Jonathan's Reviews > The First Four Years

The First Four Years by Laura Ingalls Wilder
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Aug 17, 10

bookshelves: biography
Read in August, 2010

This book, published posthumously, has a very different feel than the others. It is as if (and maybe it is that) Wilder wrote down the biographical notes, then stopped working on the book before fictionalizing the story. The result is a book in a very different style than the previous ones, and with some details (such as Almonzo's age) not agreeing with previously written facts. This book is more biographical than the other books. It should be read as an unfinished work, and there are many things, such as the Biblical tropes ('There was summer and there was winter, the first year") and the entire series only reference to sex (on morning sickness, Laura says, 'May says if you want to dance you have to pay the piper, and I danced and now I have to pay'), that I believe would have been removed from the final book if L.I.W. had finished it herself. (Both quotes are approximate - I don't have the book in front of me.) The story of this book is a good one, in that it shows how difficult it was for Laura and is not as triumphant as the others - it feels more real. And we see, in the end, how Laura makes a story out of her life, connecting farming directly to her experience as a pioneer, settling through time instead of through space, and justifies for herself and her readers the decisions she made. Certainly something is lost that this book was never finished by L.I.W., but as readers we also gain something, a hint at a slightly dirtier reality that the author kept carefully hidden in the other Little House books.
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