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Ghost in the Little House : A Life of Rose Wilder Lane

Overview

Laura Ingalls Wilder is one of the most beloved children’s authors of all time, but William Holtz contends that she may not have been the sole author of the Little House series that bore her name. While Laura’s life did serve as the inspiration for the books, Holtz believes that her daughter, Rose Wilder Lane, actually took her mother’s memoirs and refurbished them into the novels that would be read by millions. In this captivating biography, Holtz chronicles Rose’s life from childhood, to travels abroad that ...

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Overview

Laura Ingalls Wilder is one of the most beloved children’s authors of all time, but William Holtz contends that she may not have been the sole author of the Little House series that bore her name. While Laura’s life did serve as the inspiration for the books, Holtz believes that her daughter, Rose Wilder Lane, actually took her mother’s memoirs and refurbished them into the novels that would be read by millions. In this captivating biography, Holtz chronicles Rose’s life from childhood, to travels abroad that began at age seventeen, and finally back home to Missouri in her mid-thirties where she would fine tune her mother’s writing. Holtz does not write to expose Laura as a fraud, but instead The Ghost in the Little House explains that Laura’s books were more of a collaborative effort than anyone knew.

"Drawing on diaries and letters, Holtz . . . details Lane's life (1886-1968) in an engrossing study that highlights her troubled relationship with an apparently cold and manipulative mother."--Publishers Weekly. Illustrations.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Did Laura Ingalls Wilder really write the 'Little House' books? William Holtz's biography of Rose Wilder Lane, The Ghost in the Little House, answers this question in a way that will jolt fans of the much-loved children's series. . . . Holtz's vivid and sympathetic biography brings to our attention the real accomplishments of a remarkable and complicated woman who is no longer nameless: Rose Wilder Lane, co-author of the 'Little House' books."--San Antonio Express-News

"Drawing on diaries and letters, Holtz . . . details Lane's life (1886-1968) in an engrossing study that highlights her troubled relationship with an apparently cold and manipulative mother."-- Publishers Weekly

"[A] respectful, penetrating, deeply detailed biography . . . that well supports Holtz's contention that 'everything that makes the Little House books stand up and sing is what the daughter did to them."--Kirkus Reviews

"A significant achievement. Holtz has uncovered the buried life of a woman whose struggle to separate herself from her mother and forge her own independent identity replicates the dilemma of many women, whose dedication to writing involved the sacrifice of her own ambitions, whose experience of American life during decades of cataclysmic social and political change comprises a life worth telling. . . . In setting the record straight with fullness, fairness and detail, William Holtz has made a genuine contribution to American life and letters."--Washington Post Book World

"Holtz's book makes clear for the first time that [Lane] achieved something important and lasting in her writing with the Little House books. His argument about the collaboration between the two women is entirely convincing, and the next time I see the little House series on the shelf at the bookstore, I'll imagine Rose Wilder Lane's name next to her mother's on their covers."-- Los Angeles Times Book Review

"Holtz's book makes clear for the first time that [Lane] achieved something important and lasting in her writing with the Little House books. His argument about the collaboration between the two women is entirely convincing, and the next time I see the little House series on the shelf at the bookstore, I'll imagine Rose Wilder Lane's name next to her mother's on their covers."-- Los Angeles Times Book Review

"A significant achievement. Holtz has uncovered the buried life of a woman whose struggle to separate herself from her mother and forge her own independent identity replicates the dilemma of many women, whose dedication to writing involved the sacrifice of her own ambitions, whose experience of American life during decades of cataclysmic social and political change comprises a life worth telling. . . . In setting the record straight with fullness, fairness and detail, William Holtz has made a genuine contribution to American life and letters."--Washington Post Book World

"[A] respectful, penetrating, deeply detailed biography . . . that well supports Holtz's contention that 'everything that makes the Little House books stand up and sing is what the daughter did to them."--Kirkus Reviews

"Drawing on diaries and letters, Holtz . . . details Lane's life (1886-1968) in an engrossing study that highlights her troubled relationship with an apparently cold and manipulative mother."-- Publishers Weekly

