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Hospital Sketches

3.64  ·  Rating details ·  1,594 ratings  ·  149 reviews
Large Format for easy reading. By the author of Little Women. A collection of letters written when Alcott was a Civil War army nurse, they garnered Alcott's first critical recognition for her observations and humour.
Paperback, 80 pages
Published October 25th 2005 by Dodo Press (first published 1863)
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3.64  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,594 ratings  ·  149 reviews

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Dec 23, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this concurrently with Becoming Dickens: The Invention of a Novelist -- unintentionally, but appropriately -- as not only was Dickens one of Alcott's favorite writers, but this fictionalized memoir of Alcott’s could be said to have led to her “becoming Louisa May Alcott”.

Similar to the start of the Dickens phenomenon with The Pickwick Papers being published under the name of “Boz”, Alcott gained her first bout of fame with this work, writing under the pseudonym of "Tribulation Periwinkle"
Rachel Aranda
Jun 02, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ebooks, owned
Many people don't know about this book, since the one and only Ms. Louisa May Alcott is known more for Little Womenand its sequel Little Men, but for history buffs, of the Civil War especially, this is a must read.

Being a woman permitted to help your fellow beings as a money earning career option when you weren't allowed to before is quite an excitable choice to make. Throughout this book I was told some sad and happy tales of being a Union hospital nurse during the war that divided families, f
Angie Thompson
It's hard to believe this is one of Louisa May Alcott's earliest published works. Over the course of just a few chapters, she had me both laughing out loud at her inimitable humor and sobbing outright at the pathos of her descriptions. The deathbed scene of a man we hadn't met until we knew he was dying affected me as much as those of any of her better-known and loved characters and had me berating her through my tears for breaking down my guard with her hilarious accounts of the preparations fo ...more
Most people know Louisa May Alcott's name for Little Women. They may know her name in relation to her father, Bronson Alcott, and his friendship with dudes like Ralph Waldo Emerson and H.D. Thoreau, and the Transcendentalist movement. Not as many people knew she also went to war.

Alcott spent six weeks working as a nurse in Washington, DC during the Civil War. She went home after a nasty bout of typhoid fever, but those six weeks made quite an impression on her. She turned her experiences there i
Hospital Sketches was published in 1863, early in Alcott's writing career. It is a lightly fictionalized account of her six week service as a nurse at a Georgetown hospital during the Civil War. It is compiled from letters written by Alcott during this time. Her service ended early when she contracted typhoid fever. While this work isn't a great piece of writing, it's an important contribution to the history of the war and life in the hospitals at that time for the patients and the people who ca ...more
Louisa May Alcott's fictionalized memoir of her experiences as a nurse in Washington D.C. during the Civil War was both witty and moving.
Her descriptions of her efforts to get to her assigned hospital as well as her living conditions whilst there were humorous., while her descriptions of the her duties and the men she nursed were moving and emotional at times, even if sometimes bordering on the sentimental side.
I found her voice and tone in this short work very different than the tone of her mo
This was a fictional account of Louisa May's time as a nurse during the Civil War. I really enjoyed it.
Louisa May Alcott wrote this collection of sketches at the request of her friends and encouraged by her father. It was not a labor of love, and it shows. Allow me to clarify: The nursing was a labor of love while the writing of the sketches was not. The writing is uneven, moving from third-rate novelization to fair-to-good memior. The best part is the postcpscript.

The postscript is an open letter to a particular person and to all who have similar questions about the reality of nursing during the
Jan 09, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books
I sought this book out after revisiting Louisa May Alcott’s Eight Cousins And Rose in Bloom. I never got to read these books as a child but always wanted to! I saw that she had written Hospital Sketches, and me being a nurse and enjoy books in the Civil War Era I ordered it through the library. I found it interesting, a little confusing at times, but hey it was written in 1863😊
Jul 10, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016, factual, biography
Six weeks in a military hospital...

This is a short account of Louisa May Alcott's brief career as a nurse during the American Civil War. She only spent six weeks in the military hospital before falling ill with typhus and being persuaded by her father to come home, but during that time she saw first-hand some of the horrific injuries inflicted on the soldiers and the pretty basic and sub-standard care they got afterwards – in her hospital, at least, though she makes it clear there were other muc
Marko Vasić
Nov 30, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: documentary, classics
I started to read Noah Gordon's SHAMAN, and in Chapter I, he mentioned that the main character was reading "Hospital Sketches" during his train trip. Thanks to Project Gutenberg, I found the kindle copy of the book, and wanted to read it like some kind of late-afternoon intermezzo. But, I was slightly disappointed with the plot of this short essay-diary. First - the narrative tone is very grumpy in the biggest part of the book. It seems like that young narrator girl is on some crossroad of her l ...more
Hospital Sketches describes Alcott's sojourn (cut short due to illness) as a nurse in a Washington, D.C., hospital during the Civil War; it's witty in a rather Dickensian style (Alcott calls herself Tribulation Periwinkle, for example) and touching even though sentimental. I mostly enjoyed it, though I was bothered by Alcott's condescending attitude toward the black people for whose freedom she enthusiastically worked. Although she rejoices at the Emancipation Proclamation, she also clearly ster ...more
“As no two persons see the same thing with the same eyes, my view of hospital life must be taken through my glass, and held for what it is worth.” ~LMA

I’ve never read anything by Louisa May Alcott before. That’s right. I have not read Little Women. I didn’t have any desire to. It isn’t really a story that appeals to me.

