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The Glory Cloak: A Novel of Louisa May Alcott and Clara Barton
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The Glory Cloak: A Novel of Louisa May Alcott and Clara Barton

3.62  ·  Rating details ·  247 Ratings  ·  61 Reviews
From childhood, Susan Gray and her cousin Louisa May Alcott have shared a safe, insular world of outdoor adventures and grand amateur theater -- a world that begins to evaporate with the outbreak of the Civil War. Frustrated with sewing uniforms and wrapping bandages, the two women journey to Washington, D.C.'s Union Hospital to volunteer as nurses. Nothing has prepared th ...more
Paperback, 368 pages
Published May 4th 2004 by Touchstone (first published April 6th 2004)
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Aug 20, 2008 rated it really liked it
This was an interesting novel and kept me entertained throughout. I have to admit not being a fan of Alcott, I may have read Little Women when I was younger, but I don't recall it. That will be to be on my TBR list for the future.

The story is told in the first person by Alcott's fictional cousin, Susan Gray. She recounts their childhood, family and famous residents of Concord. As adults, the Civil War begins and Mary and Louisa volunteer as nurses in a Washington DC hospital, where they meet th
***Possible Spoilers***

First of all, this is not really the story of Louisa May Alcott or Clara Barton, it is LMA's fictional cousin Susan's story as told through her eyes. That did not have a negative effect on how I liked the story. In fact I thoroughly enjoyed Susan's character and she is the main reason why I gave the book 5 stars, though it's more like 4 1/2.

Susan has spent many a-month during her childhood with the Alcott's. She is more like their 5th sister than cousin. The book starts ou
Teresa Gibson
Sep 14, 2010 rated it really liked it
First half of the book: 5 stars. Second half of the book: 3 stars, so it averages out to 4 stars. The good: I really liked how O'Brien wove historical facts into her story, without stepping aside to give the reader a history lecture. She obviously did her research, particularly on Louisa May Alcott, who comes to life in this story. The descriptions of the nurses' lives in the Civil War hospital are taken almost directly from Alcott's Hospital Sketches, a very fine book, but The Glory Cloak gives ...more
Mar 25, 2009 rated it liked it
When I was a kid, I went through a phase where all I read were biographies of famous women. Amelia Earhart, Hellen Keller, Molly Pitcher and of course Louisa May Alcott and Clara Barton. I have very strong and fond memories of reading Invincible Louisa in the library of my elementary school. So the thought of reading the Glory Cloak, with its historical fiction take on not one but two of my childhood heros, certainly appealed to me.

For the most part, I think the book works. Adding the fictional
Jul 07, 2009 rated it really liked it
I am sort of a sucker for a book about the Civil War, and I grew up infatuated with Louisa May Alcott and Little Women, so I went into this one with pretty high hopes.

I have to tell you, I was not disappointed.

In this book, Susan- a cousin of Louisa May Alcott, moves in with the Alcott family when her parents die. Through Susan's eyes, we see what life is like for the Alcotts. She and Louisa May Alcott decide to go to DC to work in a war hospital, and there is where we meet Clara Barton. It was
Apr 07, 2009 rated it liked it
The problem I have with this publication is the marketing. I'm sure this is more the publishers fault than the author but I felt misled. The front cover of the paperback promises a story of Clara Burton and Louisa May Alcott, but it's more the story of LMA's fictitious cousin's dealings with LMA, Clara Burton and a number of Civil War folks. The story was interesting. A number of characters were of interest, too. I did learn something of the character of Louisa and Clara, but the author stressed ...more
Mar 16, 2010 rated it it was ok
Great story premise but the writer just doesn't deliver.
Easy, quick read but don't bother.
Susan Bailey
Apr 18, 2012 rated it it was amazing
The Glory Cloak by Patricia O’Brien is an historical novel featuring Louisa May Alcott and Clara Barton. It covers the Civil War through the eyes of a fictitious Alcott cousin, Susan Gray, who comes to live with the Alcotts after being orphaned. Susan becomes Louisa’s constant companion, confidant and critic. Together they volunteer to serve as nurses in the Civil War where they meet Clara Barton; eventually Susan will work with Clara to continue her service in a most extraordinary way.