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
``Do anything you please with the damn stuff if you will fix it up,'' said Laura Ingalls Wilder, author of the Little House on the Prairie series, to her daughter Rose, who, according to Holtz's startling research, was the de facto author of her mother's books. Drawing on diaries and letters, Holtz, a professor of English at the University of Missouri, details Lane's life 1886-1968 in an engrossing study that highlights her troubled relationship with an apparently cold and manipulative mother. At 17, she fled her parents' farm in Missouri, married and later divorced Gillette Lane, and then traversed the globe, supporting herself as a journalist in New York, Baghdad and Albania, making friends with such writers as Floyd Dell and Dorothy Thompson. Guilt drove her back to the farm to help her parents until publication of the Little House series, under her mother's name--but heavily rewritten and edited by Rose--freed her financially. A believer in rugged individualism, Lane's treatise The Discovery of Freedom became the Bible of the Libertarian Party. Illustrations not seen by PW. May
Library Journal
Fans of the ``Little House on the Prairie'' series, which fictionalizes the life of the author, Laura Ingalls Wilder, may be disappointed to discover that her works were actually ghostwritten by her daughter, Rose Wilder Lane (1886-1968). Thus asserts this well-researched study by Holtz (English, Univ. of Missouri-Columbia). Rose was a precocious girl with a flair for writing who found her mother to be puritanical and critical. This biography details Rose's forays into the world as she attempted to launch her own writing career. She experienced limited commercial success but often found herself financially and emotionally strained, especially in view of the demands of her parents. Rose injected her own populist ideas into her mother's work as she crafted her mother's rudimentary writings into the readable books that are still popular today. The tenuous relationship between mother and daughter offers additional interest in this book. Recommended for public libraries.-- Mary Ellen Beck, Troy P.L., N.Y.
Booknews
The Little House books, attributed to Laura Ingalls Wilder, are indisputably brilliant classics of children's literature; but the singular attribution is shown to be in error in this meticulous biography of Laura's daughter Rose (1886-1966). Rose shaped every sentence of her mother's reminiscences, transforming rudimentary notes into eloquent books that exquisitely capture a child's perception of pioneer life and express hopes and aspirations at America's bedrock. Rose was an unconventional woman who wrote and travelled extensively and espoused passionately-held libertarian views; her story is fascinating, even without the startling revelation of her authorship. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Kirkus Reviews
Big news in the Little House. As already reported in the press, Holtz (English/Missouri) maintains that Rose Wilder Lane was a silent partner to her mother, Laura Ingalls Wilder, turning Laura's bland and shapeless memoirs into burnished literary reminiscences. Here, Holtz's respectful, penetrating, deeply detailed biography of the daughter documents her capacities as writer/editor, establishing plausible motivation and providing evidence (diary entries, letters) of the mutual deception. Missouri-born Rose left an impoverished home as soon as she could, married early and briefly, then began a writing career that took her to exotic places among famous people. But few works of quality emerged: Often writing "under the lash of necessity," she lived a life full of sudden projects, bouts of depression, the occasional "ethical slide," and a string of intense but failed relationships. Returning broke to the family farm in her mid-30s, she was drawn to a libertarian philosophy that colored her writing as she searched in vain for personal validation and financial security. At the same time, "Mama Bess" wrote short, undistinguished farm-wife pieces until, encouraged by Rose, she resumed a narrative on pioneer life. Although Rose coached her on structure and tone, the older woman could not incorporate these suggestions into her work. "I know the music, but I can't think of the words," she admitted. Ultimately, Rose used her professional experience to turn her mother's recollections into publishable form, standardizing spelling and punctuation, changing the narrative from first person to third, and altering events for dramatic purposes and to suit her political principles. Nobody suspected thecollaboration until scholars looking for the roots of Laura's "untutored genius" found little to support her transformation. An intimately argued and nonjudgmental presentation that well supports Holtz's contention that "everything that makes the Little House books stand up and sing is what the daughter did to them." (Twenty-five illustrations—not seen)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780826210159
  • Publisher: University of Missouri Press
  • Publication date: 4/28/1995
  • Series: Missouri Biography Series
  • Edition description: REPRINT
  • Pages: 425
  • Sales rank: 425,969
  • Product dimensions: 6.13 (w) x 9.25 (h) x 1.50 (d)

