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Hospital Sketches by Louisa May Alcott

Hospital Sketches (1863)

by Louisa May Alcott

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4422039,266 (3.91)112
Although best known as a writer of fiction who produced such classics as Little Women, Louisa May Alcott lived a fascinating life that included a stint as a Civil War nurse. This collection includes several essays, letters, and other pieces that outline Alcott's experiences serving to the needs of the war wounded. It's a fascinating account that will enthrall Civil War buffs or those with an interest in the history of medical practice.… (more)
  1. 00
    Testament of Youth by Vera Brittain (Bjace)
    Bjace: War nursing, different war. Alcott was a briefly a nurse, Brittain's life was consumed by the War and its tragedy. Alcott infuses tragedy with heart-warming pluck; Brittain allows you to experience the full weight of devastation.
  2. 00
    A Country Doctor's Notebook by Mikhail Bulgakov (Stbalbach)

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This little book is the result of the month that Louisa May Alcott spent as a volunteer nurse in a Civil War hospital in Washington, D.C. In addition to describing her duties, her patients, and the hospital staff, Alcott also provides an account of her journey to Washington and of the sights she saw during her day off. Alcott was in Washington at the right time to see the Statue of Freedom while it was on display before being placed on the dome of the Capitol. Alcott’s lively writing style may appeal to reluctant teen readers, making it a good choice for supplemental reading for U.S. history units on the Civil War. ( )
  cbl_tn | Mar 18, 2019 |
This is unlike any Alcott book I've read (and I think I've read them all at one time or another). I loved her style in this one. She wrote with biting honesty about the conditions of the hospital while seamlessly weaving in touching stories of the patients she encountered (yes, I cried). My only complaint about this book that it wasn't longer! ( )
  ErinMa | Feb 22, 2019 |
Loved this book! Absolutely hilarious - so many quotable lines! Funny, heartwarming, and heartbreaking all in one. ( )
  SarahGraceGrzy | Oct 2, 2018 |
“Hospital Sketches” essentially reads as a tragic comedy. Here we have Louisa May Alcott’s semi-autobiographical account of her times as a nurse and the events leading up to her securing her position at the hospital.

I’d been in two minds whether to read this text for some time, thinking it would be too morbid and depressing, but before finishing the first page I knew I’d misjudged the book by its title. Of course there are upsetting scenes where soldiers are so severely wounded that they have a short period of agony before death releases them, yet despite this, the senses of hope and bravery prevent the mood from becoming depressing, while the upbeat narration eliminates any feelings of morbidity.

The author – or technically speaking, the “narrator”, who’s really Ms Alcott in disguise – sums up my above feelings in this quote:

“Certainly, nothing was set down in malice, and to the serious-minded party who objected to a tone of levity in some portions of the Sketches, I can only say that it is a part of my religion to look well after the cheerfulnesses of life, and let the dismals shift for themselves.”

The light tone is most apparent in the scenes before the want-to-be nurse starts work at the hospital. The nonsense she has to endure to get from A to B and back again is a classic case of the left hand not knowing what the right is doing. I don’t know how much of this really happened to Ms Alcott, though I suspect most if not all are true recollections. Either way, the frustration she goes through is retold in a humorous way, causing me to laugh aloud more than once.

A particular funny part is when the nurse-to-be is about to sleep whilst sailing and she’s concerned about the vessel going down during the night. What finally alleviates her troubled mind is the sight of an overweight lady, because bearing in mind that “fat girls float best”, she (the future nurse) would make a beeline for the lady and hold onto her if the boat went down.

An insightful and amusing read. ( )
  PhilSyphe | Dec 23, 2014 |
Now I'm on a bit of an Alcott jaunt, I delved into this one. I'd always heard about it but never seen a copy. I read it off my old pal, Project Gutenberg, and it was a bit suprising; a jaunty fictionalized account of Alcott's experiences as a nurse during the Civil War. She writes as a New England spinster (Tribulation Periwinkle, I kid you not) and it is quite light-spirited and even feisty at times. Suprising but very interesting and easy to read.
  amyem58 | Jul 3, 2014 |
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