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Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder
Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder
Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder
Audiobook21 hours

Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder

Written by Caroline Fraser

Narrated by Christina Moore

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

4/5

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About this audiobook

The first comprehensive historical biography of Laura Ingalls Wilder, the beloved author of the Little House on the Prairie book series

Millions of fans of Little House on the Prairie believe they know Laura Ingalls - the pioneer girl who survived blizzards and near-starvation on the Great Plains, and the woman who wrote the famous autobiographical books. But the true story of her life has never been fully told. Now, drawing on unpublished manuscripts, letters, diaries, and land and financial records, Caroline Fraser - the editor of the Library of America edition of the Little House series - masterfully fills in the gaps in Wilder's biography, setting the record straight regarding charges of ghostwriting that have swirled around the books and uncovering the grown-up story behind the most influential childhood epic of pioneer life.

Set against nearly a century of epochal change, from the Homestead Act and the Indian Wars to the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression, Wilder's dramatic life provides a unique perspective on American history and our national mythology of self-reliance. Offering fresh insight and new discoveries about Wilder's life and times, Prairie Fires is the definitive book about Wilder and her world.

Caroline Fraser is the editor of the Library of America edition of Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House books and the author of Rewilding the World and God's Perfect Child. Her writing has appeared in The New York Review of Books, The New Yorker, The Atlantic, the Los Angeles Times, and the London Review of Books, among other publications. She lives in New Mexico.

LanguageEnglish
Release dateNov 21, 2017
ISBN9781501971044
Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder

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Reviews for Prairie Fires

Rating: 4.065891472868217 out of 5 stars
4/5

258 ratings50 reviews

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  • Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
    5/5
    This is a wonderful read. It is somehow assuring to know the real life, human characteristics of these we admire, that they are just like us in so many ways. Doesn’t make them any less heroes, though.
  • Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
    5/5
    The book is good and quite interesting, but I'm giving 5 stars to the audiobook--the voice actor, Christina Moore, was the perfect choice.
  • Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
    5/5
    A LOT of work went into gathering the information to write this book. It’s amazing how well it all comes together to tell such a long coherent complete story of one person’s life with many others around the edges. Laura is an interesting person and this story keeps your attention from beginning to end. Well done.
  • Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
    4/5
    I just got done rereading Praire Fires by Caroline Fraser which tells a more truthful version of the little house books and mainly concentrates on the lives of Laura and Rose and what happened to the little house books after their death.

    If you are truly interested in the real lives of the Ingalls and wilder family, I wholeheartedly suggest reading this book and a Ghost in the Little house by William Holz. Then deciding for yourself where in the middle the truth may lie. No ont can no the whole truth of their lives unless you actually lived it either them. But of all the books I’ve read before. These two were the most thought provoking.
  • Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
    5/5
    This was an amazing journey, so much more than a timeline life story. Well written and thought provoking on many levels.
  • Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
    5/5
    This is a knock-your-socks-off biography of Laura Ingalls Wilder and Rose Wilder Lane. Fraser not only traces their real lives, she looks at pioneering in general and the Ingalls family in particular through the lens of poverty, ecological disaster, and government propaganda. Illuminating, fascinating, hard to put down -- or at least, the first half of the book is. Then she moves on to the fraught topics of Laura and Rose's relationship, publishing history and politics -- all of which are hard to pin down, hazy about fact/fiction and generally unpleasant. I found this part illuminating, but also disappointing -- in the sense that I am disappointed to learn more about the real people, given how thoroughly I enjoyed their fictional selves. Part of the lesson of the book, I suppose, and shakes up my understanding of American history and government between the world wars. Definitely a book that challenges the romantic ideal of the pioneer and of the self-made farmer in the American West. I think it presents a fair biography of flawed human beings as well.
  • Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
    4/5
    Hosted by Carole, March book. Detail dense, very well written, places LI Wilder in context to family, environment and historical times. We all grew up with Little House books and this was an eye-opener.
  • Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
    5/5
    Fascinating look at Laura Ingalls Wilder's life and work. The information on her earlier life covered by her fiction is relatively thin but Fraser patches in a lot of gaps and clarifies the reality of what's covered in the novels and what Wilder chose to conceal. Small-time farming never worked out for either the Ingalls or Wilder families. All her life, Wilder relied on outside income to make a go of farming.

