The Diary of Mattie Spenser
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The Diary of Mattie Spenser

4.0 of 5 stars 4.00  ·  rating details  ·  5,228 ratings  ·  671 reviews
No one is more surprised than Mattie Spenser herself when Luke Spenser, considered the great catch of their small Iowa town, asks her to marry him. Less than a month later, they are off in a covered wagon to build a home on the Colorado frontier. Mattie's only company is a slightly mysterious husband and her private journal, where she records the joys and frustrations not...more
ebook, 240 pages
Published May 15th 1998 by St. Martin's Griffin (first published June 1st 1997)
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Sandi
26 years ago my new husband and I loaded all our possessions in our " wagon" ie the Hertz rental truck and headed to a new land (Florida) to start our married life togerher. This book is about Mattie who heads west to the Colorado territory with her new husband Luke to start her married life. The book tells of the trials and tribulations of traveling to and living out west.It is written as her private diary which is found in present time by her Matties grandaughter's neighbor who is now very old...more
Becky
I know there will be some in my book group that won't care for this. It certainly had some elements in it that disappointed me. However, I enjoyed Mattie's story. There was a lot of foreshadowing in the book and I wanted to keep reading to see if things would turn out the way I thought they might or not. Heartbreaking - it had me in tears at the end and had me pondering - what makes a marriage work? I remember my grandparents talking about marriage - these folks were your salt of the earth farm...more
Cynthia
I didn't want to put this book down or for it to end. Sandra Dallas combined both a wonderful plot in a fascinating time period with the unique character of Maggie Spenser. I usually do not like books in a diary or letter format b/c there is so much skipping around and it feels like the flow is interrupted. And I sometimes feel that I am missing out on some aspect of the novel, such as setting or other character's personalities. This book proved me wrong. The story flowed so well and through Mat...more
Holly (2 Kids and Tired)
This book was one that I had a hard time putting down. It was compelling. Mattie's voice rings true. She is someone you like. The story is set in the pioneer days. Mattie and her husband Luke head to the Colorado frontier to build a home and farm. Mattie records her journey, thoughts and life in a journal. Her story is told through this journal.

So often the journals and stories of pioneer women are softened and the difficult times glossed over in favor of espousing faith and hope. While there i...more
Jayci
I was not excited to read this book....but oh, I am so glad I did! This really was a great love story! Mattie sets out with her new husband to start a life in the Colorado Territory. Frontier life in the 1800's doesn't sound like an appealing read, but I need to remember to give things a chance. I was quickly swept up in the trials and bits of happiness that graced Mattie's life. I should have suspected that Sandra Dallas's story would be hightly entertaining. She always makes for a pleasant rea...more
Diana
Sandra Dallas writes wonderful books about times other than ours and this book was no exception.
The story comes about when a lady's next door neighbor Hazel,age 94, gives her the diary that belonged to her grandmother, Mattie McCauley Spenser, Mattie lived in Iowa, was of marriageable age (22) and was being courted by a man she really didn't want to marry. One day, the "best catch" in the county comes and asks her to marry him. This suprises Mattie as everyone in town always thought Luke would...more
Sherry
As I read The Diary of Mattie Spenser all I could think about is how soft 21st century western women are and not in the good feminine way. No, we are cursed with the blessing of leisure time, time which we spent complaining, feeling entitled, constantly looking with a microscope at petty things in our lives that women of earlier generations (and currently other places in the world) had no time to blubber over. We take for granted that we have the freedom to earn and keep money, to vote, to take...more
Kristen
This book kept me up late reading because I felt I had to know what happened next, and it's diary format made it easy to just keep on keeping on.

Mattie Spenser marries Luke, a Civil War veteran she's known most of her life, but whom she had only courted for a month. She doesn't know him that well, and the four years this diary covers teach her a great deal about marriage, love, hardship, and endurance. They travel west to Colorado and homestead in a sod house. Life, birth, death; all are a part...more
Lisa
This book grabbed me and wouldn't let go!

I love the "frontier" era (1866-ish). As strong a woman I think that I am...I would be such a pansy against Indians, rattlesnakes, dirt, dirt and dirt!! Also...I would NOT be able to "hold my tongue" in order to obey my husband!

