Tuesday, February 13, 2018

A couple of new reviews

I have been listening to audio books as I have many hours alone during the day. here are a couple of recent reviews. 


I just finished the entire series. Great writing, intelligent characters, well-built plots. I felt like I really liked the author. I learned a lot about the Jewish faith and appreciated his anti-hero, intelligent protagonist, immensely.
My husband lived as a little boy in the town Barnard's Crossing is mirrored after, and I feel like like I learned so much about life in New England.
The author's personal opinion about what was beginning to happen in the academic world is even more relevant today. In fact, in my opinion, the books are simply disguised as murder mysteries. They are really a personal account of what the author thought of life in his slice of time and place, with the addition of what I see as a college credit or two in Judaic studies.
I also enjoyed the respect shown to Christians, and especially Catholics, throughout the books. I recommend the series.

I live in SD and it's fascinating to see how so many here have little sense of how widely known Laura Ingalls' books are! I loved them as a child in South America, and I believe they will be around for a long long while! The books offer a rare combination of a mesmerizing story, a historical setting of a fascinating time and place, and extremely talented, poetic writing. But even these factors together, I think, may have missed the mark and not become as beloved as Laura's books became, if it weren't for the fact that Laura tells the story of a real girl, imperfect and yet yearning for virtue: integrity, justice, honesty, gratitude, faith. A real girl who strives constantly to improve herself, acknowledging her faults and learning from them. Great books are made of such characters: think Dostoevsky, Alcott, Austen! It it my profound conviction that Laura' books speak to the human spirit: it is her main character striving always for virtue, for Love and Charity--universal values and longings of the human heart in any age, in any space--that top off the happy combination of factors making the Little House books extraordinary in every sense.
About this book:
I was looking for a comprehensive and updated biography of Laura. I wanted to know details of her personal life, and the book satisfied me in that end. Her daughter was awful and I could have used way less information on her. Another reviewer asks how Laura could "raise someone like Nellie?" and my answer is: it is possible. I have seen it. We are all are, in the end, who we decide to be. Rose was a major pain and I am sure a source of profound grief for Laura. I identify immensely with Laura, and have always done. Laura created in her work a character who was not perfect, but strove continually towards good things: integrity, honesty, cheerfulness, gratitude. These attributes can make a person a great soul. And that she was, through the end of her life--the book shows me that through all of her lengthy correspondence quotations and more. So although in literary terms one can say the Laura in the book is a fictional character based on a real person, what I find is that the character and the real Laura are one. I always thought that--had she created a character who didn't mirror herself, she would have talked about it later in life. Laura was a an admirable woman who embodied the virtues she lauded in her work.
(Albeit the erroneous pronunciation of Pierre, capital of SD, the audible narrator was very good.)
Took one star off because of two problems: too much Rose and her politics, and too little on Garth Williams' illustrations. Those deserved much longer treatment, I think, as they embody so much of our common Laura Ingalls imagination! Much more than the awful daughter's comings and goings and empty life. I could have used several chapters on that creative process and what others have written about them!
Other reviewers mentioned that the author of Prairie Fires doesn't seem to admire Laura as a person... I think she tried to just tell the facts and certainly substantiated them. I have admired Laura my whole life, and this book only reinforced it.
Interesting that Laura's books are perennial presence in literature, while her daughter Rose's books, on the other hand, are forgotten and ignored, steamy romances or personal political opinions. Rose is quoted saying, "I wonder what conscience is... and why I don't have it." Bleh. We all have a conscience, but anyone can do a very good job at justifying one's errors and pettiness, and ignoring it. The difference between Laura and her daughter was virtue. Goodness, kindness, justice, integrity. All of the true values Laura stood for and promoted all her life. Her books are classics, transcending time and space, because these things speak to the human heart.

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