HomeGroupsTalkMoreZeitgeist
This site uses cookies to deliver our services, improve performance, for analytics, and (if not signed in) for advertising. By using LibraryThing you acknowledge that you have read and understand our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Your use of the site and services is subject to these policies and terms.
Hide this

Results from Google Books

Click on a thumbnail to go to Google Books.

Loading...

Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder (2017)

by Caroline Fraser

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
7045423,118 (4.08)72
Millions of readers of the 'Little House' books believe they know Laura Ingalls Wilder - the pioneer girl who survived blizzards and near-starvation on the Great Plains as her family chased their American dream. But the true story of her life has never been fully told. Drawing on unpublished manuscripts, letters, diaries and public records, Caroline Fraser masterfully fills in the gaps in Wilder's biography, uncovering the grown-up story behind the best-loved childhood epic of pioneer life. Set against nearly a century of unimaginable change, from the Homestead Act and the Indian Wars to the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression, Wilder's life was full of drama and adversity. Settling on the frontier amid land-rush speculation, her family endured Biblical tribulations of locusts and drought, poverty and want, before she left at the age of eighteen to marry Almanzo. This is where the books end, but there is so much more to tell; deep in debt after a series of personal tragedies, Laura and Almanzo uprooted themselves once again, crisscrossing the country, taking menial jobs to support the family. In middle age, she began writing a farm advice column, prodded by her journalist daughter Rose. And at the age of sixty, fearing the loss of almost everything in the Depression, she turned to children's books, recasting her extraordinarily difficult childhood as a triumphal vision of homesteading - achieving fame and fortune in the process. Laura Ingalls Wilder's life is one of the most astonishing rags-to-riches stories in American letters. Offering fresh insight and new discoveries, Prairie Fires reveals the complex woman who defined the American pioneer character, and whose artful blend of fact and fiction grips us to this day.… (more)
Loading...

Sign up for LibraryThing to find out whether you'll like this book.

No current Talk conversations about this book.

» See also 72 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 55 (next | show all)
A thorough and fascinating biography of Laura Ingalls Wilder (and also of her daughter, Rose Wilder Lane). Lots of justified mythbusting and transparency; if you've only read the Little House books, this will make you think quite differently about them and their author. ( )
  JBD1 | Aug 29, 2020 |
This is an absolutely extraordinary book that sheds light on this famous woman whose girlhood so many people know. It answers the questions of what happened to her after those first four years of marriage and how did she get to be "there" in the first place?

I heard about this book through a BookTV broadcast, and I was especially struck by how Fraser addressed what I had found as questionable when I read the first two in this series last year. In fact, Fraser does not start with Laura: she starts with the four Dakota tribes and their nuances (one was hunting, one was the visionary tribe), and their betrayal by white settlers. There were instances where the lands promised by the government to the Dakota were empty since the tribes were on their annual hunt. And just like Pa, the settlers moved in and took over. The war that broke out, the 1862 US-Dakota War, resulted in more US casualties than other, more famous battles in the West and led to a general feeling of mutual hatred.

A wealth of details leads up to the tales we know, going back to Ma and Pa's ancestors, where they settled and when, drawn from letters, pamphlets, land sales, and eventually Census records. Fraser turns the same research on to Laura's life and does not hold back on shining the truth about the Ingalls family's poverty.

Finally, the adult Laura and her daughter, Rose, are presented as complex human beings fraught with conflict and gifts. Rose was an experienced writer in the field of yellow journalism (extending to biographies of Jack London and Herbert Hoover), and it was she who urged her mother to write. Laura wrote her memories though often the historical aspect is changed or eliminated by both women. ( )
  threadnsong | Jul 12, 2020 |
The Little House books, for all the hardships they describe, are paeans to the pioneer spirit, portraying it as triumphant against all odds. But Wilder’s real life was harder and grittier than that, a story of relentless struggle, rootlessness, and poverty. It was only in her sixties, after losing nearly everything in the Great Depression, that she turned to children’s books, recasting her hardscrabble childhood as a celebratory vision of homesteading—and achieving fame and fortune in the process, in one of the most astonishing rags-to-riches episodes in American letters.

Spanning nearly a century of epochal change, from the Indian Wars to the Dust Bowl, Wilder’s dramatic life provides a unique perspective on American history and our national mythology of self-reliance. With fresh insights and new discoveries, Prairie Fires reveals the complex woman whose classic stories grip us to this day. ( )
  Gmomaj | Jul 8, 2020 |
4.5 stars ( )
  the_lirazel | Apr 6, 2020 |
This book was hailed as “the first comprehensive historical biography of Laura Ingalls Wilder”. Even as a child, I sensed that my beloved Little House books were a bit… well, they were the Disney version of pioneer life. So I was excited to get the ‘real story’ in the form of Caroline Fraser’s book.