This was (obviously) written in diary form. Interestingly, it had all of the trials and tribulations one expects in modern everyday life, and so much more! Death took its toll frequently and unforgivingly! As was in that time. She...more
♪ Kim
The story read very easily and I enjoyed it for the most part, particularly the character of Mattie Spenser. Where the book fell short for me is in the abrupt ending. After building the story to the crisis point in Mattie's marriage, the author leaves it to our imaginations to figure out how it all worked out in the end. In doing that, I think she missed an opportunity to show us exactly how strong Mattie really was. In other words, what was the point of telling the story? I don't need Sandra Da...more
Fran
Jun 24, 2009 Fran rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of historical fiction or women's fiction (NOT chick lit)
Recommended to Fran by: my sister and my daughter
A woman purportedly finds a diary tucked into an elderly neighbor's ancestor's trunk. She decides to decipher and transcribe the diary, and the story she uncovers is a fascinating description of life on the American prairie. Some of the adventures, like the accounts of the wagon train and sad lives and deaths of neighbors, are remarkable. The undercurrent of her life with her husband is a heart-breaking story. If you liked Jim Fergus's amazing "One Thousand White Women", you may like this somewh...more
Nicole
I have this thing for books about pioneer woman, it must have started with Laura Ingalls when I was 8 years old. Anyways, I really loved this story. Although it is fictional I think it rings true of the hardships these amazing woman encountered in their daily lives. I can't imagine enduring indian attacks, rattle snakes, sleeping on dirt and having my babies with no help. Although I was hoping for a different ending to this story I guess I am happy that "Husband" and "Wife" (as Mattie called her...more
Madelyn
.. my first book of the hew year!! :)It was good. A quick read that made me really appreciate my life. Being an early settler of the West, would have been the worst thing ever!Although the book is not a true diary, it is a good example of how we can suffer at the hand of our own decisions, in how much of Matties whole life was defined by a few misconceptions,and hasty choices she made during those few years.

Diane
A surprisingly pleasant yet heart-wrenching story of a young newly married woman starting her life in Colorado in the 1800s. I've always enjoyed stories set during this era, especially in diary format since it adds a bit of realism to it. While I didn't love it as much as "These Is My Words", it was still an entertaining read I found myself losing sleep over from not being able to put it down.
Robin
I zipped right through this book. Mattie and I could totally hang out. If we were homesteading together we would be best friends. This is a book about keeping it together, through thick and thin, mostly thin. Dallas has a friendly approachable writing style and I highly recommend this book.
Devon
Good book, and I liked the history, but there were some aspects of Mattie that I found bothersome. The character is very much a product of her times, but after a while, I really wanted her to stand up for herself.
Nancy
First of all, I love the format of this book as Mattie Spenser tells the story of her life as a pioneer woman in Colorado territory in the mid-1800s by writing in her diary as though conversing with a close friend. One forgets it’s a work of fiction as it feels like you’re reading about a real person. Having kept a journal off and on for most of my life I couldn’t help but enjoy and respect Mattie for using her journal to vent her true feelings in a chauvinistic society where she so frequently h...more
Ashley Hoopes
OK, I was kind of gagging that I had to read this. I mean, haven't I read enough pioneer tales for one life already? How many more sugar coated tales of surviving death by praying could I take?...and then I read this. For what it was, it was great. It was fresh, and realistic, and irreverent, and real, and thought-provoking, and uncomfortable, and funny, and tragic, and maddening, and sweet. I loved the characters. I loved the way that it was written. As one who journals myself, I loved every pa...more
SheLove2Read
Nov 18, 2009 SheLove2Read rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: prairie romance, wagon trains, female stories of empowerment
Shelves: best-of-2009
This is phenomenal book. It is told in a series of journal entries our heroine Mattie makes beginning with her marriage and on into her life.

