Sunday, February 8, 2015

Book Review: Laura Ingalls Wilder: A Writer's Life by Pamela Smith Hill

As a lover of all things Laura Ingalls Wilder, I scooped up a copy of Laura Ingalls Wilder: A Writer's Life by Pamela Smith Hill not long after it came out. I had a chance to read it on my own before re-reading it to take an online class about Wilder given by the author.

While I did learn a few new things in this biography of my favorite children's author, Laura Ingalls Wilder: A Writer's Life is an academic look at Wilder's life and work, making it a bit dry, like Donald Zochert's Laura. The author does a fine job of showing how Wilder developed her writing and business savvy through the years.

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.

South Dakota is protective of Wilder's legacy considering the Ingalls family finally settled in De Smet, South Dakota and it is where Almanzo and Laura made their home during the early years of their marriage. The area is rich in prairie and Wilder history. 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.

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

I purchased a copy of this book from Amazon. This review contains my honest opinions, which I have not been compensated for in any way.

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