Monday, September 19, 2016

An Announcement and a Review

Bonjour, mes amis! Having a great deal of school to do, I have but time to deliver an announcement and a brief review.
First, the fleas are GONE, praise the Lord!!! My dear little cat is out and the daily vacuuming is over.
Second, I have just finished Louisa May Alcott’s Hospital Sketches (as I'm wrapping up my study of the Civil War) and, since I mentioned it in my post on Little Women, thought I'd deliver a short review.
It's a very thin volume and her witty, engaging style makes it a quick read (much appreciated by moi, as I'm surrounded by books to be read). Originally published serially as six “sketches” that she adapted from letters she sent home, it was compiled in 1863. Louisa was a nurse for only about a month before she contracted typhoid and went home, but her sketches are a moving, interesting and occasionally amusing glimpse of the nurse’s side of the war. Three of my favorite passages:

(Describing her bedroom at the makeshift hospital) It was well ventilated, for five panes of glass had suffered compound fractures, which all the surgeons and nurses had failed to heal… A bare floor supported two narrow iron beds, spread with thin mattresses like plasters, furnished with pillows in the last stages of consumption… A mirror (let us be elegant!) of the dimensions of a muffin, and about as reflective, hung over a tin basin…

The three meals were “pretty much of a muchness,” and consisted of beef, evidently put down for the men of ‘76; pork, just in from the street [pigs wandered freely in the city]; army bread, composed of saw-dust and saleratus; butter, [salty] as if churned by Lot’s wife; stewed blackberries, so much like preserved cockroaches, that only those devoid of imagination could partake of with relish; coffee, mild and muddy; tea, three dried huckleberry leaves to a quart of water…

(Describing passerby officers) Some of these gentlemen affected painfully tight uniforms, and little caps, kept on by some new law of gravitation, as they covered only the bridge of the nose, yet never fell off; the men looked like stuffed fowls, and rode as if the safety of the nation depended on their speed alone.

The whole book, though, is filled with Louisa’s particular style, which is quaint and pleasant. I especially like the many clever literary allusions she uses. I recommend this to about 8th grade and up.

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  1. hmm, I haven't read any of these. I have 27 of her short stories, but I don't think those are included.

  2. I really liked Hospital Sketches. I wish she'd used her own name though instead of trying to fictionalize it. Probably a bit much to ask of the time though...


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