Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Books: chicken soup for the soul (and pregnancy)

My kids and I just finished reading The First Four Years, the last book of nine in The Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder. This one is not my favorite; it doesn't have the same connection as the other eight.  It is as if Laura was too exhausted to revisit those first four years of her new life.  If you know the story, then you understand why. But there is a passage that I did appreciate and thought it was a valuable statement on the power of reading a good book, as if I have to make a case for reading at all.

In the fourth chapter, Laura was pregnant, overheated, and emotionally blah - as pregnant women may experience from time to time - until her neighbor saved the day by dropping off some books for Laura to read.  She begins:
On a day when [Laura] was particularly blue and unhappy, the neighbor to the west, a bachelor living alone, stopped as he was driving by and brought a partly filled grain sack to the house.  When Laura opened the door, Mr. Sheldon stepped inside, and taking the sack by the bottom, poured the contents out on the floor.  It was a paper-backed set of Waverly novels.
"Thought they might amuse you," he said.  "Don't be in a hurry!  Take your time reading them!"  And as Laura exclaimed in delight, Mr. Sheldon opened the door, closed it behind him quickly, and was gone.  And now the four walls of the close, overheated house opened wide, and Laura wandered with brave knights and ladies fair beside the lakes and streams of Scotland or in castles and towers, in noble halls and lady's bower, all through the enchanting pages of Sir Walter Scott's novels.  
She forgot to feel ill at the sight or smell of food, in her hurry to be done with the cooking and follow her thoughts back into the book.  When the books were all read and Laura came back to reality, she found herself feeling much better.
It was a long way from the scenes of Scott's glamorous old tales to the little house on the bleak, wintry prairie, but Laura brought back from them some of their magic and music and the rest of the winter passed quite comfortably.  
The First Four Years (chapter four), Laura Ingalls Wilder

For more about our journey through The Little House series, visit our homeschool blog.


Jillian said...

Almanzo died before she finished this one, and she lost the heart to go forward with it. It was published posthumously by her daughter without editing, so what you're seeing when you read this is the frame for a novel she never wrote.

Ruth said...

Yes, I read that in the Introduction. It was four years full of sorrow and disappointments, although there were joys, too. But her worries and anxieties really come through, and the feel is just not the same as with the stories before marriage. However, who knows how different The First Four Years would have been if she lived to edit and publish it herself.