And I wouldn’t have read this one if I hadn’t joined in on a Traveling Book adventure through The Book Drunkard on Facebook. I discovered that I really like Alcott’s writing styl
Aug 09, 2018 rated it liked it
During the Civil War, Louisa May Alcott became a nurse. She did not stay long, catching Typhoid Fever and having to go home to recover. But the public was very interested in anything war related and so Louisa wrote "Hospital Sketches" which was fiction, but very based on her experiences. The story is short, roughly 85 pages.

There is something about Alcott's style. It is both easy to read and able to get involved in, but it can also feel infantile. I feel like she is trying to do everything in a
Feb 11, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Alcott spent six weeks as a nurse during the Civil War until she was forced to return home because of illness. These sketches were originally letters published in a Boston newspaper but they have been presented here as fiction based on her experiences. Apparently the horrors of what she saw never left her but the opening chapters at least have an inappropriate tone, arch and playful and girly, and it is hard to see under them what it was really like. This tone may have been what was required by ...more
Dec 06, 2014 rated it really liked it
After briefly serving as a nurse in a hospital in Washington, D. C., Louisa May Alcott returned to her home in Massachusetts and wrote a series of essays which were published in the newspaper Commonwealth. She was only active for approximately 6-8 weeks before she got sick and was advised to go home. These essays relate the things she saw and did in that short time.

The tone is, oddly, very lighthearted considering the subject matter. However, Miss Alcott said of herself that she preferred
to app
Debbie Barton
Dec 31, 2009 rated it really liked it
This was not what I expected but I enjoyed it a great deal. It is unfortunately too short (I knew Ms. Alcott went home after contracting Typhoid Fever, I didn't realize she became ill so quickly after her arrival). Considering she went to a new city, to learn a new job, on the eve of Fredericksburg, and remained less than 2 months, I find it rather impressive that she was able to capture what she did in her letters. I loved that the colloquial style was kept for the book. It's rough and informal ...more
Jan 01, 2011 rated it really liked it
Louisa May Alcott her short-lived experiences as a nurse in a makeshift Yankee hospital to convey her thoughts and feelings as well as some of her patients' travails. The book seems to me to (maybe) be a speech or report on her efforts during the war. I found that, although the book is very short (80 pages), the first quarter was unnecessary with minute detail. I did, however, respond tearfully to some of the soldiers' brave and selfless stories of dying in sad inglorious circumstances. I found ...more
Jan 16, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2010-books-read
After seeing the PBS American Masters presentation on Louisa May Alcott, I downloaded Hospital Sketches on my Kindle. I'd read all the usual LMA books - Little Women, Little Men, Jo's Boys, Eight Cousins, Rose in Bloom, etc. but hadn't ever read this one. It's a thinly-disguised fictional account of LMA's nursing experiences in a Washington, DC Civil War hospital. Alcott's writing style is all Jo - earnest, engaging, enthusiastic, a bit preachy, and very detailed. I enjoyed it!
Jun 23, 2012 rated it it was amazing
A wonderful short piece, recollecting Alcott's service as an Army nurse during the Civil War in a fictional sketch. Blending social reform, human pathos, and Alcott's signature hilarity, this is a wonderful read. Alcott combines the comical and emotional in a satisfying, affective blend, successfully bringing the experience of war to the home front, and notably from the perspective of a woman at the front-lines of a military hospital.
Clare Fitzgerald
Jul 29, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Another museum weekend; another batch of books procured from museum gift shops. I have a problem, maybe.

