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The Diary of Mattie Spenser

4.01  ·  Rating details ·  8,947 Ratings  ·  965 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
Paperback, 229 pages
Published May 15th 1998 by St. Martin's Press (first published June 1st 1997)
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May 24, 2011 rated it liked it
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
Sep 17, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2015
When Luke asked Mattie to be his wife, he needed a yes or no right then and there, as he was leaving Iowa for the Colorado Territory. Not a particularly romantic proposal. First he tells her that her plainness will be an asset in avoiding unwanted advances from the Godless men they will encounter. Then:

" You are a suitable cook and well made for work, and you'll have plenty of that where we're going. You are a strong-minded woman and not given to foolish ways. I'm glad you're not the type to att
Nov 03, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2-star
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
May 29, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
Oct 20, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
Mar 19, 2015 rated it really liked it
4.5 Even though it was heart wrenching I loved most everything about this book. The story, the format used to tell it and Mattie herself. Fantastic writing. I will look at this author again.
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
Jan 02, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Mar 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
Apr 18, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Jun 06, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: high-brow
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
Feb 23, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
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
Jul 02, 2012 rated it liked it
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.
May 31, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
Diane S ☔
Nov 10, 2012 rated it liked it
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
Sep 19, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Jan 25, 2014 rated it really liked it
Ever since discovering Across The Wide And Lonesome Prairie: The Oregon Trail Diary Of Hattie Campbell in third grade (and consequently the Dear America series) I've been a fan of historical fiction written in diary form. This book is right up there with These Is My Words: The Diary of Sarah Agnes Prine, 1881-1901 in quality. (Though I think I enjoyed the latter slightly more.) In any case, I thought this book was well written and the voice seemed appropriate for the time. I found myself engaged ...more
Yvonne swinson
Mar 17, 2009 rated it did not like it
I just cringed reading this book because it repeatedly discussed abortion in a positive light: once when a friend of the main character aborted a baby and the main character felt it was a good thing, once when a friend of the main character actually went into the business and again the main character endorsed it as a necessary part of society, and a third time when the main character herself attempted to abort, failed, and never expressed remorse.

There was also a terribly graphic scene of domest
May 01, 2010 rated it did not like it
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
Leonora Drzymala
Jul 14, 2014 rated it did not like it
I was truly let down by this book. I love historical fiction and I liked the idea of this book written in the form of journal entries. However, these were obviously contrived and nowhere near written as a true pioneer woman would have written them. In the prologue, the author mentions how dear paper was and that Mattie used crosshatching to conserve paper. Yet, Mattie's journal entries were 7-8 pages long!? The flavor of the book is that of a modern day soap opera with the guise of being a prair ...more
Sharon Huether
Mar 09, 2015 rated it really liked it
A story of the life of Mattie Spencer from May 9, 1865 - Jan 12,1869 , as written from her journal before Colorado was a state. She and her husband Luke had traveled from Iowa in a covered wagon, They had rough times..Indian attacks, rattlesnakes in their sod house. Three births; one still born, one hours old and their son three years old from scarlet fever. The best part of the story is when Mattie's great grandaughter gave the journal to her neighbor, who in turn wrote the book, sharing these ...more
Jan 08, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-in-2011
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
Jan 05, 2009 rated it really liked it
.. 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.

Margaret Crampton
This is. Delightful book
Capturing the hardships joys and challenges of pioneering life on the Colorado Prairies in the eighteen hundreds. Mattie captures her life,loves and loss in her beautifully written secret diary hidden in her wedding trunk. It was rescued in modern times and forms the basis of this book. Very much recommended.
Jan 23, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: beach-reads, top-20
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.
Mar 15, 2012 rated it it was ok
TMI is what I wanted to say after reading this. Also - left you hanging - did she really love her did they work things out? Not my favorite but I do have lots of friends how liked it.
Jan 21, 2013 rated it liked it
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.
Erin Rae L'Hommedieu
Jun 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: have
I keep thinking about this book. Frontier life is so interesting to me. It illustrates the power of women, even in a very patriarchal time and society. The hardships they bear, often with a smile, are mind blowing to me. These women are unsung superheroes.
Feb 20, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Jen by: Book club pick-december 2006
This was a really touching account of a pioneer woman. It gave me much more appreciation and insight into what these women went through during that time.
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Bound Together: Author Read - Sandra Dallas - Diary of Mattie Spenser 33 125 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
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“for pleasing to me are meadows and a far view” 5 likes
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