Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Book Love: Pioneer Girl

Earlier this year I reread the Little House series for the first time in more than 20 years.  I remember enjoying them as a kid and had heard them mentioned often on books blogs I follow and figured it was about time for a reread.

They were mostly enjoyable but they left me wondering about the "real" Laura and how the Ingalls story differed from what was in the books.  That sent me down a Wikipedia and Google rabbit hole, looking at their homes you can still visit and possessions the various museums own.  Even though I know Laura was a real person and the stories are based on fact, it still blows my mind a little that you can see and visit actual places and see some of the things mentioned in the story.

Wanting to know more of the story, I embarked on reading this book.  It is the original manuscript that Laura first wrote about her family's story, with frequent notes and asides to her daughter, Rose.  Rose would help her flesh out the books into the novels and decide what to change, cut, rearrange.  It is about 400 pages long and larger in size than a normal book. 

Laura's original story would be maybe 200 pages, maybe.  What makes up the other 200 in the book?  Approximately 900 footnotes.  Want to know how real every single person mentioned in the series was?  Want to know their "real" names, where they lived, who they married, and when and where they died?  This book has that.  It has pictures of various locations and asides about how the versions of the manuscript differed, stories Laura included in one and took out of another.  Where the author Laura messed up some timelines and her ages based on old newspaper articles and public records.

To say it is incredibly researched is an understatement.  Many people had to have put in a lot of time to write this book.

I learned that Laura had 2 sets of "double cousins", siblings of her Pa who married siblings of her Ma.  I learned about her baby brother who was born and died in the 2 year "missing" span between On the Banks of Plum Creek and On the Shores of Silver Lake.  I learned about how the fictional Ingalls' moves differed from the real Ingalls (i.e. they lived on the prarie in Indian land before the stories of Little House in the Big Woods).

I would like to see a timeline of her real life vs. her fictional life, where they matched up and where they differed.  But not enough to create one myself by rereading this book and the whole series.

This took a bit of work to get through and took me longer to read than most books (sooo...5 days).  BUT I am glad I took the time.  It was fascinating and interesting and gave me a better understanding and appreciation for the Little House series.  Am I wanting to visit DeSmet, South Dakota now?  You bet.

I'd highly recommend this for anyone who read and loved the Little House books, either as an child or an adult.  As long as you have some time on your hands.  You'll finish with an appreciation for Laura Ingalls Wilder as a person, author, and frontier woman.  It was well worth the time.

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