Monday, May 9, 2011

Burning Down the House: The Ghost in the Little House

Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote the world-famous Little House books, chronicling the life of Laura from the Big Woods through the First Four Years.  They mix a charming, energetic girl's family life with fascinating details of pioneer crafts and ingenuity; I still vividly remember Laura's moccasins and pig-bladder toy as well as her wild struggles with a mean teacher in her adolescence.  But I hadn't known that Laura's daughter Rose was also an author until I read Borrowed Names, a poem about the relationship between Laura and Rose.

This led me to The Ghost in the Little House: A Life of Rose Wilder Lane (MISSOURI BIOGRAPHY SERIES) by William Holtz,  a biography devoted to Rose Wilder Lane, from her harsh life on the failed farm from the last Laura book through her journalist years, her novels, her extensive help to her mother's writing, and finally her status as an idol of the libertarian movement, a woman who refused to register for Social Security, who churned her own butter rather than register for rationing during World War II.  Although I enjoyed the frisson of finding that Rose rewrote all of the Laura books except the last, I found her trips abroad more interesting.  She spent time in Europe after the first World War, documenting the work of the Red Cross, and then went back to America to face the deprivations of the depression.  The text tends towards dryness, and I wish Holtz had forced more of a narrative; I often felt he was arguing towards a point but that he kept shifting directions.  I enjoyed this book, but won't search for other books of his.  B-

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