    The period of her adulthood is much richer territory, especially her relationship with her daughter and editor, Rose Wilder Lane. Fraser rejects (based on drafts and manuscripts) the idea that Lane was effectively a ghostwriter--she polished up her mother's work, and some changes were significant, but the basis of the work was Wilder's. Lane comes off poorly in multiple respects, especially as she got older and became increasingly political--as was sometimes reflected in her edits.
  • Rating: 2 out of 5 stars
    2/5
    Wow. Rose was nuts! I had no idea. The way she's portrayed in this book, she seems bipolar. I can appreciate the authors intent to be factual, but I feel she went too far. I wish the author would have given more details about Almanzo and why Laura never went back to see her folks. This book just wasn't, at all, what I expected it to be. I came away disliking Rose, and I don't think Laura would have liked that.

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  • Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
    4/5
    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.
  • Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
    5/5
    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.
  • Rating: 2 out of 5 stars
    2/5
    She did her research but it was not an enjoyable read.
  • Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
    3/5
    Prairie Fires is a literary biography of both Laura Ingalls Wilder and her daughter Rose who edited most of the Little House books. I loved the Little House books as a child and have found the recent charges of racism against the books to be largely unfair, as I don't think it's right to apply modern standards of behavior and attitudes on people who lived a century ago. Therefore, I was interested to read this book to learn about the reality of Wilder's life that she wrote of in her books.The first half of the book is quite good as it deals with wilder's life, roughly following the order of each of her books. As I suspected her somewhat rosy remembrances of her frontier childhood masked a much harsher reality. As with most homesteaders on the western plains, the Ingalls were lured into homesteading through lies spun by both the US government and the railroads. What they found instead was a hard life of grinding poverty, constant debt, and never enough rain to bring in a decent crop. Time after time, the family had to pull up stakes and move on because their homesteading efforts had been an utter failure. Laura ends up being a teacher to help pay the family debts until Almanzo Wider marries her and takes her off to his own soon to fail agricultural adventure in southwest Missouri. It is not until Laura starts writing her Little House books that the family has any kind of financial security.The second half of the book deals largely with Rose Wilder Lane who edited her mother's books and seems to have been a thoroughly disagreeable woman (She was a fan of Ayn Rand for starters). I found myself skimming madly through the last half of the book.
  • Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
    4/5
    A biography of Laura Ingalls Wilder and her daughter Rose Wilder Lane and a history of America from early mid-nineteenth century to mid-twentieth century, this book gets a better picture of the facts their lives and the reasons for the choices they made in their writing without ever seeming to understand or at least to communicate that understanding, of either woman. Their closeness and difficulties with each other mirror their actual dependence and their valued independence. Ambiguous in attitude toward Wilder, and only grudgingly praising Lane for editorial eye and skill, Fraser makes plain that they deliberately painted a misleading view of the homesteaders' lives, mostly by eliding all the failures, debt, and accepted charity between the volumes, and how Lane made the final portion of her career of trumpeting the myths of her own making. In the epilogue Fraser quotes William Anderson, an amateur Wilder biographer, "Almost everybody has a Wilder story." That is surely true for me, and I am glad to know so much more about how her books came to be.
  • Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
    4/5
    I read this book right after reading through the Little House series, and before reading "Caroline." Probably the right order. The details of the books were fresh in my mind, so Fraser's explanations of the inconsistencies between the historical record and the books made much more sense. This book is clearly the result of extensive research, and I appreciate Fraser's attempts to give the reader as much perspective as possible. She's clearly not a fan of Rose Wilder Lane, and as a result I found myself getting tired of Lane in some sections - I really wanted to learn about Wilder, not Lane.Interesting how little attention is given to the TV series - a couple of pages, perhaps. Which is fine by me - I have seen a couple of episodes but never had any particular interest in it. Plenty of material for MORE than one book here without it!
  • Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
    5/5
    Everything you ever wanted to know about Laura Ingalls Wilder and more in this well researched biography. Wilder was a late bloomer and her "Little House books and celebrity don't come until late in life. Fraser spends a lot of time focusing on the love-hate relationship she has with her "wild child" daughter (also an author) Rose who becomes a radical Libertarian during the New Deal period of American History. What I enjoyed most was her real life family struggles during the Dust Bowl period on the plains states. The book is a must read for Wilder fans but also those interested in American History in general.
  • Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
    4/5
    Caroline Fraser's dual autobiography of Laura Ingalls Wilder and her daughter Rose Wilder Lane is an eye-opener. It is extensive (515 pages of text, plus another 125 pages of footnotes and index) and it is revealing, so revealing in fact, that the most rabid "Little House on the Prairie" fans may find themselves regretting that they read it.Laura Ingalls Wilder was not a particularly happy person, and she only came to writing her family's story (the books are a blending of fact and fiction well edited by Rose), but her daughter was a troubled soul for her entire life. The relationship between the two was a strained one almost from the time that Rose can remember her mother. Wilder turned to commercial writing primarily out of necessity - and heavy encouragement from her daughter to do so. She was desperate, in her sixties, to finally find some financial security after a life of losing one home after the other and being forced to move from state to state always hoping to find a better life. And it worked out beautifully despite the little regard that both Wilder and Lane had for sticking to the facts while representing that everything in the books was true. (Even contemporary booksellers found it difficult to know in which section to place the books, Fiction or Non-Fiction.)Wilder wanted nothing more than to make her father Charles Ingalls appear to be a good provider for his family even though he was not very good at doing that in the real world. Each of her books was written with that one goal always in mind, and with Lane's heavy editing and re-writing, Wilder succeeded in doing just that. But especially after Wilders' death, Lane managed to politicize the books by emphasizing the family's aversion to any kind of government interference in their lives, to taxes, and to government welfare programs. Both Wilder and Lane saw FDR as a mortal enemy and despised his policies. In fact, Lane made a small fortuned writing about her own brand of politics and gained national fame doing so.Rose Wilder Lane, who seems to have had mental breakdowns several times in her life, even managed to lose the royalty rights to the Little House series to a despicable Connecticut politician, killing the wish of Wilder herself that those monies go to a Missouri library upon Lane's death. That may be the saddest legacy of Lane's rather strange life. Yes, this is an eye-opener, but getting behind the scenes to see "how the sausage is made," usually is.
  • Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
    4/5
    A good, thorough biography of the author of the Little House books, sympathetic but not hagiographic. Fraser points out the differences, but also the similarities, between Wilder’s actual experiences and her children’s books. She also goes (less sympathetically) into the life of Rose Wilder Lane, who was apparently something of a free spirit, and whose life and finances, not to mention her literary endeavors, were intertwined with those of her parents for most of their lives. If you’re interested in the subject, I’d recommend this biography.
  • Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
    3/5
    Overlong and over-ambitious, this book attempts several tasks -- a biography of Laura Ingalls Wilder, author of the "Little House on the Prairie" series; a biography of her daughter, Rose Wilder Lane; the difficult and complex relationship between the two; conflicts over authorship of the series; and -- as if that weren't enough -- a social history of the country from the 1870s through WWII and beyond. No wonder it's an exhausting read.
  • Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
    4/5
    I am well into “Prairie Fires” by Caroline Fraser, a biography of Laura Ingalls Wilder who is best known as the author of the Little House children’s books. I have not read these books nor have I seen what I believe to have been a rather saccharine TV series “The Little House on the Prairie.” I have a more general interest in the early settlement of the American West and the complex set of relationships between the government which wanted the west populated but which was largely indifferent to the plight of early settlers who had been encouraged to go and farm in what would now be considered hopelessly unsuitable locations, the railway barons who strongly boosted these desert areas in order to gouge money out of the hapless immigrants (which many of them were) and the pioneers themselves whose optimism in the face of ludicrous odds is a miracle of hope over expectation.Ingalls Wilder lived until 1957 having become famous and comfortably well off, but her early life, part of which was lived in a mud cave dug into a river bank, is an extraordinary tale of transition from extreme poverty and isolation to mid twentieth century affluence.For a working definition of the term “The American Dream” you could do worse than read Caroline Fraser’s book. She also gives substantial and sympathetic consideration to the oft-betrayed and dislocated Native Americans whose traditional lands were routinely confiscated even after the government had signed treaties pledging to keep the settlers away.For the last word on the broken dreams of westward pioneers you need Jonathan Raban’s “Bad Land.” An unqualified masterpiece.
  • Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
    4/5
