The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder

33911349._UY630_SR1200 630_Lucy Lethbridge at Literary Review:

Laura Ingalls Wilder’s captivating autobiographical novels may have been written for children, but they have become primers for mid-19th-century pioneer American history and the hard-won creation myth of a new nation. Even their titles – Little House in the Big Woods, Little House on the Prairie, By the Shores of Silver Lake – bring with them the wholesome whiff of self-reliance in rural isolation, of the ingenuity of poor people struggling against the mighty vicissitudes of the natural world. Above all, they are about the comfort of the log cabin and of home, the final destination after an arduous journey into the unknown. In the many places associated with Wilder, a tourist industry has flourished: visitors can see a restored log cabin and try spinning or making butter – a frisson of hardship for a generation nostalgic for a world without choices.

Prairie Fires celebrates this aspect of Wilder’s appeal, but it also explores less straightforward aspects of the author’s life, particularly her relationship with her daughter, Rose Wilder Lane, a successful author herself and a leading proponent of Ayn Randian libertarianism. Laura Ingalls Wilder was no more an untutored ‘hedgerow scribe’ than her British counterpart Flora Thompson.

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