NONFICTION

Louisa on the Front Lines: Louisa May Alcott in the Civil War

Seal. Feb. 2019. 240p. notes. ISBN 9781580058049. $35; ebk. ISBN 9781580058032. LIT
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OrangeReviewStarWith this work, YA nonfiction author Seiple (Ghosts in the Fog: The Untold Story of Alaska's WWII Invasion) steps into the adult arena to craft a narrative that makes novelist Louisa May Alcott (1832–88) as accessible in all of her passions, strengths, weaknesses, and actions as the characters in her books. Select passages from Alcott's journals show her wrestling with many of the issues that beleaguer her heroine Jo March from Little Women. These cover her experiences as a nurse during the Civil War, including a train ride to the Union Hotel Hospital in Washington, DC, in which she describes walking through the patient ward hoping to appear motherly since "my thirty years made me feel old, and my suffering made me long to comfort every one." There's a beautiful humanness in Seiple's descriptions of Alcott, who bravely worked in a ward "full of amputated limbs," even as she grappled with internal battles about issues ranging from slavery to the politics of marriage.
VERDICT Readers will discover in these pages an author as vibrant as her writings, and find themselves returning to her work with fresh eyes. Alcott scholars will encounter a liveliness if not substantive new information.

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