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Laura: The Life of Laura Ingalls Wilder (1976)

by Donald Zochert

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689626,838 (3.84)12
A biography of the author of "Little House on the Prairie," "The Little House in the Big Woods," "The Long Winter," and other popular books.

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I enjoyed learning more about Laura, and getting some details on the years and places missing from her books, but the writing wasn't very good. Also, for every piece of information he provided he left out more, especially details, and there was a lot of attributing feelings to characters without any acknowledgement whether there's evidence they actually felt that way, or he's imagining how they might have felt, and that really annoyed me. And given all the speculating on emotions, there was precious little speculation on facts, such as why baby boy Ingalls died. ( )
  emrsalgado | Jul 23, 2021 |
I loved this book so much. I was such a Little House fan back when I was in grade school and junior high. I was a bit bummed when Dad used it to prop the TV set up on one side since I think a piece broke off from underneath the right side. (Remember the old days before flat screens?) It dented the book cover. My best friend also read the book but wasn't as enamored of Laura Ingalls as I was. ( )
  Chica3000 | Dec 11, 2020 |
Zochert's [b:Laura: The Life of Laura Ingalls Wilder|8221|Laura The Life of Laura Ingalls Wilder|Donald Zochert|http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1308953256s/8221.jpg|11174] was published in the days of auld lang syne by my generation's standards--1976--but it was one of the earliest biographies about Laura and thus remains a starting source for any hardcore Little House fan. Although I mostly enjoyed Zochert's biography, it had some vexing weaknesses: most notably, its emphasis on description rather than facts and its romanticization of Laura's youth.

Early on, Zochert says he hopes to write this biography like Laura wrote about her life. As a result, the book reads like a rushed and substandard amalgam of Laura's actual Little House series. Most readers of this book will already know Laura's story; they want to know what she left unwritten. Although Zochert provides information about Laura's various neighbors, I felt his emphasis on these characters removed the focus from Laura herself. I finished the book without learning much new about Laura (but maybe this is less of a fault on Zochert's part and more so a testament to Laura's storytelling ability--I felt that I knew her well enough after completing the series).

While I would have appreciated Zochert to adopt a "just the facts ma'am" strategy, I feel that he provided small but sharp insights into Laura's character and captured the ideals Laura found most important. In particular, his exploration of Laura and Almanzo's courtship was well-done. I discovered many new facts here; for example, did you know Laura called Almanzo 'Manly' after mishearing 'Mannie,' his brother Royal's nickname for him? Or the story about how the couple turned off the clock before 11pm to sneak an extra hour together and then restarted it when Almanzo left at midnight? Most interestingly, did you know that Laura made Reverend Brown promise not to make Laura vow to obey her husband? A year ago it made a huge stir when Kate Middleton was the first British princess not to say that vow, so this detail demonstrates how much of a feminist Laura was and simply deepens my love for her and her stories. Zochert also has a knack for pulling the most Laura-y quotes from her unpublished memoir. About Almanzo's proposal Laura wrote: "he kissed me goodnight and I went into the house not quite sure if I were engaged to Manly or to the starlight and the prairie."

The true strength of [b:Laura: The Life of Laura Ingalls Wilder|8221|Laura The Life of Laura Ingalls Wilder|Donald Zochert|http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1308953256s/8221.jpg|11174] is Zochert's keen understanding of what the stories reported in the Little House books meant to Laura. Appreciating the small joys of everyday, realizing how times are always changing, understanding the beauty of memory and childhood--these are the everlasting messages of Laura's Little House series which she applied to every single day of her life. In this biography, Zochert does not take a factual approach to discovering who Laura, our pioneer girl, truly was; instead, he presents the essence of Laura.
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1 vote IAmChrysanthemum | Jun 8, 2013 |
As an avid reader of the Little House books from childhood, it was only natural that I would want to read a little bit more about the author, to fill in the blanks of the life that she told through her stories. Despite her daughter's claims that the stories told in the series are factual. While there's no doubt that the books are based partially on actual events, there is a lot of omission and a lot of the stories are combined or changed in some ways to make for more interesting and easy-reading stories. This biography fills in quite a few of the blank spots and corrects the facts where correct information is available. The book reads in a similar style to the one that Wilder employed in her own stories which makes it feel like it's really a part of the series. This is a wonderful book for anyone who is interested in the true story behind the wonderful Little House books.

Possibly the worst part of the book is its cover. The cover seems to be a combination of an attempted TV-series tie-in and a romance novel. That being the worst part of the book I feel I can recommend this book for anyone interested in a more complete view of Laura Ingalls Wilder's life. ( )
  rainbowdarling | May 16, 2009 |
As a life-long devotee of the Wilder books, I loved this book. It filled in the blank spaces, unraveled the fictionalized parts of Laura's tales, and gave us a look at the reality of "happily ever after." Laura and Almanzo did live long and happily together, and this book gives us a map to that long journey.

My only quibble is about the cover art. The figures on the cover look like a cross between tv actors and romance novel characters. Look at the many photographs in the book and you'll see what I mean. ( )
2 vote MerryMary | Jun 2, 2008 |
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For two generations of readers, now nearly three, Laura Ingalls Wilder has been justifiably beloved for the grace, the charm, the courage, and the strength of love and affection that shine through her Little House Books.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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A biography of the author of "Little House on the Prairie," "The Little House in the Big Woods," "The Long Winter," and other popular books.

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