Tuesday, 28 May 2013

LITTLE HOUSE IN THE BIG WOODS – Laura Ingalls Wilder, 1932

This is the first of the ‘Little House’ books. However, only three books in the series use the word
‘Little’ and only two use ‘House’ but maybe it was the popular TV series which was responsible for the moniker
This is the first novel to recount the (slightly fictionalised) memories of Laura Ingalls Wilder.
It tells of her early life as a small child in Pepin, Wisconsin. It is more reliant on the exposition  of a weekly routine  than the later books which have a fuller, more expansive narrative, perhaps because she was so young when the events occurred and because she is setting the scene for the hard self- sufficient life which the family must follow for the next fifteen years or more.
We learn about how each season is structured in order to make the best use of what the natural world can provide. Money rarely changes hands. The Ingalls survive on the spoils of their environment and by barter.
We get an idea from the first of the close bond between Laura and her Pa, Charles Ingalls. He is a strict disciplinarian but a loving father. The rivalry between Laura and her sister Mary is also hinted at; a theme which will be developed further in the later volumes and exploded when they are adolescents.
The setting is insular which is in complete contrast with the subsequent pioneering stage of Laura’s actual and personal journey.
This book would not stand well alone and, personally, I’m too squeamish to appreciate the chapters on how to make a year’s meals out of one hog. But as the introductory section to a full account of a young girl’s journey from childhood to motherhood it is important.

I have a paperback copy which is older than I am and which I read at least every two years, along with the other books in the series.

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