After visiting several historical sights in Lexington this Saturday, Mom and I popped over to Concord to check out Orchard House, where Louisa May Alcott and her family lived for twenty years. In addition to being shamed from beyond the grave for my own lack of creative output, the time at Orchard House reminded me that, while I've read most of Alcott's books for children, the only bit of her
The writing style was odd, as though she were trying too hard to be "literary": hyperbole, allusion, and flowery language were too excessive, in my opinion. Still, excellent insight and description of war experiences, well worth reading.
Jan 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
As eloquently written as any other of Alcott's work, this is an insightful glimpse into the war from an unlikely perspective. She writes with a "tone of levity" about it all, but the horrors of war still manage to show themselves, albeit the effects of their appearance somewhat blunted by Alcott's delivery. She remarks repeatedly about both her sympathy and affection for the the African-Americans working along side her in the hospital, and that is not only not the popular opinion, but one she is ...more
Louisa May Alcott spent six weeks working as a nurse in Washington, DC during the Civil War. Her service was cut short after she came down with typhoid fever. Tribulation Periwinkle is the name she gave herself in this short fictionalized account of her experiences. The main role of a nurse during that time period was to wash, feed, and provide comfort to the wounded soldiers as they healed from surgery, or as they died from their injuries. I found the first part of the book somewhat slow as she ...more
Feb 17, 2018 rated it liked it
It was a good thing to have read but it strongly underscored a painfully ignorant romanticized view of war that Americans are so fond of. She did not see children shot on the road in cold blood, she did not see officers give their men permission to rape any woman who disrespected them. She did not see the pow camps, did not see grandmothers and babies dead of exposure in the snow. She did not see the factory worker women (largely woc) kidnapped, raped over many days, and then abandoned hundreds ...more
Dec 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
Humorous account of Louisa May Alcott's experience as a volunteer nurse in a Washington DC hospital during the Civil War. She makes light of the bureaucracy she had to navigate to get to Washington, the personalities of the doctors, nurses, and patients, and her own naive expectations contrasted with the realities of the job.

Mixed with the lighthearted tone of the book is a profound respect for the wounded soldiers -- even a Confederate soldier in her care -- and the gravity of war. She assists
Aug 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
These sketches were beautifully done. The preparations to leave and her frustration with disorganization she confronted were humorous. Her parody on "The Charge of the Light Brigade" by Lord Tennyson was unexpected and heartening, as I'm a sucker for parody. Her recounting of her experience with the soldier who had been shot in the stomach was touching, and her recounting of John the Blacksmith from Virginia was heartbreaking and poignant.

The big secret to these sketches' success is how personal
Dec 07, 2018 rated it liked it
This short read describes the experiences of Louisa May Alcott as a nurse in the Civil War. While I found some parts interesting, at least for me, there was nothing new here at all. I actually enjoyed the parts about her background and travels to the battlegrounds more than the parts about her as a nurse. It is probably unfair of me to not rate this higher since I am sure that what she was writing was new at the time, but for me there is nothing new or special here.
Jan 29, 2018 rated it did not like it
Shelves: classic-fiction
Not a memorable or engaging story. Most of it was rambling details and introspection. Too many characters briefly appear with very little activity. There is no plot other than one chapter about treating a particular soldier. That was the only part of the book that grabbed my attention and actually gave an insight into a civil war hospital. I can see why this story didn't withstand the test of time.
Oct 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
Though short, this book is written with LMA's clear voice and style. The characters are described in detail and the book moves along quickly. Chapter four will make you cry and yet chapter five has descriptions of pigs and nukes that make you laugh out loud. What a great contrast! I enjoyed the postscript that was included as well.
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As A.M. Barnard:
Behind a Mask, or a Woman's Power (1866)
The Abbot's Ghost, or Maurice Treherne's Temptation (1867)
A Long Fatal Love Chase (1866 – first published 1995)
First published anonymously:
A Modern Mephistopheles (1877)

Louisa May Alcott was born in Germantown, Pennsylvania on November 29, 1832. She and her three sisters, Anna, Elizabeth and May were educated by their father, philosopher/ t
“The snores alone were quite a study, varying from the mild sniff to the stentorian snort, which startled the echoes and hoisted the performer erect to accuse his neighbor of the deed, magnanimously forgive him, and wrapping the drapery of his couch about him, lie down to vocal slumber. After listening for a week to this band of wind instruments, I indulged in the belief that I could recognize each by the snore alone, and was tempted to join the chorus by breaking out with John Brown's favorite hymn: "Blow ye the trumpet, blow!” 3 likes
“Here, my man, just hold it this way, while I look into it a bit," he said one day to Fitz G., putting a wounded arm into the keeping of a sound one, and proceeding to poke about among bits of bone and visible muscles, in a red and black chasm made by some infernal machine of the shot or shell description. Poor Fitz held on like a grim Death, ashamed to show fear before a woman, till it grew more than he could bear in silence; and, after a few smothered groans,he looked at me imploringly, as if he said, "I wouldn't, ma'am, if I could help it," and fainted quietly away.

Dr. P. looked up, gave a compassionate sort of cluck, and poked away more busily than ever, with a nod at me and a brief—"Never mind; be so good as to hold this till I finish."

I obeyed, cherishing the while a strong desire to insinuate a few of his own disagreeable knives and scissors into him, and see how he liked it. A very disrespectful and ridiculous fancy of course; for he was doing all that could be done, and the arm prospered finely in his hands. But the human mind is prone to prejudice; and though a personable man, speaking French like a born "Parley voo," and whipping off legs like an animated guillotine, I must confess to a sense of relief when he was ordered elsewhere; and suspect that several of the men would have faced a rebel battery with less trepidation than they did Dr. P., when he came briskly in on his morning round.”
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