THE EPIC LITTLE HOUSE REREAD OF 2012 IS OFFICIALLY OVER!!!
Quickie quickie synopses on the last three books:
These Happy Golden Years
Laura’s a grown up teacher lady! Almanzo is her suitor! There are sleigh rides a’plenty with her dashing beau! They get married!
I remember being really into the romance of this book when I read it the first time in fifth grade. I hate to say it, but that doesn’t hold up so much now. The romance boils down to fairly awkward conversations, a mutual respect and a kiss or two. When Almanzo tries to put his arm around Laura in the buggy…nope. Not happening, buddy. So, not as passionate as I remembered, but probably much more realistic.
Oh, and my new favorite saying is “too too”, which Nellie Oleson introduced me to in this book. “Oh, that little lake is just too too! Oh, that darling hat is just too too!” Love it. I’m going to bring 1880′s slang back. Just you wait.
The First Four Years
This novel was composed from Laura Ingalls Wilder’s notes and publish posthumously…and oh, is it obvious. This book isn’t nearly as polished as all the other novels in the series. It feels very rushed, with little description going to some major, horrible life events.
Oh. And there are horrible life events. Let’s recap. In the first four years of Laura and Almanzo’s marriage, they both get horribly, deathly ill, leaving Almanzo partially paralyzed for life; they have a son who dies within a week or two of birth; former friends and neighbors offer to BUY their daughter from them; their crops are killed CONSTANTLY by heat or wind or hail or whatever; and, finally, their adorable little house burns to the ground. That’s how the book ends. GOOD LORD.
I’m glad I left this novel about Almanzo’s childhood in Upstate New York for the end, because I definitely needed a palate cleanser after The First Four Years. Compared to Laura’s hardscrabble childhood, Almanzo lived a dream! There was so. much. food. ALL THE TIME. I don’t even know how much pie Almanzo put away during the course of the story. Or doughnuts. Or homemade ice cream. Or his favorite, apples and onions. It’s ridiculous.
The Wilder children are a bit more imperfect than the Ingalls girls. One of the best chapters in the novel is when they are left on their own for a week. They take the house by storm, not doing their chores and eating an entire barrel of sugar. Sounds like a blast (if not exactly responsible)! Remember what the Ingalls girls did when they were left on their own for a week? They did the spring cleaning for Ma. Aw. Sweet. But nearly as fun to read about!
Oh, and I love that there is an aside that a teacher had been killed the year before by rampaging students…and no one seems to care at all. What.
Overall Feelings about the Little House series
So, what do I think about these books after re-reading them all as a 26 year old?
They hold up. They do. They are classics for a reason. The Little House books are always going to be a reminder of a time that was, in amazingly painstaking detail (I’m still reeling from not one, but TWO descriptions of exactly how headcheese was made).
As an older reader, I’m less enthralled by the characters than I used to be. I find them much more wooden and moralistic than I did as a kid. Now, though, I’m amazed and impressed at how little everyone needed to get by. The scenes of simple, and yet still magical Christmases were always my favorite parts of the books upon re-read. Everyone got their one present, their very important Christmas candy (except for that one year when Pa got stuck in a blizzard and had to eat it to survive!!! YIKES!), and it felt just right.
Also, I’m amazed at how fricking dangerous everything was! I seemed to just gloss over that when I was a child, but now I’m constantly shocked at the trouble the Ingalls find themselves in. If it’s not a cloud of locusts, it’s getting lost in the big slough, or going blind, or freezing to death, or the house burning down in a prairie fire, etc etc etc. Was this just how things were for the pioneers, or were the Ingalls particularly bumbling or unlucky?
All in all, this was an enjoyable and nostalgic trip. I can’t wait to read these again someday to my kids in order to see them through another, fresh set of eyes.