16 Nov 2011

The joy of Laura Ingalls Wilder

I’m not American. I don’t have (and have never had) long hair in plaits. Or a bonnet. I don’t live in the countryside. But something in me responds to this literature.
I think the Little House on the Prairie is a complete masterpiece and this book is the pinnacle of the series. This is my old copy which I read again and again when I was nine. Now I’m reading a chapter each night to Honey, who is nine. Every evening, as she is tucked up in bed, we dive into the appalling winter suffered by Laura, Mary, Pa and Ma and the rest, which lasted from October to March and during which time they all nearly starved to death. We are with Laura as she twists the hay with bleeding hands in the stable. We are with the family as yet another blizzard hits the house. And Honey and I suffer with Ma as she and her four daughters sit in the dark, cold kitchen, numbed into silence. It’s traumatic! But there is something about Ingalls Wilder’s plain, no-nonsense language and complete authorial control which is comforting and dynamic at once. Just the thing for a bedtime story. It’s the highlight of our evenings this winter!

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