    Last year when I saw Prairie Fires won the Pulitzer for biography I knew I had to read it. As a kid I loved the Little House books. I vividly remember right before I turned 5 reading the first book on a plane to Chicago. My mom kept trying to get me to look out the window, but I had to finish! Multiple books had to be taped together I read them so often.In reality this book should be called The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder and the Mental Illness of her Daughter Rose because her fraught relationship with her daughter takes up 3/4 of the book. The biographer clearly is disgusted with Rose. It becomes clear early on how much was left out of the Little House books...packing up and leaving KS in the middle of the night since they had knowingly settled in Indian territory where settlers weren’t allowed, living for a few years as waitresses/help in a boarding house next to a brothel, winters in SD when they were close to starvation due to farming land without a water source, and the many boom/bust recessions of the late 1800s where a year of finally getting a good crop meant it sold for less than it cost to grow it. Yet Laura never wanted anyone to know this partly because she was ashamed, and she wanted to prove their living was far better than those in the cities. Even Laura and Almanzo’s farm that they ran for decades in the Ozarks was never enough to keep up with the bills, although Laura never admits that for the many newspaper columns she writes. Besides farming she worked for many years at the local bank approving low-interest government loans for farmers, which she felt saved many farmers who had previously been getting very high-interest loans and often defaulting. Despite this she was always against all taxes, any part of the New Deal including social security and the farm bill. Unfortunately she also was against women voting, but later changed her mind when she ran for city tax assessor (she lost). She didn’t start writing her books until her 50s as a way to make money. Her daughter Rose heavily edited many of her booksRose...I ran out of room so you’ll have to read it. You cant make that girl up!
  • Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
    5/5
    As someone who grew up with Laura Ingalls Wilder, visited Pepin as soon as possible after moving to Wisconsin, and who sewed pioneer dresses for my young daughter, it was a given that I would read this book. It was time to know the "real" story and Caroline Fraser clearly delivers in this impeccably researched and well written biography. It is important to understand the relationship between Laura and her daughter Rose, as unpleasant as it may be. We need to know about hitherto respected names that were actually taking advantage of the estate after Laura's death. This Pulitzer Prize winning book deserves all the accolades it has received. Its depth and detail are extraordinary.
  • Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
    4/5
    Like anyone else who grew up in my generation, I watched and loved the tv series Little House on the Prairie as a kid. In fifth grade we read a section of Laura Ingalls Wilder's book Little House on the Prairie and I was entranced.  I immediately read all the books in the Little House series in sequence (except I skipped Farmer Boy because I had no interest in Almanzo).  The earlier books were my favorites and I read Little House in the Big Woods, Little House on the Prairie, and On the Banks of Plum Creek multiple times. This was an important time in my life as a reader because up to that point I was rather finicky and found it hard to finish books, especially fiction.Of course, I knew that the books were highly fictionalized stories of Wilder's life and the tv show even more greatly removed from reality.  It was interesting to read this biography to learn the true story of Wilder's life. Fraser's research and writing is especially good at establishing Wilder's story in the context of historical events - conflicts with Indians, financial crises and depressions, political movements, and even climate change. The period of Wilder's life covered in her 9 books is just a small portion of her long life and is covered in the first 150 pages of the 500+ page book.  For all her romance of life on the Great Plains and the admiration of the rugged individualism of farming, Laura and Alamanzo Wilder were not able to find stability and success in life until they left the West for the South (specifically the Ozarks of Missouri) and found work off the farm.Laura Ingalls Wilder established herself in Mansfield, MO through her activity in local clubs and working for Farm Loan Asssociation, a federal agency that made small loans to farmers.  Wilder also worked as a writer and editor, eventually creating a popular column in a publication called The Ruralist. Wilder's entry into writing was inspired by a key figure in this biography, Rose Wilder Lane, who lived in various parts of the country working as a journalist (albeit specializing in "fake news") and freelance writer, and eventually writing novels and political treatises.  Fraser is barely able to contain her contempt for Lane, who admittedly is an awful person, but nevertheless its surprising when someone is so bad that a historian can't keep a neutral toneWilder writes the Little House books during the Great Depression and Dust Bowl of the 1930s and early 1940s, with the current events informing her reflections on the past. Since the books were written for children, Wilder naturally sanitized some of the darkest times of her childhood, elided events, and created composite characters.  But she also chose to use the books to hide her family's deep poverty and multiple failures while idolizing her parents as exemplars of independence. This means leaving out parts of their lives when Charles Ingalls skipped out of town to avoid a debt or when the family had a miserable time working at a hotel in Iowa.Lane served as an editor for her mother's writing, and the surviving manuscripts includes notes back and forth, of what to retain and what to cut.  