The Glory
Sep 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is the type of book you read when you are looking for a solid story, and one that will also give you a personal connection to the characters. It takes you into the lives of Clara Barton and Louisa May Alcott, and the struggles they went through.
Mar 15, 2017 added it
I worked my way through this with a sense of suspicion about its research methods. Apparently I'm less willing to give an author license when it comes to more well-known historical figures like Louisa May Alcott and Clara Barton. However, I was pleased to discover that the book does conclude with a discussion of her sources and how fictional and historical elements were blended.
Christina Jones
May 04, 2011 rated it really liked it
Like many girls, I fell in love with Little Women and all the following books written by LMA when I was young. Additionally, I read many biographies of women who helped shape our country. I had great hopes for this story, knowing it was fiction, but hoping there was a real tie between two of my childhood heroes. Unfortunately, this is where the author gets off track. The link between the two women is tenuous at best. LMA was only in DC as a nurse for 6 weeks at the beginning of the Civil War. It ...more
Deann Doolittle
Feb 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book! Great read!
Jun 20, 2013 rated it it was ok
I did enjoy this book to an extent, but it sure has its downfalls. The story that O'Brien has crafted is wonderful and she filled "The Glory Cloak" with a fulfilling literary sense of wonder. Catching the exact spirit of Louisa May Alcott through her golden times and then through her crumbling final years. The descriptions of the D.C. hospital during the Civil War was informative, and I so clung to all. The introduction of Clara Barton as a character was eye-opening, and I learned a lot about wh ...more
Mar 15, 2009 rated it really liked it
Well, a shock to me, I absolutely loved this book. I read Little Women in elementary school, and while I remember enjoying it, I haven't thought much of that experience since. Now I'm excited to research her other novels, and more obscure works. This book pulled me in from the first page, and the addition of other well known literary and historical figures just made me consume this book wholly. I loved it, and would recommend to any woman. Uplifting though sad, very emotionally written, a wonder ...more
Apr 05, 2013 rated it really liked it
Susan Gray, the orphan cousin of Louisa May Alcott tells the story in this book. The time ranges from when she was a young girl, through the Civil War, till Louisa's death. It has a fascinating look at life during the Civil War, as seen by Louisa and Susan. Wanting to do something constructive to help the war effort, the two young girls decide to work in a hospital to help the wounded. What they find is almost too horrible to believe...Beds with filthy sheets, amputations without anesthetics, po ...more
Feb 10, 2014 rated it liked it
The telling thing for me when reading a book is that if I put it down and don't go back to it for over a week, it must not be that good. And when I look at it and then choose to read something else I know it's not a good book.

The story takes place in Boston, Concord and surrounding areas is interesting only because I grew up there.

Susan is the fictional friend of Louisa Alcott and together they go off as nurses at a Civil War hospital. Mildly interesting but very flat, predictable characters thr
May 09, 2008 rated it it was amazing
I was very impressed with this book. It was a historical fiction book. I really liked how the fictional character, Susan, made me feel as if I was experiencing the story myself. It made the plot seem more real and it really brought to life the characters of Louisa May Alcott and Clara Barton. I was so excited about this book when I finished it that I made my husband read it so I would have someone to discuss it with. I would reccomed this book to anyone because I think it can teach us more about ...more
Feb 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This novel takes place during the Civil War. It takes the life of Louisa May Alcott and fuses it with the fiction character, Susan Gray. The girls go off to become nurses during the war where Clara Barton because an influence to them both. This story incorporates romance, betrayal, and friendship. The Glory Cloak captures the reader, making it a novel that can not be put down. Patricia O’Brien does a great job in mixing fiction and non-fiction. The reader becomes connected with the characters on ...more
The Glory Cloak by Patricia O’ Brien
3 stars
Two of my favorite childhood heroes are depicted in this historical novel, Louisa May Alcott and Clara Barton. The story is told through Susan, a fictional cousin of the Alcotts, who goes with Louisa to nurse the civil war wounded. After the war Susan aides Clara Barton in her quest to identify the dead and missing soldiers of the war. I found the story somewhat disappointing. It seemed to be trying too hard to link the lives of these historical figures
Jul 10, 2009 rated it really liked it
I really loved this book. Louisa May Alcott's Little Women was a huge part of my life growing up in many ways: It was my grandma's favorite book, she named my mother Amy Jo after two of the characters, and I also read it/watched the movies periodically as a child and young adult. So Louisa May Alcott has always been a part of my life, and to read a book about HER life was truly fascinating.

