I like historical novels/fiction, historical landmarks, historical cities, historical movies, historical documentaries. I also enjoyed shows like The Waltons, and Little House on the Prairie and not just because they were nice shows, but because they were based on real people and real history.
When we mention Little House, one character that is sure to come to mind is Nellie Oleson .. ugh. We all could not stand her. She was horrific and for the sake of good story-telling, she was the perfect antagonist to the Ingalls girls as protagonists. We all loved to hate her. (Hate is a harsh word, but when we deal with fiction, as far as I’m concerned, there’s nothing wrong with hating the antagonist, that’s what they are there for. And it does honor to the writer, because it shows they are doing a great job with creating that character.) But one thing we didn’t know is that Nellie Oleson is actually a compilation of three different people and that’s what this is about:
About the Book
Book: The Three Faces of Nellie
Author: Robynne Elizabeth Miller
Genre: Non-fiction, Historical
Release Date: November, 2016
Publisher: Practical Pioneer Press
Whether you love her, hate her, or love to hate her, Nellie Oleson is one of the most recognizable literary figures of the 20th century. But Laura Ingalls Wilder, author of the Little House on the Prairie series in which Nellie appears, had a secret. . .Nellie wasn’t a real person! Instead, she was a composite character created from three girls Laura knew in childhood: Nellie Owens, Genevieve Masters, and Estella Gilbert.
The Little House character of Nellie Oleson is one-dimensional: snobbish, selfish, and thoroughly unpleasant. But what about the real women behind Laura’s creation? They were an intriguing mix of the not-so-nice and the unexpectedly redeemable. In short, they were human.
Discovering the true stories behind Nellie, Genevieve, and Estella has been a fascinating journey. All three ended up on the West Coast at one point. . .true westward movement! One was widowed twice, one ended up divorced, and one died way too young. Two only had one child, and one had three, though she outlived her youngest by a very long time. There’s even some “Nellie-like” drama in there: Embezzlement. Lying on censuses. Shady land deals.
But there are some beautiful things, too. . .like the enduring love of a husband after his young wife died. Or the rare closeness of a mother and daughter who shared their lives as adults. Or the strength of a young widowed mother who not only cared for her son, but headed out west, in true pioneer fashion, while she did so.
Laura Ingalls Wilder did a masterful job of creating the character of Nellie Oleson. But the three real-life women behind that iconic character are, in my opinion, infinitely more intriguing.
Click here to purchase your copy!
Remember, above I said I like all forms of history, well I don’t like historical fact books, only a couple other things in my life can launch my boat off to “sleep-ville”, like a collection of facts, without those facts being fleshed out and written in a way that is relatable and interesting.
I feel that this book, The Three Faces of Nellie, is a historical fact book. It’s great for those who like this sort of thing, so I’m not removing stars, because it’s not my thing. It’s well organized and seems to be very well researched. And it has some interesting tidbits for sure, it’s just not for me.
I highly recommend this for people who like historical fact books, who are not interested in a lot of fluffing out. Kind of like Sergeant Joe Friday types “Just the facts, Ma’am”, no extra commentary, nothing added, don’t paint a picture.
I received this book as a gift, I was under no obligation to provide a review and received no compensation for it, except another book to read (and a new fun fact to store in my brain that already has various collections of useless knowledge 🙂 )
About the Author
Robynne Elizabeth Miller is a speaker, writing coach, and author of multiple books, articles, and essays. Her larger projects include From the Mouth of Ma, Pioneer Mixology, The Three Faces of Nellie, and Nonfiction, Memoir, or Fiction? Dissecting the Works of Laura Ingalls Wilder.
Robynne speaks nationally at writing and historical venues and teaches at writer’s workshops and conferences. She also serves as the Board President of Inspire Christian Writers, as well as their Director of Leadership, and leads two Northern California critique groups.
She holds an undergraduate degree in English Literature from Westmont College and a Masters of Fine Arts in Creative Nonfiction and Fiction from Ashland University.
She lives with her wonderful British husband and the youngest of their four cheeky children in the snowy woods of the Sierra Nevada mountains. When not writing, Robynne loves singing, felling trees, and making bacon from scratch.
Guest Post from Robynne
Nasty Nellie Oleson. One of the most iconic literary characters in literature. Whether you loved her … or hated her … or loved to hate her, she probably left a lasting impression on you. At least if you were a fan of the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder like I was growing up!
As a young girl, I loved Wilder’s tales of wagons, prairies, and grand westward adventures. Strangely, growing up didn’t change my love for all things Little House one tiny bit. But I did become deeply curious about the real life people behind some of the more fascinating Little House characters.
Namely, Nellie Oleson.
As I began to research Nellie, I learned a ton of interesting things. She wasn’t one person, for example. Laura Ingalls Wilder wove three girls she knew in childhood into one composite character for her books. One of the first “Nellie’s,” Nellie Owens, did have a brother named Willy, but did you know that he went blind from two separate incidents, one in childhood and one in adulthood? And did you know that all three of the “Nellies” ended up on the west coast at one point? Talk about true westward movement! One married a man who eventually went to prison for embezzlement, one did some shady land deals, and one shouldn’t have been a “Nellie” at all.
I suppose I was hoping for a good, old-fashioned redemption story. Wouldn’t it have been wonderful if the mean girl in Wilder’s stories grew up to work with orphans or rescue unwanted animals? Alas, that’s not exactly what happened. But the stories of these three women were fascinating all the same.
I hope you have as much fun discovering the real stories behind the famous Nellie Oleson as I did!
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To celebrate her tour, Robynne is giving away a grand prize of a Little House Treasures basket that includes an authenticated piece of the original Loftus Store is De Smet, authenticated sand from Laura’s Plum Creek in Walnut Grove, a Loftus Store slate and slate pencil, chokecherry preserves from De Smet, a Christmas Tree ornament from De Smet, a corn-cob doll kit, a tin cup, maple syrup, a set of pioneer recipe books, Laura Ingalls Wilder’s actual gingerbread recipes, and other treasures from various Little House sites!!
Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries in to the giveaway!
Click HERE to enter.