and Lane comes across as a ruthless editor, unsparing of her mother's feelings. Still, the two remained close throughout their lives and their work together provided a series that has probably done more than any other to shape my world view. The book provides a nice bibliography for me to plunder, and has me wondering why, aside from the unspeakable television series, the story of the Ingalls family has never been adapted for the silver screen. Also, is there a good biography of Rose Wilder Lane?

  14. 4 out of 5

    Violetmyst17

    LOVED this book. At first i thought it misnamed as "a writers life", as it is billed as a Wilder's biography, and that was not the dominate focus of Laura's entire life. But what it truly is instead, is a marvelous detailing of Wilder's innate talent for storytelling slowly developing into finding her voice as a children's novelist. Hill straightens out the chronology of Wilder's actual life, versus the progression of the story in the Little House series. She shows the arc of Laura's writing, fr LOVED this book. At first i thought it misnamed as "a writers life", as it is billed as a Wilder's biography, and that was not the dominate focus of Laura's entire life. But what it truly is instead, is a marvelous detailing of Wilder's innate talent for storytelling slowly developing into finding her voice as a children's novelist. Hill straightens out the chronology of Wilder's actual life, versus the progression of the story in the Little House series. She shows the arc of Laura's writing, from dabbling with poems and diaries in her teen's and twenty's, to her intermittent revising and polishing the narrative of her stories throughout her 50's and 60's. Hill also explores the complex writing relationship between Laura and her daughter Rose Wilder Lane, who had become a newspaper reporter and freelance writer in the 1910's and 1920's. Hill dispels the common myth that Lane was actually the ghostwriter of the "Little House" series (if anything, Lane lifted material from her mother's early manuscripts for use in her own articles and populist novels), but shows how Rose's heavy editorial experience pushed Laura to find the genre that best expressed Laura's compelling life story and storytelling gifts. As a creative writer myself (albeit very, Very unpublished !), i found this book Delicious as it delved into Laura's writing process...from story ideas scribbled on the backs of envelopes, through attempts to write her family's story in various styles, to the revisions of her original unpublished autobiography into its final timeless children's series of novels. However charming and quaint the notion may be of someone 'just sitting down at age 65 and cranking out 8 flawless children's books about her life story', Hill shows how Laura's years of hard work, the false starts and rejections, the varied forms that Laura writings took in letters, diaries, articles, and how a writer's ideas may just need to "stew" for some years...all of this is what goes into developing Laura's talents into her classic children's series. This book both sated my curiosity for how Laura came to write her life's story, and imbued me with a truer sense of the writing process by which such classics are created.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Caren

    After reading that a heretofore unpublished memoir by Laura Ingalls Wilder would be published later this year, and that it would be annotated by the author of this book, I wanted to read her insights on the iconic author of the Little House books. This book is sort of like "Little House" for adults. Once the sentimental family scenes are taken out, you are left with a really, really hard life. The Little House books, as Ms. Hill points out, are artfully structured to always be questing westward, After reading that a heretofore unpublished memoir by Laura Ingalls Wilder would be published later this year, and that it would be annotated by the author of this book, I wanted to read her insights on the iconic author of the Little House books. This book is sort of like "Little House" for adults. Once the sentimental family scenes are taken out, you are left with a really, really hard life. The Little House books, as Ms. Hill points out, are artfully structured to always be questing westward, as a young country grew. In reality, Pa was perpetually on hard economic times and kept moving as one after another setting just didn't work out for him. After Laura married Almanzo and they began their married life in Dakota territory, their life sounded, as Ms. Hill pointed out, a bit like the book of Job. I can't imagine why their spirits weren't completely broken. I have been reading another book about the lack of water in the West, and I think about how the government sold these western lands as ideal for farming, obscuring the harshness of the climate. Laura's family was certainly an example of that. Ms. Hill also addresses the longstanding controversy about whether Laura's daughter, Rose, actually wrote the Little House books. Her conclusion is "no", since their writing styles are very different. Rose apparently lifted some of the material from her mother's (soon to be published) memoir for her own adult novels and her treatment lacked some of the warmth and sympathy of Laura's renditions. That said, Rose apparently did act as editor for all of her mother's work, and made extensive suggestions and revisions. The work, then, was Laura's, but the mother and daughter collaborated in most of their publishing ventures. Rose handled much of the business side, at least in the beginning, because she was already familiar with the publishing world. As is well known, Laura didn't begin publishing her Little House books until she was in her 60s, but perhaps she had more time by then, since they were long settled on their farm in the Ozarks by that time. She had already been writing a newspaper column, so she was experienced in shorter form writing. This book is an interesting look at the real life of Laura, without the extreme hardships airbrushed out.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Lynn