Meet the Author

William Holtz first brought Rose Wilder Lane to national attention with a critically acclaimed edition of letter, Dorothy Thompson and Rose Wilder Lane: Forty Years of Friendship. He is a Professor of English at the University of Missouri-Columbia. His work on Lane's biography was aided by a Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

The Missouri Biography Series, edited by William E. Foley

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Bibliographical Note
Prologue: Mother and Daughter 1
1 A Prairie Rose 13
2 Old Home Town: Growing Up in Mansfield 29
3 Bachelor Girl, Married Woman 46
4 Bulletin Days 60
5 An Interlude and Herbert Hoover 83
6 "Come with Me to Europe" 94
7 The Road to Baghdad 117
8 A Missouri Interlude 142
9 The Albanian Experiment 161
10 Experiment at Rocky Ridge 186
11 The Ghost Returns 217
12 Courage 233
13 "Credo" 251
14 Between Two Worlds 267
15 Free Land, New Homes, Lost Sons 280
16 War and The Discovery of Freedom 299
17 Patriotic Subversion 313
18 Cold War Warrior 324
19 Mother Remembered 338
20 A Visit to Vietnam 354
21 Last Journey 362
Epilogue: Daughter and Mother 373
Appendix: The Ghost in the Little House Books 379
Notes 387
Index 419
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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 4, 2002

    Personal Review

    This book would have to be one of the harshest books that laura or Rose were ever in. I truly like laura better, but I can see when she had her misfits, and yea.....Rose made it seem like it was a big deal and made it look liek her parents being poor was on purpose even though it wasn't. When I first read this, I wa slike DARN shes a brat man!", lol.....but then you know I'm only 15 so yea I have my own persepctibve and this is just a perspective of a 15 year old girl whos been readin little house books for over 10 years so please don't reject me.....I'm just sayin how I feel. I know it may be contreversial and all, but after a while it will be so interesting you will barely be able to put the book down, I swear.....READ IT!!!!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 18, 2010

    I don't believe it

    to be fair, I have not read this book. However, I have read enough of the theories about how Rose was the ghost writer for Laura to understand what this author is getting at. I have also read enough of Rose's own writings including "Let the Hurricane Roar" which is a novel about Charles and Caroline in the early days of their marriage. Rose's writing style and Laura's writing style are so completely different that I find it very hard to believe that Rose was Laura's ghost writer. What much more likely happened is that Laura wrote the stories (remember, Laura was an accomplished writer before she ever wrote this books writing frequently for her local newspapers) and Rose did a little editing and then Rose exaggerated the amount of work she did or other people exaggerated the amount of work Rose did. In any event, anyone having any doubts should read Rose's fictional works and see for yourself if you think there is any comparison in the way dialogue, exposition, structure, etc, is constructed.

    BTW, Rose's fiction is not 1/10 as interesting as Laura's. If she were the ghostwriter one would think she would have been able to write something a bit more interesting on her own.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 16, 2005

    Don't Add Up!

    There are several facts that need to be brought out regarding the theory that Rose Wilder Lane was the 'author' of the Little House books. One, I have read all the Little House books written by Laura Ingalls Wilder. I also have read several items written by Rose Wilder Lane. The style of writing is very different. A simple comparision would be Laura's travel diary 'On the Way Home'. At the conclusion of the journey, Rose relates what happened after the family reached the Ozarks. Note her style of writing. Then compare the style of Laura's books. There is a noticeable difference between the two women's style of writing. Next, Roger Lea McBride(Rose's attorney and close friend) stated in the foreward of 'The First Four Years' that based on diaries, letters and other material that Laura was the author of the Little House series. It is my personal opinion that this book 'The Ghost in the Little House: A Life of Rose Wilder Lane' is design to tarnish Laura's image in the minds of her readers. My advice is to pass this 'Ghost' book by.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 30, 2008

    No text was provided for this review.

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