These Happy Golden Years is the eighth book in the Little House series. It’s not technically the last book because of The First Four Years, but as I mentioned in the very first blog post, I will not be reviewing The First Four Years. These Happy Golden Years was first published in 1943. Laura is 15-19.
Genre: Historical Fiction, Children’s
“Laura is teaching school, and it’s terrifying! Most of the students are taller than she is, and she must sleep away from home for the first time. Laura is miserable, but the money is needed to keep Mary in a college for the blind. And every Friday—no matter what the weather—Almanzo Wilder arrives to take Laura home to her family for the weekend. Laura and Almanzo are courting, and even though she’s not yet sixteen, she knows that this is a time for new beginnings.”
“To tell you the whole truth,” he [Almanzo] said, “I was in two minds about risking that trip. I figured all week I’d drive out for you, but when I looked at the thermometer I came pretty near deciding against it.”
“Why didn’t you?” Laura asked.
“Well, I was starting out in the cutter, and I pulled up in front of Fuller’s to look at the thermometer. The mercury was all down in the bulb, below forty, and the wind blowing colder every minute. Just then Cap Garland came by. He saw me there, ready to go out to Brewster’s for you, and looking at the thermometer. So he looked at it, and you know how he grins? Well, as he was going on into Fuller’s, he just said to me over his shoulder, ‘God hates a coward.’”
“So you came because you wouldn’t take a dare?” Laura asked.
“No, it wasn’t a dare,” Almanzo said. “I just figured he was right.”
Replica of the first school Laura taught
“I never rode in a lazy-back buggy before. The back isn’t quite as high as the plain wooden ones, is it?”
“Maybe this will make it better,” Almanzo said, laying his arm along the top of the back. He was not exactly hugging Laura, but his arm was against her shoulders. She shrugged, but his arm did not move away. So she leaned forward, and shook the buggy whip where it stood in the whipsocket on the dashboard. The colts jumped forward and broke into a run.
“You little devil!” Almanzo exclaimed, as he closed his hands on the lines and braced his feet. He needed both hands to control those colts.”
Recommended Age Range: 10+
What I Liked:
Almanzo Wilder. Almanzo Wilder. Almanzo Wilder. I would love for somebody to write a book/fanfiction/whatever exploring his POV throughout his courtship with Laura. If someone did it for Pride & Prejudice, then someone can jolly well do it for Little House (although P&P is a fictional novel and Little House is based on actual events).
I love Laura in this book. She’s grown and matured so much. I especially love the scene with Nellie Olson and Laura in the buggy with Almanzo. Laura is just so deliciously sneaky. But she shows a great deal of growth in her conversations and even her thoughts. This is still very much a book for children, but it has an adult flavor to it since Laura is now an adult. This is perhaps why these last few books are among my favorites, because the tone has shifted slightly to include a broader audience and to match the characters themselves. Laura and Mary and all the rest are growing up and moving on, and the book shows that. That, I believe, is Wilder’s strong point: that parallel of writing style and character.
The dress descriptions are fantastic. Wilder describes everything from bustles to hoops to petticoats, and all of it sounds very pretty and very complicated.
What I Didn’t Like:
I wish there was a bit more to it. More emotion, more…something. I think I’m just used to reading 21st century books. Also, time flies in this book; it covers about 4 years in 289 pages, which probably explains why I felt like more.
The book ended. Now I am sad because there’s no more left to read. But it’s a fulfilling sadness, so this is perhaps a “Like” as well.
Laura & Almanzo Wilder
Wilder finishes up the series with a book that once again shows her ability to make a story like its characters. These Happy Golden Years is Wilder’s fourth Newbery Honor book and it is richly deserved with a happy, fulfilling end for the series.
Coming Up Next: I wrap up the series!