    I really get the idea it was the author's thesis. And I also get the idea that the author was shocked and angered to learn that Laura Ingalls Wilder left out whole periods of her life when she decided to write the Little House books. Hill comes across as highly indignant that Wilder decided not to include those periods of her life. It almost screams: HOW DARE SHE??!! Having finished the book, I really think this work IS the author's thesis. It reads like it. And while that's not a problem in acad I really get the idea it was the author's thesis. And I also get the idea that the author was shocked and angered to learn that Laura Ingalls Wilder left out whole periods of her life when she decided to write the Little House books. Hill comes across as highly indignant that Wilder decided not to include those periods of her life. It almost screams: HOW DARE SHE??!! Having finished the book, I really think this work IS the author's thesis. It reads like it. And while that's not a problem in academic circles, for a book for commercial markets, I would have preferred a re-write in a more conversational style. I particularly would have preferred the book to refer to Laura, Rose and Almanzo by their Christian or first names, rather than just last names -- that definitely makes the book read much more like an academic work than a commercial work. I also found the writer had little real interest in Laura Ingalls Wilder, and a much bigger interest in the role her daughter played in bringing about the Little House series. That being the case, the book's focus should have been Rose, not Laura. I found the author had a great deal of contempt for Mrs. Wilder, not only because she neglected to included periods of her life in the allegedly autobiographical series, but also because Mrs. Wilder re-arranged history and events to suit the stories. On the whole, there are better biographies of Laura Ingalls Wilder out there, ones that treat the subject with more respect and less contempt. I know this author has annotated the autobiography Laura Ingalls Wilder left unpublished, but based on this thesis treatment of the subject, I have no desire to read that volume. I fear that the annotations will be far more editorial than explanatory.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Kate

    What a wonderful biography of Laura Ingalls Wilder. This is the first time I've managed to track down a biography of Laura written for adults, and I really appreciate the way it was set out. The first few chapters were about Laura's life including the Little House years, but also included a whole load of information about the places in Ingalls family lived which aren't in the Little House books. Interestingly Laura certainly lived in some rough places and came into contact with people that the M What a wonderful biography of Laura Ingalls Wilder. This is the first time I've managed to track down a biography of Laura written for adults, and I really appreciate the way it was set out. The first few chapters were about Laura's life including the Little House years, but also included a whole load of information about the places in Ingalls family lived which aren't in the Little House books. Interestingly Laura certainly lived in some rough places and came into contact with people that the Ma of the books wouldn't have approved of! The biography then discusses Laura and Manly's move to the Ozarks from Dakota when Laura was 27, and the farm the family built up there. Between 27 and 60, Laura built up the farm and started publishing magazine articles, and it wasn't until her 60s that she started writing the Little House books. The book then takes the reader through the creation of each of the 8 books in the series, how it was published and what the critical reaction was to it. This was a fascinating process as the truth of Laura's childhood as discussed in the first chapters was then put through the lens of semi-fiction in her books. The one character in this tale I did not like was her daughter, Rose Wilder Lane, what a horrible conniving woman she was! I highly recommend this book if you want to know more about Laura and her creative processes, the only thing I found sad was that Manly was hardly mentioned in the book. I wish there had been more about him and his and Laura's relationship.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Janelle

