Author: Paula Becker
Narrator: Paula Becker
Length: 8 hours 10 minutes
Publisher: Post Hypnotic Press⎮2016
Betty Bard MacDonald (1907-1958), the best-selling author of The Egg and I and the classic Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle children’s books, burst onto the literary scene shortly after the end of World War II. Readers embraced her memoir of her years as a young bride operating a chicken ranch on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula, and The Egg and I sold its first million copies in less than a year. The public was drawn to MacDonald’s vivacity, her offbeat humor, and her irreverent take on life. In 1947, the book was made into a movie starring Fred MacMurray and Claudette Colbert, and spawned a series of films featuring MacDonald’s Ma and Pa Kettle characters.
MacDonald followed up the success of The Egg and I with the creation of Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle, a magical woman who cures children of their bad habits, and with three additional memoirs: The Plague and I (chronicling her time in a tuberculosis sanitarium just outside Seattle), Anybody Can Do Anything (recounting her madcap attempts to find work during the Great Depression), and Onions in the Stew (about her life raising two teenage daughters on Vashon Island).
Author Paula Becker was granted full access to Betty MacDonald’s archives, including materials never before seen by any researcher. Looking for Betty MacDonald, the first biography of this endearing Northwest storyteller, reveals the story behind the memoirs and the difference between the real Betty MacDonald and her literary persona.
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Paula Becker is a writer and historian living in Seattle, Washington. She is the author of the book Looking For Betty MacDonald: The Egg, The Plague, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle and I (University of Washington Press), and co-author (with Alan J. Stein) of the books The Future Remembered: The 1962 Seattle World’s Fair And Its Legacy (Seattle Center Foundation, 2011) and Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition: Washington’s First World’s Fair (History Ink/HistoryLink in association with University of Washington Press, 2009). More than 300 of Paula’s essays documenting all aspects of Washington’s history appear on HistoryLink.org, the online encyclopedia of Washington state history, where she is a staff historian.
Click to listen to an excerpt of Looking For Betty MacDonald, read by the author.
I have now listened to all of the ‘Betty‘ audio books and it’s fair to say I have been thoroughly entertained and enthralled. The only ones I haven’t yet discovered are Mrs Piggle Wiggles, children’s books.
I admire Betty’s wit, ability to laugh at herself, the pure endurance shown to survive some of the harsh situations life has thrown at her. She always managed to appear as though she was in control even when things were incredibly bleak during the war/recession years. These books were written in a different generation and should be observed as such.
Paula has taken a different stance and researched the history of Betty and her family, in some ways it fills in the missing parts of the stories and answers some lingering questions. But it also brings to mind how much of the real Betty did we gain from her books .. there is no doubt the author has done an incredible amount of work to pull it all together but I have to say I found it somewhat repetitive.
If you haven’t read any of the original books then this would be ideal because it gives a rundown of all the stories, yet for someone who has read them it all felt a slight intrusion.
The author also narrates the audio book and that is done very well, I could happily listen to her tone and it didn’t jar on my nerves like some narrators unfortunately can. A lot of the enjoyment of a book is down to the narrator so for the author to do her own was quite an interesting concept.
Overall it was an informative book, well produced but on this occasion I have to admit I prefer the ‘Betty’ originals, they will always hold a soft spot in my heart.
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