Tuesday, February 21, 2012
Book Review of #9 The First Four Years by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Author: Laura Ingalls Wilder
Publisher: Harper Trophy
Part of a Series: Little House Series
Type of book: 1885-1889, farming life, sickness, storms, tragedies, prairie, pioneer
Year it was published: 1971
Laura and Almanzo Wilder begin married life on their small prairie homestead with high hopes. The beautiful prairie world seems like a paradise. There are wildflowers in the spring, wild geese in autumn, pony rides, and warm and happy times together. But each year brings unexpected disasters as well- storms destroy the crops; there is sickness, fire, and always, always, unpaid debts. The first four years often prove heartbreaking for the Wilders. Still, they have each other, and their little daughter Rose, and a fierce determination succeed.
I didn't understand why Laura couldn't set Rose to working on things like Ma did on Laura and other sisters. I also am shocked that for someone who helped take care of Grace and Carrie, Laura confesses that she knows very little of babies! The characters seemed flat somehow and there wasn't much life to them unfortunately. Also, some beloved characters, like the Boasts have changed for the worse, and its difficult to imagine that Laura cares very little for her newborn son who passed away.
If there is a theme, its this one: don't go into farming.
There is a skeleton of a plot, but there aren't tendons or muscles or anything to give it good appearance. I also suspect there's some sort of desperation to finish the book and just get through this as soon as possible. (The four chapters, each standing for a year, always ends with these lines: "It was the twenty-fifth of August. And the winter and the summer were the _ year.") I think I was relieved when it was all over. I recall reading it as a child and finding it incredibly boring and torturing to get through. Odd that this time I didn't suffer through torture trying to read it.
Laura Elizabeth Ingalls Wilder (February 7, 1867 – February 10, 1957) was an American author who wrote the Little House series of books based on her childhood in a pioneer family. Laura's daughter, Rose, inspired Laura to write her books. (from wikipedia)
From the last eight Little House books, despite the hardships, one felt community, spirit and strength, as well as warmth coming from the Ingalls family. This book is literally being doused with cold water and contains none of the warmth and humanity that the first eight books contained. Also, this is one book that should not have been published because Laura ends the eight book series beautifully with Laura realizing that despite her living with Almanzo, she will always have her family by her side and will never be lonely. In this book barely any of the beloved characters make appearances or even cameos. Laura also tells Almanzo, or Manly as she calls him, that she doesn't want to marry a farmer, something that has been suppressed in These Happy Golden Years. There's also a countdown of sorts and unimportant characters. There are also families we never met or were introduced to even. If you will read this book, then don't expect to get warm cozy feelings from it. Also another aspect I didn't like was the treatment of certain of Native Americans in the book. (In first chapter they come in and want to take things from Laura's family, one even wants to take her as a wife, but she refuses and slaps him.)
1 out of 5
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)