    Knowing I was going to revisit De Smet, South Dakota, on vacation this year, I grabbed this newish (2007) Laura Ingalls Wilder biography from my library before leaving. I'm glad I did; it is a real gem. The book's subtitle, "A Writer's Life," reveals the focus. Hill devotes a lot of space to comparing how Wilder's life is depicted in her famous novels to how her life really was - and there are some interesting differences that show how carefully Wilder cast her stories in later life. I have a muc Knowing I was going to revisit De Smet, South Dakota, on vacation this year, I grabbed this newish (2007) Laura Ingalls Wilder biography from my library before leaving. I'm glad I did; it is a real gem. The book's subtitle, "A Writer's Life," reveals the focus. Hill devotes a lot of space to comparing how Wilder's life is depicted in her famous novels to how her life really was - and there are some interesting differences that show how carefully Wilder cast her stories in later life. I have a much better sense now of the beloved books as fiction rather than autobiography, though certainly they are rooted in Wilder's life experiences. [A side note... I'm trying to refer to LIW as "Wilder" like Hill does, but my mind knows her only as "Laura"!] Later in the book, Hill reveals more about Wilder's personal and professional relationship with daughter Rose Wilder Lane. Although Lane provided critical editorial support for Wilder's creative work, I am left with only a sour impression of Lane. She stole material from her mother for her own writing, derided Wilder's work, and imposed her will on her parents time and time again. The whole relationship sounded pretty dysfunctional. Though, both parties gain something from dysfunction, right? This book and my De Smet visit make me want to return to Mansfield, Missouri, as well. As an adult reader, I respond a bit differently to the LH books than I did as a child, but I am no less fascinated. Her writing stands the test of time, and her themes are American to the core.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Cheryl Malandrinos

    While I did learn a few new things in this biography of my favorite children's author, Laura Ingalls Wilder: A Writer's Life is an academic look at Wilder's life and work, making it a bit dry, like Donald Zochert's Laura. The author does a fine job of showing how Wilder developed her writing and business savvy through the years. Critical in her opinions of Rose Wilder Lane (Laura and Almanzo's only child who lived to adulthood), Hill accuses Lane of blurring the values of truth, honesty, and mora While I did learn a few new things in this biography of my favorite children's author, Laura Ingalls Wilder: A Writer's Life is an academic look at Wilder's life and work, making it a bit dry, like Donald Zochert's Laura. The author does a fine job of showing how Wilder developed her writing and business savvy through the years. Critical in her opinions of Rose Wilder Lane (Laura and Almanzo's only child who lived to adulthood), Hill accuses Lane of blurring the values of truth, honesty, and moral courage in her quest for publication and success and of trying to diminish her mother's reputation as a writer. At least she doesn't shy away from the complex relationship the two women carved out while they lived and worked together. The author discusses controversies surrounding Wilder's famous children's books: such as her depiction of Native Americans and the role Lane played in the writing of her mother's books. These controversies don't come as any surprise to Laura fans. They have been addressed by others. There is a section of historical photos between the end of Chapter 10 and the beginning of Chapter 11. I've seen these before, but they mean more to me now that I visited some of the Laura Ingalls Wilder sites last summer. A book such as Laura Ingalls Wilder: A Writer's Life should be huge hit for the South Dakota State Historical Society Press. Thoroughly researched, Wilder fans should consider adding this to their collection. Hill's insights might not be for everyone, but if you're like me, you want to own all the books about Wilder that you can.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Audrey

    This is a brief and straight-forward, rather scholarly biography of Laura Ingalls Wilder. It focuses primarily on Wilder (as the subtitle says) as a writer - her development as a writer, the editorial processes of the Little House books, etc. It's a little dry, and I was hoping there would be some details about LIW which I did not know before, but there were none. This is a very ungossipy biography, and gossip is half the fun of reading books of this genre. Hill does discuss LIW's complicated re This is a brief and straight-forward, rather scholarly biography of Laura Ingalls Wilder. It focuses primarily on Wilder (as the subtitle says) as a writer - her development as a writer, the editorial processes of the Little House books, etc. It's a little dry, and I was hoping there would be some details about LIW which I did not know before, but there were none. This is a very ungossipy biography, and gossip is half the fun of reading books of this genre. Hill does discuss LIW's complicated relationship with her daughter and editor, Rose Wilder Lane, which was interesting (Hill seems to view Lane negatively). This is probably a good source if you want to write an academic paper on LIW.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Linda

