Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Louisa May's Battle: How the Civil War Led to "Little Women"

Louisa May's Battle:  How the Civil War Led to Little Women
by Kathleen Krull, illustrated by Carlyn Beccia
Walker, 2013.  Unpaged.  Biography

     Little Women was one of the first novels to be set during the American Civil War, and Louisa May Alcott drew on her own wartime experiences to write the book. She wished she could have fought in the war, but the only helpful occupation open to her--and that, just barely--was nursing.  Women were only accepted into nursing positions if they were unmarried, strong, could produce letters attesting to their good character.  Also, they had to be "very plain."  Louisa May considered herself plain enough, though she had beautiful hair that fell to her ankles. Apparently the Army agreed and she was assigned to nurse soldiers in the old Union Hotel in Washington, D.C.  There she bathed and bandaged the wounded men, sang to them, wrote letters home for them, and read to them. Louisa wasn't able to stay long with the soldiers, as she contracted typhoid fever and returned home near death. Luckily she lived to write the stories that would become a beloved part of American literature. Kathleen Krull provides her usual interesting and sprightly narrative for this story, and Carlyn Beccia's pictures are lovely, antique to just the right degree, and atmospheric. She was not able to make Louisa May look ugly, but beauty is as beauty does, eh?

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