The First Four Years by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Genre: Juvenile Fiction
Series: #9 in the Little House series
Publisher: Harper Collins
Publication Date: 1971
The Short Version:
Laura and Almanzo Wilder’s first four years of marriage are filled with plenty of tragedy and a bit of joy
Why I Read It:
I started my re-read of this series due to a Read-along but I’m finishing it up on my own because I can’t leave my re-read unfinished.
From the publisher:
Laura Ingalls Wilder is beginning life with her new husband, Almanzo, in their own little house. Laura is a young pioneer wife now, and must work hard with Almanzo, farming the land around their home on the South Dakota prairie. Soon their baby daughter, Rose, is born, and the young family must face the hardships and triumphs encountered by so many American pioneers.
And so Laura Ingalls Wilder’s adventure as a little pioneer girl ends, and her new life as a pioneer wife and mother begins. The nine Little House books have been cherished by generations of readers as both a unique glimpse into America’s frontier past and a heartwarming, unforgettable story.
I am not going to worry about spoilers with this series.
As I’ve done with previous books in the series I’m just going to post a few random thoughts that ran through my head as I read this.
This book was published based on an unfinished manuscript found after both Laura’s death and her daughters.
It clearly has a different feel and tone than previous books in the series. This adds credibility to the popular theory that the earlier books were heavily edited by Laura’s daughter. The writing in this one is both simpler and at the same time more adult feeling. Again I think it gives credence to the idea that Rose played a large role in the editing and/or writing of the earlier books.
The opening chapter is a recap of the end of the previous book but with a bit of a different feel. Laura tells Almanzo that she doesn’t want to be a farmer’s wife and they agree to give it three years and it it’s not a success then he’ll get a job in town. Well obviously that doesn’t exactly happen. Their early years are tough ones. Weather, financial troubles, a birth, a death, the loss of a home are all bad enough one at a time but Laura and Almanzo really get it all piled on them.
There’s a sadness to this book because of all the troubles but there are still the small joys and simple pleasures that make this series endure.
Rereading this series several decades after I enjoyed them multiple times as a kid was interesting. It was a mix of nostalgia and remembering why I loved these books so much and at the same time a bit of realization of how much times have changed. Part of that comes from the difference in ways of life from when Laura grew up to now and also the vast differences in social attitudes and norms. What seemed slightly out of date when these books were published are often now excellent teaching moments for children of today.