    I read and loved the Little House series as a child as did my daughter and, most recently, my granddaughter. I bought this book in DeSmet this Summer at the Laura Ingalls Wilder Society gift shop. I enjoyed my pilgrimage there and I enjoyed this book. It de-mythologises Laura Ingalls Wilder for me. I'm nearly 70 so it's high time to take a grown-up look at her - neither one of us is a little girl any more! I read and loved the Little House series as a child as did my daughter and, most recently, my granddaughter. I bought this book in DeSmet this Summer at the Laura Ingalls Wilder Society gift shop. I enjoyed my pilgrimage there and I enjoyed this book. It de-mythologises Laura Ingalls Wilder for me. I'm nearly 70 so it's high time to take a grown-up look at her - neither one of us is a little girl any more!

  22. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer Spiegel

    Since our family delved into the old TV series (we just finished all nine seasons and we'll begin the TV movies soon), I also took a free online class with the author of this book, Pamela Smith Hill. I read the books as a kid, and one of my daughters is reading them now. We're really sort of Ingalls-imbued right now. This book definitely fills in the blanks, though some holes will forever remain. Hill focuses MUCH on the publishing history of the books, which is very wrapped up in Laura's relati Since our family delved into the old TV series (we just finished all nine seasons and we'll begin the TV movies soon), I also took a free online class with the author of this book, Pamela Smith Hill. I read the books as a kid, and one of my daughters is reading them now. We're really sort of Ingalls-imbued right now. This book definitely fills in the blanks, though some holes will forever remain. Hill focuses MUCH on the publishing history of the books, which is very wrapped up in Laura's relationship with her daughter, Rose Lane (also a writer who was interested in her own literary legacy). This is probably because it's the information we can know, and it truly does say much about the woman. Though the relationship suggests power-play and writing difficulties, it's also clear that Laura was a devoted mom--and the two were close for Laura's whole life. There are two major controversies surrounding the books: Wilder's treatment of Native Americans and the issue of authorship (Lane was so involved that some wonder if she wrote the series). Hill deals with both. On the latter, Hill asserts that Wilder was the finer writer, and Lane--who wanted to be the real artist in the family--was the finer editor. The book is for all you lovers of LITTLE HOUSE. You'll come away satisfied. Though we have to deal with some disturbing realities: Mr. Edwards and Nellie Olson were composite characters, the original dog named Jack was given away early as part of horse-trade, and there was no Albert. Pa was also no Michael Landon, who is surprisingly attractive when you watch the TV show in your forties. (While a fabulous familial endeavor, the TV show totally, completely, utterly--and all those other adverbs--jumps the shark higher than Fonzie ever did by season nine. My kids, however, were given some great opportunities to discuss things like racism, romance, alcoholism, finances, agrarian and urban development, etc. As the show progresses, it gets weird. Be warned: there's a disturbing clown-rape episode that will definitely mess with kids interested in how Pa handles drought or Harriet Olson's mercantile.) But for those of you interested in the tension between fact and fiction, this is a great book. Rest assured: Laura and Manly, and that delicious romance? The real deal, folks. The real deal.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    I found this biography of Laura Ingalls Wilder quite fascinating. Pamela Smith Hill sheds light on who Wilder was as a person, and how she was truly a writer who crafted her stories to be enjoyable well-written, fictional novels, not just plain autobiography. In the later part of the book, Hill explores in some depth the correspondence between Wilder, her daughter, and her editors and publishers, to demonstrate how Wilder's fiction came about. At times this section felt like a response to people I found this biography of Laura Ingalls Wilder quite fascinating. Pamela Smith Hill sheds light on who Wilder was as a person, and how she was truly a writer who crafted her stories to be enjoyable well-written, fictional novels, not just plain autobiography. In the later part of the book, Hill explores in some depth the correspondence between Wilder, her daughter, and her editors and publishers, to demonstrate how Wilder's fiction came about. At times this section felt like a response to people who have claimed that Wilder's daughter wrote the books, but I found it interesting even though I have never read about or bought into such claims. Some things that particularly stood out to me as interesting include: * How Wilder changed some events from her childhood to maintain a strong theme of independence and ever traveling west in the novels. In reality, the family moved back east multiple times, and her father (portrayed as fiercely independent in the books) went through a period of borrowing money, working odd jobs, and even leaving town in the middle of the night to avoid a debt. * How the novels starting with On the Banks of Plum Creek are much more character-driven than the earlier ones (which are more descriptive and follow a seasonal cycle). I always enjoyed and re-read the later books much more, and this explains to me why I liked them better!