Sadly, this ended up being a 2 ½ star book for me. While there was much to appreciate about it, there was so much more that did not live up to its potential. Two pros and three cons stand out to me.

The book’s strength lies in the social, political, economic, and even environmental context that it weaves throughout the story of LIW’s life. It shows how these often dramatic events affected her family, friends, and country, usually in the worst possible way.

Another positive about the book is that it does give a much more truthful version of the Ingalls family history. I won’t elaborate for those who don’t want their illusions shattered, but it’s a much darker and, unfortunately, more believable version.

The good things about this book , though, were overshadowed by how unbalanced the whole thing was. First, major influences in LIW’s life are given almost no attention and substance, especially her mother and sisters. Even her husband, though mentioned fairly often, is merely a vague shadow in the background.

Second, in a book that clocks in at 487 pages of solid reading (minus pictures, index, etc.), only 89 cover LIW’s life before her marriage. 44 pages are dedicated to an introduction and historical background. That leaves a tedious 354 pages to cover LIW’s adult life, career, and the period from her death to the present day.

The third and by far the biggest shortcoming of this book, is that fact that, in the end, it isn’t about Laura Ingalls Wilder at all. It’s about how much the author dislikes Rose Wilder Lane. Around the time Rose comes to adulthood, what starts as a scholarly work becomes a bizarre character assassination. Her bias was astonishing and I began to question how much of the rest of the book was reliable, coming from someone with that much of a blatant agenda.

If you’re a fan with time on your hands, you might give this book a read, but take it all with a shaker full of salt. ( )
1 vote tiasreads | Dec 11, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 55 (next | show all)
Placing the Ingalls family’s homesteading mishaps in a bigger picture of national enterprise is one of many demonstrations of Fraser’s admirable commitment to presenting her research in a broader historical context. But sometimes this causes the literary gears to grind. ... And yet there is far more to admire than to criticize in Fraser’s determination to provide everything needed for a responsible and thorough history of Wilder’s life and legacy.
 
You must log in to edit Common Knowledge data.
For more help see the Common Knowledge help page.
Canonical title
Original title
Alternative titles
Original publication date
People/Characters
Important places
Important events
Related movies
Awards and honors
Epigraph
The prairies burning form some of the most beautiful scenes that are to be witnessed in this country.
--George Catlin
Dedication
In memory of my mother, Ruth Fraser, and my grandmother, Ruth Webb
First words
"Once upon a time...a little girl lived in the Big Woods": the opening of the Little House series has the cadence of a fairy tale.
Introduction: On a spring day in April of 1924, Laura Ingalls Wilder, a fifty-seven-year-old farm wife in the Missouri Ozarks, received a telegram from South Dakota.
Quotations
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
Blurbers
Original language
Canonical DDC/MDS

References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English

None

Millions of readers of the 'Little House' books believe they know Laura Ingalls Wilder - the pioneer girl who survived blizzards and near-starvation on the Great Plains as her family chased their American dream. But the true story of her life has never been fully told. Drawing on unpublished manuscripts, letters, diaries and public records, Caroline Fraser masterfully fills in the gaps in Wilder's biography, uncovering the grown-up story behind the best-loved childhood epic of pioneer life. Set against nearly a century of unimaginable change, from the Homestead Act and the Indian Wars to the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression, Wilder's life was full of drama and adversity. Settling on the frontier amid land-rush speculation, her family endured Biblical tribulations of locusts and drought, poverty and want, before she left at the age of eighteen to marry Almanzo. This is where the books end, but there is so much more to tell; deep in debt after a series of personal tragedies, Laura and Almanzo uprooted themselves once again, crisscrossing the country, taking menial jobs to support the family. In middle age, she began writing a farm advice column, prodded by her journalist daughter Rose. And at the age of sixty, fearing the loss of almost everything in the Depression, she turned to children's books, recasting her extraordinarily difficult childhood as a triumphal vision of homesteading - achieving fame and fortune in the process. Laura Ingalls Wilder's life is one of the most astonishing rags-to-riches stories in American letters. Offering fresh insight and new discoveries, Prairie Fires reveals the complex woman who defined the American pioneer character, and whose artful blend of fact and fiction grips us to this day.

No library descriptions found.

Book description
Haiku summary

LibraryThing Early Reviewers Alum

Caroline Fraser's book Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder was available from LibraryThing Early Reviewers.

Sign up to get a pre-publication copy in exchange for a review.

Quick Links

Popular covers

Rating

Average: (4.08)
0.5
1 1
1.5
2 7
2.5 4
3 12
3.5 9
4 51
4.5 14
5 44

Is this you?

Become a LibraryThing Author.

 

About | Contact | Privacy/Terms | Help/FAQs | Blog | Store | APIs | TinyCat | Legacy Libraries | Early Reviewers | Common Knowledge | 151,441,548 books! | Top bar: Always visible