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Laura Ingalls Wilder: A Writer's Life (South Dakota Biography Series) Paperback – September 1, 2007
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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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All biographies of Wilder discuss the writing and editing relationship between Wilder and her daughter. There are varying degrees of detail about it. What I liked about this particular biography was its focus on how a writer crafts a novel. Smith Hill breaks down paragraph after paragraph of Wilder prose, she discusses dialog, characterization, decisions that were made to include or omit various events from Ingalls family life. She compares sections written by Wilder, unedited, to the Rose Wilder Lane edited versions. You'd think a book of this type would be boring -- too much information -- but the way Smith Hill has written about this process and how these classic books emerged from that -- is utterly fascinating. I highly recommend this biography to anyone who is thinking about writing historical fiction. There is a wealth of information here for any beginning writer.
As for my initial question -- whose writing are we reading in the Little House series, is it Laura's or Rose's? -- my question has been answered. But certainly the Little House series would never have been written, crafted into a classic work, or published, without Rose Wilder Lane's sustained efforts and editing gifts. This was a peculiarly intense mother-daughter collaboration with many twists and turns. Smith Hill writes compellingly about that as well. At times I think she is a bit too hard on Rose, but for the most part, she gives credit where credit is due and sticks to a fairly balanced portrayal of her.
Between this biography and Pamela Smith Hill's annotated version of Pioneer Girl, a reader can get a very complete picture of Laura Ingalls Wilder, the writer and human being. This is a terrific biography and a must-read for any Little House fan.
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.
The book begins by giving a realistic account of the Ingalls' journey, and compares that to the accounts told in her books. I was one of those readers who, years ago, thought every detail in Wilder's books was true. Now I see that was an unrealistic view. But the real story of Wilder, her family, and her fighting spirit is even more interesting. And now I see that Wilder's goal was to portray a positive view of pioneer family life for the younger crowd That she certainly did accomplish. Very worthwhile!
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Wilder fan my whole life. This book gave me a better understanding of her life and her books.