Mattie is a young woman who considers herself an old maid "on the shelf" when handsome Luke Spenser approaches her with an offer of marriage and a life homesteading on the Colorado frontier. Having never thought Luke showed much interest in her, she is surprised but readily accepts his less than flowery proposal: he finds her a "suitable cook and well made...more
Marleen
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Linda
THE DIARY OF MATTIE SPENSER is unlike any book I have read in quite a while. It is the tale of a twenty-two year old woman right after the Civil War. Lacking good judgement, she marries a man spontaneously before heading off to the Colorado Territory. The story takes place over the first three years of their marriage.

it is a historical romance but with dark sides. Both gritty and exhausting, it is also mesmerizing. She tells of their journey with excerpts from her diary. You need to know that s...more
Keilani Ludlow
Another nice book by Sandra Dallas, but maybe a little more emotionally painful than some of the others. Mattie Spencer is surprised with a marriage proposal from the most eligible bachelor in town. She's the town spinster. She's very naive and thinks he has secretly loved her because why else would he propose? As she marries him and they leave everything they know to pioneer the Colorado territory, she slowly discovers a lot of issues in her husband that make her marriage less than great. Also,...more
Lisa
I never thought I'd read a tale sadder than Hardy's Tess of the d'Urbervilles, but it has been usurped by the Diary of Mattie Spenser. I was eager to get back to it each night, but when I'd put it down for the night and went to bed, I felt like the characters in the bible when their souls had been "racked" and sometimes I felt like I just couldn't go on reading it, it was just too sad with its characters enduring such misery and tragedy in what appeared to me as the forsaken frontier homesteads...more
Judy King
I've read Sandra Dallas before - and I like her books about ordinary people in the most "ordinary" of places, the Midwest.

The second half of the book MORE than made up for the few slow bits of the beginning. First book I've cried over for a long time.

I've often marveled at the strength, courage and old fashioned gumption -- both from the tales within my own family (one great grandmother married, moved from PA to IL and there lost her first five or six children to illness and traveled by train...more
Amanda
While I liked the main character and mostly liked the descriptions and the writing, I found the book really problematic. I know this is supposed to be a 19th century woman's diary, and so maybe the author was trying to reflect how her thinking might have been, but American Indians are almost all portrayed extremely negatively, I mean really negatively (the only good one quickly winds up dead of course, going along with that whole "only good Indian is a dead Indian" mantra). Additionally, the vil...more
Melissa
I have a lot of mixed emotions about this book. The events that led to the ending were unexpected. I'm a little disappointed that the author left off where she did. I really wanted to see how the relationship between Mattie and Luke healed.
I don't dislike Luke like some of the other reviewers. I do strongly admire Mattie and all she had to endure. I think I liked Luke because he obviously cared for Mattie and he was kind to her. I don't think he would of been a good husband if he hadn't loved h...more
Diane S.
3.5 Liked the character of Mattie very much, she was spunky and tough, yet really just wanted someone to love her. Life for these early settler was unbelievably hard, the Indians, the lack of resources, but I think mostly it was all the babies dying and the illnesses that had no cure that would have gotten to me the most. They had so little control over anything. Liked that at the end the reader does find out what happened with Mattie and Luke and that Mattie finally seemed to find happiness of...more
Amy S
A Prairie Home Disaster. This was an example of when the diary format goes wrong. Also, hard to read when "these is my words" did it so beautifully. Main character calls herself "self" all the time which just about drove me nuts. Husband is a big fat jerk. Book plods along until holy adultery!! Wife hates husband the end. Until a little letter at the end is supposed to show us it all wrapped up nicely. Not my thing. In fact I think I will go read "these is my words again" just to feel better.
Heather Wilensky
I expected this book to be just another historical romance novel set in the bleak territory of the plains. It was something else entirely.

Powerful, bleak, emotional it tells the story not only of Mattie Spenser but of several women who are used and abused on the frontier. Virtually imprisoned to their husbands out in the harsh nothingness of the frontier, they are worth less than cattle and are praised only for the comforts they provide.

Once the Spensers reach Colorado, I couldn't put the book...more
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Bound Together: Author Read - Sandra Dallas - Diary of Mattie Spenser 33 105 Jan 20, 2013 03:58PM  
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Award-winning author SANDRA DALLAS was dubbed “a quintessential American voice” by Jane Smiley, in Vogue Magazine. Sandra’s novels with their themes of loyalty, friendship, and human dignity have been translated into a dozen foreign languages and have been optioned for films.

A journalism graduate of the University of Denver, Sandra began her writing career as a reporter with Business Week. A staff...more
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“Marriage has taught me that women are the only ones who apologize.” 3 likes
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