- Series: Missouri Biography Series
- Hardcover: 425 pages
- Publisher: Univ of Missouri Pr; 1st edition (April 1, 1993)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0826208878
- ISBN-13: 978-0826208873
- Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.2 x 9.8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 42 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,661,179 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Ghost in the Little House: A Life of Rose Wilder Lane (Missouri Biography Series) Hardcover – April 1, 1993
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From Publishers Weekly
"Do anything you please with the damn stuff if you will fix it up," said Laura Ingalls Wilder, author of the Little House on the Prairie series, to her daughter Rose, who, according to Holtz's startling research, was the de facto author of her mother's books. Drawing on diaries and letters, Holtz, a professor of English at the University of Missouri, details Lane's life (1886-1968) in an engrossing study that highlights her troubled relationship with an apparently cold and manipulative mother. At 17, she fled her parents' farm in Missouri, married (and later divorced) Gillette Lane, and then traversed the globe, supporting herself as a journalist in New York, Baghdad and Albania, making friends with such writers as Floyd Dell and Dorothy Thompson. Guilt drove her back to the farm to help her parents until publication of the Little House series, under her mother's name--but heavily rewritten and edited by Rose--freed her financially. A believer in rugged individualism, Lane's treatise The Discovery of Freedom became the Bible of the Libertarian Party. Illustrations not seen by PW.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
Fans of the "Little House on the Prairie" series, which fictionalizes the life of the author, Laura Ingalls Wilder, may be disappointed to discover that her works were actually ghostwritten by her daughter, Rose Wilder Lane (1886-1968). Thus asserts this well-researched study by Holtz (English, Univ. of Missouri-Columbia). Rose was a precocious girl with a flair for writing who found her mother to be puritanical and critical. This biography details Rose's forays into the world as she attempted to launch her own writing career. She experienced limited commercial success but often found herself financially and emotionally strained, especially in view of the demands of her parents. Rose injected her own populist ideas into her mother's work as she crafted her mother's rudimentary writings into the readable books that are still popular today. The tenuous relationship between mother and daughter offers additional interest in this book. Recommended for public libraries.
- Mary Ellen Beck, Troy P.L., N.Y.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Apart from that, the book is good in that it filled in a lot of missing information on Rose -- her marriage, travels, etc. Yet, when I finished this book, I felt so much pity for Rose. As someone who comes from a small town environment I can easily understand her frustrations at the intense gossip (often speculative and slanderous) and extreme scrutiny Rose experienced in Mansfield. I got the impression that Rose's parents (especially her mother) were part, to some degree, of the gossip and scrutiny brigade. If the contents are accurate, I cannot understand Rose's mother Laura Ingalls Wilder. She depended on Rose to edit her manuscripts with nothing in return for the effort but then openly spoke against her own daughter for using "Laura's material" concerning Almanzo's experiences in the free land movement. Actually, Rose just saw the opportunity to write about in detail the hardships of her ancestors and a lot of pioneer families duped by the promise of free land.
Additionally, Rose seemed to have a knack for picking what appears to be ungrateful and parasitic "friends". For example, the friend mentioned in the book as Troub. In Mansfields, Troub played and traveled the countryside while Rose worked over a typewriter. Rose even schooled Troub on the finer points of writing. When Rose's finances dipped, Troub decided to leave. In the end, Rose came out on the short end, owing Troub money. So Troub took Rose's car and new hat. I think Rose had a generous heart and truly wanted to help, but she seems to be constantly taken advantage of by so many people. No wonder her life did not appear to be a particularly happy one.
Concerning presentation, the author seemed to tease the reader about Rose's role in the Little House books. Rather than state at the beginning of the book -- here is my one big piece of proof: the manuscript comparisons -- he slowly presents his evidence that Rose was a Ghost Writer. Actually the term Ghost Writer or Ghosting belonged to Rose in describing her help on her mother's series. Then near the end of the book, we learn that Laura, perhaps foolishly, donated her original manuscripts to libraries. Now comparisons could be made between Rose's version and Laura's version. Despite the author's stance, I am still unconvinced Rose was a Ghost Writer for the Little House book series. I believe Rose was an excellent editor.
Overall, the book is good for revealing information about Rose Wilder Lane's life.
In the end, I am very glad I read the book because instead of showing how Rose's revisions made her mother's work successful, it made it clear that Rose's most successful independent work was always based in her mother's stories and life history.
I have gone on to read some of Rose's writings and more biographical information. If you are really interested in the background of the "Little House" mystique, this is a must read. Just make sure you read with open eyes, and a critical mind.
Rose's biographer, however, has some mysterious axe to grind against "the mother"--as he sometimes calls Laura Ingalls Wilder. Even if you consider he is basing much of his supposed revelations about Laura on entries in Rose's diary, you can also see that Rose's diary is not an objective document, considering she writes about her petty annoyances at friends as well. Even at face value, when Rose may be declaring herself utterly humiliated by her mother, it really doesn't seem as bad to the reader. For example, Laura offers to turn off her electricity during the depression because she knows Rose doesn't have the money to pay for it. Rose interprets this as martyrdom and manipulation, and gives her mother a check. Laura takes it but says, if you really can't afford it, you must tell me. Weeks later Rose turns off her own electricity. This somehow means Laura is cold and selfish. (I don't think so.)
I am convinced that it is obvious, based on the author's meticulous research and the close dealings between Rose, Laura, and her agents and publishers, that Rose edited the Little House books heavily. But I am just as firmly convinced that the author of this biography set out to find, and prove, that Laura Ingalls Wilder is not worthy of the admiration so many of us feel.
In fact, in the section describing Rose's publication of "Let the Hurrican Roar" -- which lifted much of its content from her mother's memoir titled "Pioneer Girl"-- The author mentions that Rose used her mother's material, but does not mention that Rose did so without permission, and the publication of the book was a surprise to Laura.
In the end, the record of Rose and Laura's business collaboration speaks louder than the biographer's speculation. It is difficult for any writer to subject her work to heavy editing -- all the more so when it is a family member. That mother and daughter managed to collaborate despite bruised feelings on both sides tells me that they both respected each other immensely.
And ultimately, the truly lasting contribution Rose made to literature was as editor of her mother's books. They represent her best work.