Laura Ingalls Wilder
The Little House Books, volume 2
By the Shores of Silver Lake • The Long Winter • Little Town on the Prairie • These Happy Golden Years • The First Four Years
The final five novels of Wilder’s American epic chronicles their struggles and triumphs in the Dakota territory
The final five novels of the Little House series are novels of youth and precarious adulthood, beginning with By the Shores of Silver Lake (1939), in which Laura’s parents at last find what they’ve been searching for—a livable homestead—in De Smet, Dakota Territory. In The Long Winter (1940), De Smet is threatened with near extinction when, during the seven-month blizzard of 1880–81, the supply trains stop running. In a combination of selflessness and high spirits, two young townsfolk, Almanzo Wilder and Cap Garland, risk their lives to find a cache of wheat hidden twenty miles from town—sixty precious bushels that save the community from starvation. Little Town on the Prairie (1941) and These Happy Golden Years (1942) tell of Laura’s and Almanzo’s courtship, deepening love, and plans to marry. The series is capped by the posthumously published The First Four Years (1971), an account of the newlyweds’ vain attempt to start a farm on the unforgiving Dakota plains.
These five novels, like the four that precede them, are presented by The Library of America without the illustrations and typographical trappings of editions for young readers. Here Wilder’s prose for the first time stands alone and can be seen for exactly what it is—a triumph of the American plain style. An appendix contains two little-known sketches in which Wilder presents scenes from her life following the events of These Happy Golden Years.
Caroline Fraser, editor, is the author of God’s Perfect Child: Living and Dying in the Christian Science Church and Rewilding the World: Dispatches from the Conservation Revolution. She has written on Laura Ingalls Wilder and other subjects for publications including The New York Review of Books, London Review of Books, The Atlantic, and The New Yorker.
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