Rainer Maria Rilke

"Live a while in these books, learn from them what seems to you worth learning, but above all love them. This love will be repaid you a thousand and a thousand times, and however your life may turn,-it will, I am certain of it, run through the fabric of your growth as one of the most important threads among all the threads of your experiences, disappointments, and joys."--Rainer Maia Rilke

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Saturday, February 25, 2012

An Alcott Classic

Hospital Sketches by Louisa May Alcott
(Classic Fiction)

The first chapter had me worried.  Here was a flighty, shallow young woman wallowing in self-pity because she is leaving home for the first time.  Certainly such a thing would be more dramatic in the mid-1860's, but I was squirming thinking that perhaps this was a character who would just annoy me with her feminine drama about leaving home and finding herself. 

My apologies, Ms. Alcott.  I should have known you wouldn't disappoint.

When Trib Periwinkle signs up to become a wartime nurse, she is really only looking for a diversion, a little adventure, maybe.  What she finds is life-changing event.  This book is divided up into four chapters:  Chapter 1 is about the leaving of family; Chapter 2 is about Trib's adventures and misadventures during the travel; Chapter 3 describes her first real nursing duties as Civil War soldiers are brought in; Chapter 4 is a maturing as the seasoned nurse begins to settle into her duties.

The story is told with equal amounts of horror and humor and innocence and experience.  The book was written as a series of sketches, or letters sent home when Alcott herself served as a nurse during the Civil War.  Tracing her growth from silly teenager to skilled caregiver reminded me of my own walk through various trials of life. 

Alcott's real experiences as war nurse shows very clearly and although the story is fictionalized, the horrors of war wounds and helping men accept their own deaths rings true.  The book is brief, but enjoyable (the wrong word, really considering the subject, but true nevertheless); and is a very good example of Alcott's writing style.

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