The Three Faces of Nellie
In order to bring you a spotlight taster on The Three Faces of Nellie, as I have not read this book, I headed to Amazon for some reviews. I found a mixed bag. Die-hard lovers of the series “Little House on the Prarie” seemed to enjoy it, on the other hand, some found it frustrating. Some enjoyed the labour intensive research while others felt it was something you could pick up from the internet. I find that a little harsh as many people are not always adept at finding information that way. But I wanted to provide you dear friends with both sides so that you, who are thinking of reading The Three Faces of Nellie, could decide for yourselves as you are intelligent readers.
When I read two or one-star reviews, which I haven’t included here, I often want to read the book just to see what the fuss is about!
Here are three random reviews – I hope they are helpful.
Detailed and well researched account of how the unforgettable Nellie Olsen came to be based on three real girls. I hope the author does a book on the double cousins of Laura (from all the marriages between the Quiners & Ingalls) and all their descendants as these would be the closest living relatives to Laura! Amazon reviewer 5*
An interesting and well-researched outline of the three women who made up Wilder’s composite character Nellie Oleson. Any devout Little House fan knows the story behind Nellie, and most of us have wanted to hear more about the three women who made up the character. While this doesn’t give great detail about their lives and characters, it does satisfy curiosity on the basic facts of each woman’s life and is worth adding to any collection of Little House material. Amazon reviewer 4*
This book is not a story, instead, it is facts and is not written for entertaining the reader. Instead, it is meant to provide the reader knowledge and information about the three individuals who actually resulted in the character of Nellie Olsen: Nellie Owens, Genevieve Masters, and Estella Gilbert. This book provides family information and other facts about these characters. The author does an excellent job of illustrating the true human attributes of these three individuals. She also does a masterful job of portraying the real human nature of Laura Ingalls Wilder as well. Amazon reviewer 3*
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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 truth behind Nellie
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.
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. Furthermore, she is their Director of Leadership and leads two Northern California critique groups.
Ms. Miller holds an undergraduate degree in English Literature from Westmont College. She also has 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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