wJul 18, 2009

Little House: The Rose Years

My relationship with Roger Lea MacBride's Rose books is almost as old as my relationship with Laura's books about herself. They started coming out in the early 90's, and out of all of the books about Laura's family written for children, I would probably give these the most credit for being accurate.

Roger Lea MacBride actually knew Laura's daughter Rose Wilder Lane quite well. He was her "adopted grandson," and he heard all kinds of stories about her life straight from her mouth. She also apparently groomed him into be a Libertarian candidate for president. The author Roger MacBride has his own Wikipedia page.

Of course, Rose does, too. If you're interested in Laura Ingalls Wilder and have never read about the doings of her daughter Rose, the Wikipedia page is pretty comprehensive.

Of course, when I did my previous write-up of the little books by William T. Anderson, I forgot to mention that I own a fourth one called Laura's Rose. While reading it, I was delighted to learn that so much of MacBride's description of Rose's childhood in his fictionalized books were actually accurate, down to the name of her stubborn donkey, Spookendyke. Additionally, it's my goal to read some of the books written by Rose, and to see if I can't find some of the newspaper articles she wrote. As an old lady, she even covered the War in Viet Nam in the field!

Rose had a 10,000-volume library! Somebody has owned more books than me!

As I've since figured out, a lot of these books borrow on other source material. The first book, Little House on Rocky Ridge, takes nearly all of Laura's observations from On the Way Home and fictionalizes them to be from Rose's point of view.

Throughout the books, Rose grows up in Missouri, where she's a little bit haughty, because she likes to read and regularly quits school because she thinks her teachers are stupid (I wanted to do that so many times in my school career!). She has different kinds of friends to show different aspects of Missouri: a rich girl named Blanche who lives in town, a Catholic girl whose family speaks French, a boy who originally steals eggs from her family's farm and ends up showing her about all the rural traditions and tall tales.

Roger Lea MacBride died before finishing writing these books, so his notes were used to fill in the last three or four.

On the Banks of the Bayou details the year Rose spent living with her aunt, Eliza Jane Wilder, in Louisiana. Despite having promised herself to her childhood friend Paul Cooley (whose family journeyed with Rose's from De Smet, South Dakota), Rose has no problems going out with another dude throughout this novel - he takes her riding and out for food, and apparently this is okay with Rose, although she must know something's not cool with it, as she never mentions it to Paul or her parents.

Bachelor Girl is the last book in the series. I later discovered that this book was lifted entirely from a book that Rose had already written....I'm not sure why they didn't re-publish that instead, because it was much better written.

As Rose grows up, she develops an increasing disgust for farm life, quite unlike her parents. She wants to be by more educated people, and desires a fast-paced life. Still, considering her disastrous marriage with Gillette Lane, it's pretty creepy for Bachelor Girl to end with Rose gushing about how much she likes him and how great her life will be. MERP-MERRRR.

These books, especially in the later volumes, become increasingly preachy. And they do include passages with overtones of "white people conquering the untamed lands of the west" that never appeared so outright in Laura's Little House books.

For example, from the end of the last book:

She was happy to be going somewhere new, and she couldn't help thinking that she was following a family tradition. How often she had heard Mama and Papa and Eliza Jane talk about the settling of Dakota Territory when they were all young.

Man's thirst for fertile land was eternal, Rose thought. It was in the blood, and especially in the blood of her family. They had settled the prairie all those years before, seeking a dream of self-reliance and prosperity. Now it was Rose's turn.

I couldn't believe the way Rose lived her life in Bachelor Girl, and found her relationship with Gillette Lane (who became her husband after this book ends) pretty much awful - he sounded like a swindling jack-ass to me. When I read the book that Rose herself wrote, that Bachelor Girl is based on, I found it much-better written, but still despised him throughout. But I'll write more extensively about that when I write about Rose's book!

If you're interested in the titles of these books, there are 8 of them, and they are listed here. I liked the early ones well enough as a kid, but they don't hold up as well to re-reading as the original Little House books.

I think probably my favorite part in the entire series takes place in New Dawn on Rocky Ridge. Most of the book details Rose acting like a spoiled brat. The narrative is literally interrupted when Rose's mother, Laura, receives a letter telling her that her Pa is dying, and to come home quickly to De Smet. I think that one of the things I find most sad about Laura's life is that she only saw her entire family once more after moving to Missouri with Almanzo. She clearly loved her family very much, so I found it pretty depressing.

The story about Laura taking the train home to visit her dying Pa takes up two entire chapters, and is told from Laura's perspective. She even reflects on Rose's actions that had happened just previously in the book. She describes the weeks spent in De Smet, and I think perhaps I took a liking to it just because it was refreshing to read about familiar characters (Mary, Carrie) after most of the book (New Dawn on Rocky Ridge) had been spent describing Rose acting like a brat with a spoiled town girl.

I keep finding these Laura/Rose-related books. I have already read three more that I have not yet blogged about, but I'll do my best to not write about all of them in the same week.

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scribbled mystickeeper at 10:07 AM

Diverging Roads was actually republished decades ago by Roger Lea MacBride, just changing the names. It is called Rose Wilder Lane: Her Story and is still available at many libraries and used book stores.

However, Diverging Roads is fiction. It surely has some basis in reality, but the book was never intended to be an autobiography and shouldn't be taken as factual. The Rose series does have some measure of accuracy to it, more so than the other spinoff series as you mention, but still contain a LOT of fictional stories, characters, etc.

If you're looking for more of Rose's books, several reprints are available at the Laura Ingalls Wilder homesites, and many of her magazine articles were recently republished as The Rediscovered Writings of Rose Wilder Lane, by Amy Mattson Lauters.

Try http://www.liwfrontiergirl.com (click on Laura's Homes) or http://www.beyondlittlehouse.com (click on Going Beyond) to find links to all of the homesites, several of which have online gift shops and sell Rose Wilder Lane's books.

By Blogger Prairie Rose, at 7:35 AM, July 19, 2009  

Thanks; maybe I should have been more clear in the post, but I knew that a lot of Rose's friends/etc. were made up in the MacBride books.

Also, I have been working on reading Rose's books! At the end of this post, I mention that I've read 3 more books that I need to write about; one of them is Let the Hurricane Roar.

My copy of "Rose Wilder Lane: Her Story" makes it clear that it was co-written by both Rose and Roger Lea MacBride. I guess I assumed that she had a big hand in writing it, while the preface in my edition makes it clear that she fictionalizes some aspects of it (just like some aspects of the original Little House books were fictionalized). Thus, I'm taking it about as factual as I take the Little House books.

Thanks for the links; some of them are ones I had found already, but they will be useful in tracking down more books to read.

By Blogger mystickeeper, at 10:16 AM, July 19, 2009  

Rereading your comment, Prairie Rose, I should perhaps make it clear: This post is not about Diverging Roads, nor is it about Rose Wilder Lane: Her Story.

It's about an 8-book fictionalized series about Rose's childhood, called Little House: The Rose Years. Books include Little House in the Ozarks, and In the Land of the Big Red Apple. Does this clear things up a bit?

By Blogger mystickeeper, at 9:29 PM, July 19, 2009  

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