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Books Unbound – ‘Hospital Sketches’ by Louisa May Alcott, Part One


Beloved as the author of Little Women, Louisa May Alcott drew on her service as a Union nurse during the Civil War for her first major literary success. Published in 1863, Hospital Sketches is a fictionalized memoir of her experiences, cut short when she was stricken by typhoid fever. Her health was permanently damaged by the mercury compound used at the time as treatment, but what she learned from wounded soldiers haunted and influenced her throughout her career. Sarah Torbeck reads this lively and even humorous account from an indomitable spirit exposed for the first time to the horrors of war.

The four-part series is hosted by Heather Perry, with WFHB’s Interchange host Doug Storm as announcer. Listeners may also be interested in the Interchange episode “Marching the Alcotts: ‘We Really Lived Most of It’.”

Special music comes from the Trio in E-flat Major for Piano, Violin and Horn, Op. 40 (1865), of Johannes Brahms, as performed at the La Jolla Music Society SummerFest 2014. Break music comes from “When the Swallows Homeward Fly” (1846) by Franz Abt, from a YouTube performance by OK Guitar; and from “Just Before the Battle, Mother/Farewell, Mother,” by Steve Earle and Dirk Powell, from the album Divided and United: Songs of the Civil War (ATO Records, 2013). Theme music by The Impossible Shapes.

Hospital Sketches is produced and written by Cynthia Wolfe, with production assistance from Doug Storm and Heather Perry, and edited by Cynthia Wolfe and Sarah Torbeck. Executive producer is Joe Crawford.

IMAGE CREDIT: Photograph of Louisa May Alcott via Wikimedia Commons

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