  24. 4 out of 5

    Mmouse15

    As most girls of my generation, I read the Little House series in its entirety, and I loved it. My mother grew up in the woods of Wisconsin, so she could tell me a lot about the first book (Big Woods) and we lived on the prarie, so I could SEE some of things Wilder talked about in her books, and I loved them. However, I had no idea that Wilder had actually gone back east after she and Almanzo failed on the Dakota praries. They bought a farm in the Ozarks and lived there for the rest of their live As most girls of my generation, I read the Little House series in its entirety, and I loved it. My mother grew up in the woods of Wisconsin, so she could tell me a lot about the first book (Big Woods) and we lived on the prarie, so I could SEE some of things Wilder talked about in her books, and I loved them. However, I had no idea that Wilder had actually gone back east after she and Almanzo failed on the Dakota praries. They bought a farm in the Ozarks and lived there for the rest of their lives. This book explores how much of the Little House books are true, and how Wilder changed some facts to make the story more readable and to explain better the times and the environment of the world she grew up in, and also how big an influence her daughter, Rose Wilder Lane, was on the stories. Lane edited her mother's books for her and since she was a writer herself, was a ruthless editor. However, as Wilder wrote more books, she became more confident as a writer and argued against some of the suggested edits, probably to the good. I picked this book up on a whim and read it in four days, it's really interesting and well written.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Lauren

    An incredibly revealing book about the project of the Little House books, the lives behind them, and the problem of biography, juvenile fiction, and the challenge of westward movement. Wilder did a brilliant job directing her books on a constant journey west, whereas her real experience took her back and forth west, then back east, as her family's success soured. I was fascinated by the way Wilder and her daughter (who was her greatest editor) chose to depict her life in print. It was comforting An incredibly revealing book about the project of the Little House books, the lives behind them, and the problem of biography, juvenile fiction, and the challenge of westward movement. Wilder did a brilliant job directing her books on a constant journey west, whereas her real experience took her back and forth west, then back east, as her family's success soured. I was fascinated by the way Wilder and her daughter (who was her greatest editor) chose to depict her life in print. It was comforting, in a way, to know that Wilder herself had gone through great failures and setbacks. Ultimately, you see her not as a pleasant old lady, weaving stories, but as a complicated, warm, determined woman who has seen her fair share of life and ends up responsible for the current imagination of pioneer years. I loved the Wilder books as I child and may need to return to them now with fresh eyes. This is a book not only for fans of the series, but for anyone interested in editing, changing gender roles, American history, publishing, identity, and biography.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Jane

    If you ever read Laura Ingalls Wilder's "Little House" series and were horrified to learn later in life that she didn't "write them at all" but her daughter, Rose Wilder Lane, did--well, this book will clarify everything for you. This is a good examination of how Wilder's writing style evolved, and why she changed some truths of her life to make for better fiction-reading. It also explains how her daughter, Rose, herself a talented writer and editor, did make some contributions to the novels--bu If you ever read Laura Ingalls Wilder's "Little House" series and were horrified to learn later in life that she didn't "write them at all" but her daughter, Rose Wilder Lane, did--well, this book will clarify everything for you. This is a good examination of how Wilder's writing style evolved, and why she changed some truths of her life to make for better fiction-reading. It also explains how her daughter, Rose, herself a talented writer and editor, did make some contributions to the novels--but they nevertheless all remain a true display of Wilder's voice, words and experiences. One of the things I found most interesting about this book is that Wilder was never quite as "innocent" as her novels would have her seem; that is, there is a real delineation between Laura the real person and Laura the character. For instance, in "By the Shores of Silver Lake," Wilder had more contact with the "rough" men of the railroad camp than her parents ever would have allowed in the novel. An excellent choice for Wilder--and "Laura"--fans.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Eva

