|Yeah, you can walk me home from church.|
May I just say that, from time immemorial (or at least since the book came out) many a reader has objected to Fanny. Austen's own mother called her "insipid," which, speaking from an author's perspective, is like having Grandma call your darling child a Loser.
Consider even those who love the novel--one author of a Mansfield Park mystery novel "takes the characters and episodes in the original, and turns them into a lighter, sharper, and more playful book, with a new heroine at its centre – a heroine who owes far more to the lively and spirited Elizabeth Bennet, than the dreary and insipid Fanny Price." With friends like these...In any case, if you persevere in reading, Fanny might grow on you.)
But on to the actual post!
Recently I read about a bike race through southern Minnesota called the Almanzo 100, so named because it passes a historical marker about the man himself. Since I'm quite fond of the fellow from the Laura Ingalls Wilder series, I did some internet stalking and came upon daughter Rose Wilder Lane's 1938 novel Free-Land. Poor Rose. She started out as a much bigger deal than her mom, but now, eighty years onward, people like me just pick up her books because they want to know more about the Ingalls' and Almanzo. It was actually a riveting read! LIW fans will recognize many details and incidents from the LHOP books, including the family and background of protagonist "David": his sisters' names are Eliza and Alice, his older brother "Raleigh" went into retail, the family moved out from Malone, New York, David has a pair of matched Morgans, and so on. The Ingalls' appear as well, somewhat more disguised as the Peters family, but very sadly for LIW fans, there's no fictionalized courtship between David and "Nettie," just an unresolved vibe.
Free-Land is definitely written for adults, although there's nothing inappropriate for a YA audience, meaning FL has much more in common with Willa Cather's My Antonia or O, Pioneers in its depiction of unrelenting hardship. The unyielding land, the Hard Winter, drought, cyclones--it's crazy out there in the Dakotas! No wonder the government had to give the land away for free, and even then it wasn't worth it.
Someday somewhere I hope a graduate student will do a dissertation on the whole Laura Ingalls Wilder-Rose Wilder Lane thing. Some claim RWL ghost-wrote the LHOP series, to which I say, if she did, her writing really improved. Lane lacks her mother's flair for characterization. By the end of the book, you really don't have the firmest grip on who these people are, even though she tells you what David is thinking. And what did mother and daughter do, when they both used much of the same material in a short span of time? Free-Land (1938) just barely beat out By the Shores of Silver Lake (1939), The Long Winter (1940), Little Town on the Prairie (1941), and These Happy Golden Years (1943)--I wonder which treatment the reading public preferred. In any case, if you're rabid about the Ingalls' or the dashing Almanzo, give Free-Land a try. I'd love to compare notes with you. It might even call for a road trip!