Monday, December 14, 2009

Hospital Sketches

Finished Hospital Sketches by Louisa May Alcott. Published in 1863, it is an account of Alcott's experiences as a nurse in a Union hospital in Georgetown, where she worked for six weeks. At that point she became ill with Typhus and had to be sent home.

Alcott, who portrays herself as Nurse Periwinkle, bustles about the wards and does her best to bring comfort and cheer to wounded soldiers. While perhaps not as dire as scenes from the film Gone With the Wind, her accounts are frank and clear in their criticism of patient care, organization of the facility, lack of spiritual guidance and open racism. It's a very honest telling of her experiences and is based on the letters she sent home during this time. It was the first publication of her writing to bring her critical acclaim and popularity.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The Flowering Thorn

Finished The Flowering Thorn by Margery Sharp. This was her fourth novel, published in 1934. It’s about a young woman named Lesley. She is slim, fashionable, popular and very socially inclined. She lives in a flat in London and spends her days shopping, lunching with friends and attending parties every night. She is pale, beautiful, hard and cold. Most of her friends are the same. She finds that she is bored with her life and is looking for a change. When her aunt announces that her cook has died and left her with a four year old boy, Patrick, Lesley volunteers to take him off her hands. Her aunt is stunned. Eventually Lesley is too. At first she tries to continue her social whirlwind of a life, but finally realizes that it just won’t do. She rents a cottage in the country and takes Patrick there to live until he is old enough to be sent off to school.

At first Lesley is a town mouse in the country. She keeps to herself and dodges the vicar. She orders her meals to be delivered from Fortnum & Mason, but soon realizes that she can’t possibly continue to afford it so she engages a woman to cook and help around the house. Lesley and Patrick have a very distant, offhand sort of relationship. Gradually, bit by bit, Lesley and Patrick warm to each other. The same happens with Lesley and the people of the village. She lets her hair grow, takes long walks, gains a little weight, gets sunburned and learns to knit. In a sense she evolves into a complete human being. Her life is no longer hollow and rudderless. The same goes for Patrick as well. In the end the vicar and his wife are two of her very best friends.

There were times when I was reminded of Miss Pettigrew Lives For a Day and Auntie Mame.

I adore Margery Sharp.