    I expected a brief biography of Laura Ingalls Wilder, and was disappointed this didn't focus more on her development across her lifespan or her personality. It really dwelt as much or more on the personality of her daughter, Rose Wilder Lane, than it did Laura as a person. Even then, although it included copious quotes from correspondence between the two, it really didn't delve very deeply into why their relationship was at times so strained. I suppose the subtitle "A Writer's Life" should have I expected a brief biography of Laura Ingalls Wilder, and was disappointed this didn't focus more on her development across her lifespan or her personality. It really dwelt as much or more on the personality of her daughter, Rose Wilder Lane, than it did Laura as a person. Even then, although it included copious quotes from correspondence between the two, it really didn't delve very deeply into why their relationship was at times so strained. I suppose the subtitle "A Writer's Life" should have signaled to me the author's intention to discuss Laura's development as a writer much more so than as a person (although how you unravel those two, I'm not sure). But even allowing for that, and settling in to read strictly about how she wrote and what she wrote and the editing process and Rose's role and etc, it just fell flat for me. The writing had no life. I agree with another disappointed reviewer who said something along the lines of that this book read like a thesis. I really wanted to find a light, entertaining read about Laura, but for me, this wasn't it.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Michelle

    This was a very informative book written about one of my favorite authors. The author did an excellent job of telling the story of Laura's life and highlighting areas in which her famed Little House series differed slightly. Laura was definitely a woman ahead of her time- in spite of not being formally educated, she was an astute businesswoman, farm owner and a naturally talented author. I was also interested to learn that the birth of the Little House series was somewhat of an accident, derived This was a very informative book written about one of my favorite authors. The author did an excellent job of telling the story of Laura's life and highlighting areas in which her famed Little House series differed slightly. Laura was definitely a woman ahead of her time- in spite of not being formally educated, she was an astute businesswoman, farm owner and a naturally talented author. I was also interested to learn that the birth of the Little House series was somewhat of an accident, derived from a non-fictional memoir Laura had planned to publish, and then even when she turned to a fictional storyline the book was initially aimed as an adult novel. Throughout the book is highlighted the interesting relationship between Laura and her only daughter Rose, who was also her unofficial editor. I never quite understood Rose, and at times was very angry at her behavior toward her mother.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Sue

    I've read quite a few Laura Ingalls Wilder bios and retrospectives, and for the first half of the book, I didn't really learn anything new. But the second half of the book provided an honest and telling writing relationship that Laura had with her daughter Rose. But more importantly (and perhaps as a slam to that awful Ghost in the Little House book that claimed Rose wrote the books), this author explained the role of the editor in any writing experience. As a writer, I understand the role of th I've read quite a few Laura Ingalls Wilder bios and retrospectives, and for the first half of the book, I didn't really learn anything new. But the second half of the book provided an honest and telling writing relationship that Laura had with her daughter Rose. But more importantly (and perhaps as a slam to that awful Ghost in the Little House book that claimed Rose wrote the books), this author explained the role of the editor in any writing experience. As a writer, I understand the role of the editor quite well, but most average readers do not. I was thrilled to see someone explain the editor's job so well, but I really did enjoy reading about the working relationship between mother and daughter. Oh, and not that I ever had a doubt in my mind that Laura wrote the books, but this book backs up my arguments pretty well. She needed an editor, just like every good writer does, and a critque partner, another thing many book-length writers have.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Kelli Oliver George

    If you are a fan of the Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder, this book is absolutely a MUST READ. I read this book in two sittings and could hardly put it down! I've always been interested in the historical inaccuracies of the Little House series and this book provides reasonable explanations for many of the discrepancies. This book not only examines the writing process of Wilder, but also the publishing process of the books. It also provides fascinating insights into the complexities an If you are a fan of the Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder, this book is absolutely a MUST READ. I read this book in two sittings and could hardly put it down! I've always been interested in the historical inaccuracies of the Little House series and this book provides reasonable explanations for many of the discrepancies. This book not only examines the writing process of Wilder, but also the publishing process of the books. It also provides fascinating insights into the complexities and complications of the personal AND editorial relationship between Wilder and her daughter, Rose. I came away from this book with a fresh view of Wilder's writings and her stories.

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