I loved the details of this book. I thought Susan was an amazing character, and I thought she played her ro
Feb 06, 2009 rated it really liked it
O'Brien allows us to get a glimpse of two of the most well-known women of the late 19th century. The story, told by a fictional cousin of Louisa May Alcott, centers around the friendship of Alcott and Clara Barton, who became acquainted while tending the Civil War wounded at a Union hospital. The reader gets a real sense of the human casualties and devastation caused by the Civil War as Alcott and Barton nurse the injured soldiers. We follow their lives and the paths they took after the hospital ...more
Mar 20, 2010 rated it did not like it
I was curious because it is about -theoretically- Louisa May Alcott and Clara Barton and their nursing during the Civil War. It touched on several interests from my last semester in school. But not this book. It was told from an oustide perspective, rather than from inside LMA's mind, for example, which was surely the safer road to take. But it left me thinking "Did that really happen? Did she really have a crush on Thoreau?" And as I skimmed ahead to see if I was really that motivated to keep g ...more
Mar 20, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This book was amazing. While it was historical fiction, it explored the relationship between Lousia May Alcott, her family, and history from the viewpoint of a fictional friend. The author used many historical documents to create the world of the novel in such a way that it was truly compelling. It was a book that was hard to put down. As an avid reader of all of Louisa May Alcott's novels, it was interesting to read this author's take on her life, however many fictional parts were interwoven wi ...more
Dec 30, 2008 rated it it was amazing
absolutely wonderful book! run out and get it NOW!
narrated by a relative of louisa may alcott, she tells the story of their childhood, how their friendship was formed and what was happening in the country at the time. they travel to wash,dc and meet up with clara barton. a lot happens to them in what seems a few short years. it is a wonderful historic novel-and this isnt usually my type of book! oh my... i'm totally ruined until i find another book as good as this was!! go! run! you need to read
May 16, 2016 rated it liked it
I enjoyed reading this book. My only reservation is the manufacture of so many meetings and famous people that got involved. Clara Barton, Mary Lincoln, extremely unlikely that there was any relationship there. I look for close following of the life of the main characters in a Historical Fiction book and although there is ample truth and actual occurrences in this book there seems to be more fiction than history.
Apr 07, 2008 rated it it was amazing
I discovered this book because a woman I interviewed for a job in Honolulu brought the book to the interview (to read while she was waiting). I asked her about it, and she recommended it. Then we ended up not hiring her--and she sent me the book with a thank you note--sign of a true book lover!!

I loved this book! Delicious historical fiction loosely based on the lives of Louisa May Alcott and Clara Barton. A beautiful story of women's friendship in the time of war and trials.
Elisha (lishie)
Jan 07, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: historical fiction/civil war/Little Women lovers
This was great historical fiction told by a fictional cousin of the Alcott's about Louisa May Alcott, her writing, her life, her loves and her stint as a Union Civil War nurse under Clara Barton. In the 5th grade, I wrote a paper on Barton and unbeknownst to me, my teacher entered it in a contest. I won 1st place so she is dear to me. Some of the war hospital's procedures are graphic but it is worth it to read through them.
Dec 11, 2011 rated it really liked it
Narrated by a made up character, Susan, a supposed cousin of Louisa May Alcott, Ms Alcott's life is seen through her eyes. This follows her stint in the civil war, her success and also dejection at the publishing business, her possible mercury poisoning, also injects a slight romance with the same man Sudan herself loves. Clara Barton also appears in this book although little is written about her.
A good read.
Apr 29, 2013 rated it really liked it
Interesting read. I had just finished "My name is Mary Sutter" which is in same time period, same location, and some of same characters, when I started this read. The Alcott family is such an eccentric group of people. I can see how Louisa could got her personal life and fiction writings confused. I always see Louisa as Jo, and I like Jo so much better than the real Louisa. This book held my interest. Really would have liked the cousin to be a real person.
Jun 18, 2008 rated it it was amazing
I absolutely loved this book and once I got past the first few chapters I could not put it down. Just an amazing story told from the viewpoint of a fictionalized cousin of Louisa's. Great historical detail regarding experiences as a civil war nurse and Louisa's struggles with writing. Definitely has sparked my interest to learn more about the lives of Alcott/Barton and civil war history in general. Wonderfully engaging.
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Patricia O'Brien is the author of the critically acclaimed novel The Glory Cloak and co-author of I Know Just What You Mean, a New York Times bestseller. She lives in Washington, D.C.
Writes also under the pseudonym Kate Alcott.
More about Patricia O'Brien...
“He had illuminated the heartbreaking cruelty of war: When men who fight become nothing, only packages of bones and blood deposited in the earth with no clarion call to memory, those they love are left without a way to make such devastating loss hold meaning.” 10 likes
“The women who went to the field, you say...
A few names were writ, and by chance live to-day;
But's a perishing record fast fading away,
Of those we recall, there are scarcely a score...
And what would they do if war came again?...
They would stand with you now, as they stood with you then,
The nurses, consolers, and saviors of men.”
More quotes…