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A Wilder Rose Paperback – September 1, 2013
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Rose Wilder Lane was the daughter of Laura Ingalls Wilder, and an accomplished professional author. Over the years, there has been literary conjecture that she was responsible in large part for the authorship of the Little House series. Albert's book is fictional, but based on Lane's unpublished diaries and letters, and makes a strong case for her active involvement with the Little House books. Albert presents the story of a strong-willed successful woman driven to help her parents develop their nest egg during the Great Depression. Lane labors tirelessly at her own work and editing that of her mother, never accepting credit or money, but growing frustrated at the difficulties and demands over time. Albert does an excellent job of bringing historical figures to life in a credible way; her novel is well paced, its characterizations are strong, and the plot is solidly constructed.. Readers begin to understand Lane's personality and mentality, as well as the things that drive her. Albert immerses readers in a historical period and gets them to understand the political and social conflicts of the time. Fans of Wilder will be intrigued by the book's thesis and its presentation.
From Kirkus Reviews
This pitch-perfect novel reimagines the life of Rose Wilder Lane, co-author of Little House on the Prairie. Albert (Widow’s Tears, 2013, etc.) has discovered an endlessly fascinating protagonist. Rose Wilder Lane, the libertarian and rumored lesbian, was an established, award-winning writer in her own right, but she may be best remembered today as the uncredited co-author of the Little House books written by her mother, Laura Ingalls Wilder. Albert’s well-researched novel draws from the letters and journal entries of both women to offer a fictionalized account of the years spanning 1928-1939. The Great Depression threatened not only Rose’s livelihood as a writer, but also the freewheeling, itinerant lifestyle she so valued. When she and her companion, Helen Boylston, leave their home in Albania and return to the Wilder farmstead in Missouri, the move is meant to be temporary—Mansfield, Mo., has little to offer in the way of culture, after all, and Rose frequently clashes with her headstrong and old-fashioned mother. In the aftershock of the stock market crash, however, both women lose their savings, and Rose loses the financial stability she had enjoyed as a freelance writer before the crash. When a publisher shows interest in printing the stories of Laura’s difficult frontier childhood (but Laura’s untrained writing fails to impress), the mother and daughter enter into an unlikely, often contentious collaboration to produce the now-beloved Little House books. From this strange, very specific historical relationship, Albert has written a nuanced, moving and resonant novel about fraught mother-daughter relationships, family obligation and the ways we both inherit and reject the values of our parents. The book also offers insightful, timely commentary on what it means to be a career writer. With all of the charm of the Little House series—and the benefit of a sophisticated, adult worldview—Albert’s novel is an absolute pleasure. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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For those who don't know, Holz's book puts forward the theory that Rose was really the author of the Little House books, or at the very least a co-author. The book caused a huge uproar among LIW fans, for obvious reasons. I still don't know what I think, and someday I hope to have a chance to examine Laura's original manuscripts, or at least copies of them, to get a feel for what really went on.
But back to A Wilder Rose: first off, as I started reading, I didn't want to stop. As much as it upset me to read a lot of it, it was also fascinating to learn more about Rose. But reading about her relationship with Laura - which was undoubtedly complicated, at best - was incredibly painful for me. Rose was the only child of Laura and Almanzo Wilder to live past infancy, and her parents - moreso her mother - had a very hard time letting go of her. Yet in some ways, Rose and Laura were almost too much alike, only Rose got the freedom and unconventional life that Laura had imagined for herself.
About 2/3 of the way through the book I sort of lost momentum. It seemed to be just repeating the same ideas over and over again: Rose was stuck living at Rocky Ridge, feeling the pressure to look after everyone, even as she took on responsibility for more and more people. She thought that the royalties from Little House in the Big Woods, Farmer Boy, and Little House on the Prairie (LIW's contract was originally for three books) would allow her parents to support themselves without financial dependence on her, but she didn't expect there to be eight books that she would spend months rewriting. The theme of Rose's "prison" became very dragging on the book, and I just wanted to tell her to get over herself! Either help or not, but shut up about it! I probably should have been feeling sympathy, but I just got tired of her excuses for why she couldn't possibly change her situation.
I also wish that it had felt a little less like: "this happened, and then this happened, and then this happened..." Despite the interludes where 53-year-old Rose talks about the past decade of her life with a young writer friend (which I actually found distracting) eventually the litany of depression (granted, it takes place during the Great Depression) becomes almost suffocating. She talks about loving John Turner (one of her informally "adopted" sons) but as a reader, I never really saw WHY she did, and I wasn't really sure I saw the expression of that love, either.
In fact many of the characters in the book seem to be underdeveloped. Outside of Rose and Laura, you rarely get a sense of the other characters. We don't understand what they saw in Rose, or what Rose saw in them. One example is Rose's friend "Troub" (AKA Helen Boylston): the author hints at a romantic relationship between the two, but I wish it had been stated conclusively one way or the other. As it is written, it just felt like the author didn't want to make a decision one way or the other.
However, overall, I'd recommend this book to those interested in Laura and Rose. While I can't say it is historical fact (the reader has to keep in mind that it is a novel, although I wish that she'd taken a cue from Rose herself and allowed herself more literary freedom to shape the story) it is factual enough to be interesting, and to make me want to explore more about Rose.
I received this book as an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.
daughter Rose did on the books. But , when it comes down to it, the stories , experiences, and family tragedies were Laura's. Just because her daughter was better at constructing a story , or better at making it flow, did not mean that she was the author of her mothers books. In my opinion she did no more than an editor would do. And to her credit, she never let her mother think otherwise .Rose and her mother had relationship problems, but most mothers and daughters do, even tho they may love each other dearly,as I believe these two did.
Very good read, very revealing.
It did not paint a great picture of Laura Ingalls Wilder, but maybe that is to be expected because the children's books were written for children. I did not get a good feeling for who Rose really was. I know she was very independent, and I did like her world adventures, and she probably was a really interesting person. I may read a book that Rose wrote sometime.