I know. Where have I been? I’m on vacation, that’s what. Sometimes even bloggers need to take a break. I’ve had such a crazy April-May that I needed a breather before jumping into summer. At the church I serve that means two busy months of Vacation Bible School, a service project day, preaching at least one Sunday in the pastor’s place, and selling sausage, pepper, and onion sandwiches at the county’s 4-H Fair. My non-author job is busy and definitely not boring. So I need a bit of rest before plunging into summer.
That said, I just finished a book and really wanted to share it with you. There goes my little “no-blogging” while on vacation rule!
A few months ago, Shirley Eng Slonaker, one of my college chums from my undergrad days at Seton Hall University, recommended that I read Louisa May Alcott in the Civil War: Louisa on the Front Lines by Samantha Seiple. Since my historical fiction series is set during the American Civil War, she thought I’d enjoy this particular read. And I did!
I’m not a book blogger by any means. I don’t read voraciously these days, partly due to the fact that I write so much. Along with authoring books and a blog, I also work as Communication Director for my church and, so spend a great deal of time staring at a computer screen. I am an older adult, and predictably all this causes me to suffer from tired eyes.
But while on vacation, I read Seiple’s book and loved it. So here goes my feeble attempt at a book blog.
Seiple proposes that Louisa May Alcott’s skills and voice as an author were shaped by her experiences serving as a nurse at the Union Hotel hospital in Washington, D.C. from December 1862-January 1863. It was a short, but intense time that brought Alcott into contact with wounded soldiers, other women working on the nursing staff, doctors (including one alcoholic with a disregard for the pain he caused his patients), and administrators. During those weeks, her mental/emotional fabric was tested as she struggled to comfort the men in her care while living under austere and disheartening circumstances.
The experience was difficult and sapped her energy, but Alcott refused to give in. After all, the wounded in her care had sacrificed themselves for their country. And so would she. However, an exhausted Alcott soon was laid low by a contagious disease that swept through the 10 women on the nursing staff, sending eight of them to their beds. Alcott stubbornly resisted, but she, like the others, contracted pneumonia and eventually typhoid. And yet, even in her delirium, she was determined to get well and continue nursing her “babies” (as she called the patients).
Fortunately, the hospital administration got in touch with her father, Bronson Alcott, who traveled to Washington and somehow managed to get his weak and ill daughter back home to Concord, Massachusetts. It took Louisa Alcott months to recover enough to function normally, although she had recurring health issues for the rest of her life.
Using material from Alcott’s journals, letters, and works of fiction and non-fiction, as well as sources written by family, friends, and other people of the time, Seiple weaves a readable, fascinating story of a young woman whose decisions, actions, and historical environment shaped her voice as a writer.
If you have an interest in Louisa May Alcott or in Civil War America or just want a captivating read, I highly recommend Seiple’s book.
Samantha Seiple. Louisa May Alcott in the Civil War: Louisa on the Front Lines. New York: Seal Press (Hatchett Book Group), 2019.
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Janet Stafford, Squeaking Pips Founder