Life

Radio review: Laura Ingalls Wilder's pioneering spirit explored

Nuala McCann

Laura Ingalls' America: The Sunday Feature Radio 3

Desert Island Discs Radio 4

She's best known for her eight children's books – the “Little House” stories.

Yes, they were written in the 1930s, but they resonate down through the years.

Laura Ingalls Wilder was in her 60s when she started writing down her childhood memories of how her Pa took his family out west to settle.

It's about struggle and the pioneering spirit. In this feature, Samira Ahmed travelled to America to the house where Ingalls Wilder settled to meet her fans.

A woman said it was her spirit and tenacity – she herself had had a very troubled childhood dealing with an alcoholic father and Ingalls Wilder's stories were about weathering the storm.

Anyone who has read the books will remember not so much the sweet TV series but the harshness of that life... the hard winters, drought and two of the worst financial crises in US history – and how Pa and Ma and the family survived it all.

Samira Ahmed described the time when the plague of locusts descended and ate the family's entire crop and the long winter when they were snowed in for eight months and starving.

This was a thought provoking documentary made all the sweeter by the tunes played on Pa's fiddle – the real one - echoing down the years.

Kelsey Grammer was this week's guest on Desert Island Discs.

He made his name as psychiatrist Dr Frasier Crane and even got Frank Sinatra's approval.

He told how Frank invited him to his birthday party and a golf tournament. Sinatra walked past, paused and drawled: “You're doin' good, kid.”

Grammer is offbeat and entertaining and debonair just like Doctor Crane. He lives a life of surprises. He proposed to his wife naked in a vegetable garden.

But there is no life without shadows and he spoke about how he will always carry the loss of his sister, Karen, who was raped and murdered when she was just 18 years old, with him for the rest of his life.

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