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Laura Ingalls Wilder: A Writer's Life (South Dakota Biography Series) Paperback – September 1, 2007

4.3 out of 5 stars 121 customer reviews

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  • Laura Ingalls Wilder: A Writer's Life (South Dakota Biography Series)
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Editorial Reviews

Review

A fascinating and remarkable book that deserves a place on the shelf of every Laura fan. --The Homesteader

Pamela Smith Hill has [created] a work of considerable scholarship and insight. . . . She has dealt along the way with numerous issues raised by critics and by the general readership, together with other matters that few have previously thought to discuss. In all of this, her extensive research, her careful scholarship and her measured style, combined with her obvious enthusiasm for her subject, have produced a work which we believe adds in substantial measure to the critical literature involving Wilder and Lane. --The Little House Heritage Trust

I vote for Pamela Smith Hill s book. I ve read all of the Bio s about Laura and felt that this one was one of the best. It gave a very clear portrait of the relationship Laura and Rose had while writing the books. It pointed out very clearly that even if Rose had some participation with editing/story development, the stories were Laura s. Smith points out that Rose s experience with writing fiction was limited, that she wrote for magazines and was not generally considered a fiction writer. Only short stories. --Lori Berg, Beyond Little House

About the Author

Pamela Smith Hill is the editor of Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography (2014) and three historical novels for young adults Ghost Horses, The Last Grail Keeper, and Voice from the Border. She has taught creative and professional writing at universities in Oregon, Washington, and Colorado, as well as a course on Laura Ingalls Wilder through Missouri State University. She grew up forty miles from Rocky Ridge Farm, launched her writing career not far from De Smet, and now lives and works in Portland, Oregon.
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Product Details

  • Series: South Dakota Biography
  • Paperback: 254 pages
  • Publisher: South Dakota State Historical Society (September 1, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 097779556X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0977795567
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 4.8 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (121 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #490,385 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
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 both 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.
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I read this book out loud to my husband as we are both Laura lovers, and we were both fascinated. It was nice to learn the facts about how biographical the little house series is and isn't after years of hearing that it was her true story and then all the complaints that it wasn't.

After reading this book, I feel that I know and understand Laura much better. It turned her from a literary character into a real woman who lived the life of a farm wife. Such facts, like the true story of the long winter, were amazing. I only felt that it sort of left Almanzo out of the picture most of the time while concentrating on Laura and Rose. In my mind, you just can't have Laura without Almanzo, and I would have liked to hear more about him.

Over the years I've read everything I could get my hands on about Laura. I have also visited all the sites in her books as well as Mansfield, MO a number of times. I thought I knew all there was to know, but this book proved me wrong.
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Format: Paperback
This is, I think, the fifth Laura Ingalls Wilder biography I've read, and I'm still not totally satisfied that everything that could be written about her has been written.

A WRITER'S LIFE is by no means a bad biography - but... I did feel that the author was somewhat harsh in her judgments about Rose Wilder Lane, and about the quality of Rose Wilder Lane's writing. This biography of Laura reveals that RWL was a deeply conflicted woman (conflicted in her feelings about her parents, and about her childhood)-and what did Laura's (and Almanzo's) parenting methods have to do with that? It's an interesting question that is, obviously, not to be fully explored in a biography of Laura - but it bothered me that the author was uniformly tough on RWL's writings in the interests of praising Laura's writing to the hilt (although she does give RWL kudos for her fine editorial work on the Little House series). Her view of RWL, both as a person and as a writer, lacked objectivity, I thought.

But it must be said this biography is very fine in its research and its discussion of Laura's growth as a writer, and exploring the creation of the Little House books.

What it lacks, for me, is what all biographies of Laura seem to lack - the "real" Laura. I don't want, really, to read again how she used her childhood experiences in the Little House series, what she left out and what she changed. I don't want to read any more about her dealings with publishers, her fans, and her adorable little-old-lady behavior at library and literary functions. I don't want to hear her praised (although as a writer she is worthy of it, I'm just tired of biographers who ladle it on).
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This was an enjoyable, non-fiction read that Laura Ingalls Wilder fans will appreciate. The excerpts from letters, newspapers, and many references paint an interesting picture of the journey to create the Little House series. It was a unique perspective to focus on Wilder's life as an author, not her day-to-day life which is well documented in other books. I also liked that it included information about Wilder's daughter and her impact on Wilder's writing.

I stumbled over the author's writing style at times. The comparisons between Wilder's actual childhood and her stories sometimes read like a high school essay. And it'd be a richer read with a little more research on details from outside Wilder's immediate world, such as the market for authors at that time, who was successful, what were other popular books, etc. Last, I also thought the author worked in her own conclusions about Laura and Rose's relationship that weren't actually documented.

Critism aside, I really enjoyed reading this and learning more about Wilder's experience as an author. It is a very nice addition to biographies about Wilder for adults.
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