Monday, March 14, 2016

Book Review: The Selected Letters of Laura Ingalls Wilder

The Selected Letters of Laura Ingalls Wilder
by William Anderson
New York: Harper Collins, 2016

Laura Ingalls Wilder is well-known as the beloved young heroine “Laura” of the Little House books that she wrote. “The Selected Letters of Laura Ingalls Wilder,” compiled and edited by William Anderson, helps complete the portrait of the woman behind the stories. Here we have the adult Laura in her own words as she writes to her daughter Rose, to friends, to editors, and to fans. Letters included span from 1894 (prior to her writing the Little House books) until her death in 1952. 

Over 400 letters are included in this collection. Amazing as it seems, this is only a fraction of her total correspondence. As Anderson states, “Many of her letters are lost to history.” While the letters that survive create quite a picture of the life of the adult Laura, there are huge blanks in the history. For example, there is no record of Laura ever taking care of her mother or her blind sister Mary, no comment on her grief as her parents and sisters died nor when her own son and grandson died in infancy. Laura’s daughter, Rose Wilder Lane, destroyed many of Laura’s letters herself – especially those Laura had written her in the 1940s and 1950s.

These letters will certainly be of interest to any adult who has loved and read the Little House books over and over. Laura’s letters to Rose as they worked on the Little House books together are especially significant. This collection also presents a picture of life in the first half of the twentieth century and is valuable for its social history. Anderson’s comments help provide a framework for the circumstances surrounding the individual letters. 

“The Selected Letters of Laura Ingalls Wilder” is a worthy addition to the materials currently available for studying the life of this famous author. 

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