New Review: The Wilder Life

Wendy McClure immerses herself in the world of her beloved childhood hero Laura Ingalls Wilder. Diane Shipley follows this journey as McClure separates fact from fiction and is forced to examine why her childhood obsession has only deepened

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When I heard that Wendy McClure’s latest book explores her obsession with Laura Ingalls Wilder, author of the Little House on the Prairie series of books, I admit I was disappointed. McClure’s first memoir I’m Not the New Me was an honest exploration of weight and self-esteem which refused to wrap things up in a conventional “being thin makes everything OK”; narrative. Meanwhile, her column in BUST Magazine looks at pop culture from a wry feminist perspective.

I didn’t know much about Ingalls Wilder’s collective works, but I did know it comprised a series of children’s books based on her childhood and adolescence growing up and moving around in the US Midwest in the late 19th century. I suspected it reflected the social conventions, racial ignorance and gender stereotypes of the time, and couldn’t understand why any progressively minded, modern woman would want to waste her time revisiting books like that. I pegged McClure’s interest as nostalgia; an antifeminist indulgence. It turns out I had underestimated both Wendy McClure and Laura Ingalls Wilder.

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