Fraser indicates Wilder fought to retain many of her own ideas and writing against Lane's edits and suggestions and the finished novels have the same style as Wilder's handwritten manuscripts.  Some scholars believe that Lane ghost wrote some or all of the novels, but Fraser use this evidence to attest that Lane mainly did the editing while writing an occasional interpolation. Lane's increasingly radical right wing, libertarian ideology also influenced her mother's political leanings and the underlying messages of the novels.Fraser also examines the cultural effect of the Little House stories, both as a response to the New Deal when the books were published and in the post-Nixonian era of the television.  In both eras, Little House played the role of offering a rose-tinted view of a patriotic past where Americans took initiative and supported themselves through hard work.  Ironically, Wilder created a fictional version of her parents as independent farmers by erasing their poverty, their inability to survive as subsistence farmers, and the times they benefited from help of the government.  In fact, if the government is to be blamed for an of the suffering of the Ingalls, Wilders, and thousands of other pioneer farming families it is when they acted on laissez-faire and libertarian policies that someone like Lane would support. Examples include the US government ignoring their own scientist's research that showed the Dakotas should not be opened to farming because it was too arid, and state governments offering little aid to farmers suffering from plagues of locusts and droughts because they did not wish to create "dependency."This is an excellent work of biography and history.  While offering a look at the exceptional life of a successful and beloved author, it also is a glimpse into the lives and dreams of many Americans in some of the most turbulent times in our nation's history. Amazingly the book contains contrasting ideas of what it means to be American and the best way to govern this country that are still relevant to the current political debate. If you love the Little House books, this is a good way to deepen your understanding of their author and the books' place in our culture.  But even if you have never read or watched any Little House material, this is still a great biography that I'd recommend.Favorite Passages:"The New York Times asked recently, 'Why Do People Who Need Help from the Government Hate It so Much?'  It was no mystery to Wilder.  As she knew too well, people who are poor are ashamed.  It's easier to blame the government than to blame yourself. Wrestling with shame was one of the reasons she wrote her books..." - p. 511
  • Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
    4/5
    This is a detailed, interesting read. This not only a look into Laura Ingalls Wilder’s life, but at historical events during her life and how they related to her life.
  • Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
    4/5
    It was impossible to grow up in the US in the 1970s and not be familiar with Laura Ingalls Wilder. I loved Wilder’s Little House books, and the make-believe they inspired. So when I learned about this Pulitzer Prize-winning biography, I knew I had to read it.The Little House books presented a sanitized version of life on the American Prairie, glossing over a myriad of social, historic, and economic issues. Caroline Fraser sets the record straight, beginning with a land rush in the 1850s, the 1862 Homestead Act which promised 160 acres to each settler, and the resulting impact on Native American communities which led to the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862. Wilder was born in 1867, to parents whose families were settlers during the mid-1800s.Fraser continues telling the story of Wilder’s life by placing events in historical context, and dispelling romantic notions of “pioneer life” evoked by the novels. Poverty, hunger, and poor living conditions were the norm. The land was poorly suited to farming; both government policy and farming methods were contributing factors to the Dust Bowl of the 1930s. I also enjoyed reading about the adult Wilder: the ways she supplemented her family’s farming income, how she became a writer, and the long journey of writing and publishing a series of novels. Wilder’s daughter, Rose Wilder Lane, was a writer in her own right and instrumental in helping her mother get published; she was also a problematic figure who did not engender any of my sympathies. But Wilder’s story cannot be told without Lane’s, and vice versa.Towards the end of this book, Fraser turns her attention to contemporary issues surrounding Wilder’s books. Even during her lifetime (Wilder died in 1957), people were attempting discern fact from fiction in the novels, challenging the Wilder/Lane assertion of absolute truth. And then, as 20th-century American society began to grasp the nature of our treatment of Native American populations, some of the stories took on a new light. In 2018, just a few months after the release of Prairie Fires, the American Library Association removed Wilder’s name from its children’s literature award, stating that “her works reflect dated cultural attitudes toward Indigenous people and people of color that contradict modern acceptance, celebration, and understanding of diverse communities.”The Little House books remain tremendously popular works of children’s literature despite the dissonance with contemporary thought. It’s interesting to learn more about the woman who created this significant body of work.
  • Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
    5/5
    For those readers who think they know Laura Ingalls Wilder from her books and other writings, this comprehensive biography may be a bit of a shocker. Through extensive research, author Caroline Fraser presents a Laura previously unknown. This is not the Laura of the prairie stories; rather it is a girl born into hardship, living from one disaster to another, first as a child whose parents’ hard work on the brink of succeeding only resulted in losing everything time and again, and then as an adult, coping day to day and year to year, and reveling in familial relationships, only to fail in some of the ones dearest to her. Fraser does a masterful job of painting the scenes of the time periods, describing the natural disasters that plagued farmers, including crop failures due to locust and dust storms, as well as the political arena. She goes on the describe in painstaking detail the relationships Laura had with her beloved parents and the problems she endured with her daughter Rose. Spanning a time from pioneers to plane travelers, through periods of great deprivation, and finally, to a recognition of and rewards for Laura Ingalls Wilder’s beloved writings, this chronicle illustrates clearly the worst and the best of Wilder’s life.
  • Rating: 2 out of 5 stars
    2/5
    I can remember reading the Little House on the Prairie books as well as watching the show. I like many other girls probably dreamed of being Laura. Yet, I don't know much about who the real Laura behind the inspiration truly is. Well I can tell you that this book gave me tons of details about Laura. Who she was, where she came from, her childhood, and so much more. Yet, there comes a point when too much information can be a hindrance. This is what happened with me. It got to the point that I was on overload and could not process anymore information. Now, maybe if the information did not see to be repetitive this would have helped. I could not take anymore information; thus, I had enough reading. I could not finish this book.
  • Rating: 1 out of 5 stars
    1/5
    I cannot believe this book won the Pulitzer Prize. It was not very coherent. I only finished part I, The Pioneer and have no desire to read anything more. Biographies do not have to be boring and unreadable. They can be well-written and enjoyable. This book jumped from topic to topic and had so much information that had little to do with Laura Ingalls Wilder.
  • Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
    5/5
    Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder by Caroline Fraser - This is a very good biography of Laura Ingalls Wilder. Other than Donald Zochert's book Laura: The Life of Laura Ingalls Wilder, this is one of the most comprehensive of her life. This book has a lot of history not only of the Ingalls and Wilder families, but of the time periods in which they lived. Meticulously researched, this book is a must for Little House or Wilder fans. Also, side note, it is interesting to read this book about the Laura-Rose Little House collaboration and then read Ghost in the Little House by William Holtz...two very different perspectives on these two women and their collaboration. Read them both! They are both really good books! Thank you LibraryThing for the early reviewers copy of this book! Loved it!
  • Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
    4/5
    Fraser has written a biography of Laura Ingalls Wilder that also explores the American experience and politics of the time. As these things (treatment of Native Americans, land exploitation, politics) all had immense influence on Wilder's life, I thought it added a lot to the book. Wilder's life encompassed an interesting shift in American history - being born when most of the West was unexplored by Americans all the way through FDR's presidency and the huge shift in culture and politics that happened then. Her books, of course, glorify the independent spirit, self-sufficiency, and success of the supposed American spirit, but Fraser does a good job of pointing out the conflict between Wilder's themes and opinions and what actually happened. In reality, the Ingallses benefited from government programs such as land grants and actually were never successful at farming. In fact, the book makes the point that small-scale farming on land never meant to be farmed can never lead to "pull-yourself-up-by-th-bootstraps" success without significant government aid. It's certainly not all doom and gloom, though. Wilder's love for the land she grew up on and her family comes through in this biography, just as it does in her books. I loved reading these books as a child and as an adult I've found it so interesting to explore the fact and fiction behind the stories as well as the route to publishing that led to these books becoming some of America's most beloved. This biography also spends significant time on Rose Wilder Lane, Laura and Almanzo's only child. She has a large personality and was very involved in her mother's publishing being herself a published author first. In fact, she often overshines Laura Ingalls Wilder in this biography. This bothered me a little, but I realize that their relationship is a large part of their lives so in the end I think it worked. I very much enjoyed this biography and would recommend it, but I would also recommend the annotated autobiography of Laura Ingalls Wilder that was recently published. It is called Pioneer Girl and is annotated by Pamela Smith Hill. It is a large coffee-table size book, so not very portable, but I think it told me most of the same info as this biography but by sticking to Wilder's own words, painted a better picture of her as a person.