Great thread! I read all the Laura books as a child and reread them when I was about twenty. That's been... a while now
so maybe it's time to get them out again. I loved all the descriptions of how things were done, the clothing, etc.. But when I was older I was able to appreciate what a hard life they had, and it really made "pioneer" stories seem less positive to me, at least for families with young children.
I started reading the Rose books a while ago. They had less of the "how things were done" and more of the "life is hard" stuff so in some ways they were less enjoyable, but I liked reading about the characters I knew. There are things I think about from the books when I read stuff on here--in some ways etiquette seemed more like a cage back then, at least the way Caroline and Laura applied it. In one of the Rose books, Laura and Rose are working hard to clear stones from a field before it rains (I think), and suddenly a neighbor drops by to visit unexpectedly. Even though they have a lot of work to do, and not much time to do it, they sit and chat with the neighbor for a good long time, and (at least in Rose's recollection) act like they have all the time in the world to spend with her. Laura's opinion is that it would have been rude to turn the woman away, or even cut the visit short, even though in some sense their livelihood was at stake.
Similar to the story where Caroline made Laura give her doll to the neighbor girl. I was really upset by that story as a child. There were a lot of things the Ingalls thought it right to do, to be neighborly and polite, that could also be seen as being hurtful to their own families. It's hard to tell sometimes if they were justified and it was just a child's perspective that saw it as unreasonable, or if social conventions have really changed that much, or if they were outright wrong.
I also sometimes think of how Laura decided her parents shouldn't be at her wedding, even though they were right there in town, because Almanzo's family couldn't be there, and it was only fair to exclude both. Of course added in to that was that they were purposefully holding the wedding when his family couldn't be there, because they knew his sister would take over and make it a big expensive thing, and there was going to be fallout from that decision anyway. (At least that's how I remember it.) That could totally be a thread on eHell.
Has anyone ever read the "other" Little House books, which purport to follow Caroline as a child, and her ancestors going back to Scotland (I think)? I always assumed they weren't based on as direct sources as the Laura and Rose books, but I wondered if they had any basis in reality at all, or were just historical tales using fictional characters linked to known people?