Readers will discover in these pages an author as vibrant as her writings, and find themselves returning to her work with fresh eyes. Alcott scholars will encounter a liveliness if not substantive new information.
Somewhat fittingly, Louisa on the Front Lines isn’t a traditional biography, checking the boxes of the events and dates, although it does cover much of her life. Instead it focuses primarily on the pivotal six weeks when Alcott worked as a nurse in Union Hotel Hospital in Washington, an experience that sparked her literary coming of age ... In a larger sense, it is the story of a woman finding her voice in a society that offered women very constrained and narrow roles ... Seeing the conflict through Lu’s eyes gives it an immediacy that sweeps you up so completely, you sometimes forget who won the war ... Have a box of tissues handy ... Toward the very end Seiple seems to run out of steam, repeating several points almost verbatim and dropping hints that the future is bleak for Alcott. Suddenly the book jumps ahead 10 years with a brief chapter on Alcott’s commitment to women’s suffrage, and then that’s all, the story is done. It’s almost as if a chapter has been accidentally left out or Seiple ran up against a hard deadline or page limit ... It’s like eating a delicious meal at a restaurant but having to leave before your dessert has arrived. No doubt many readers will turn to Google to find out what finally happened to Alcott, filling in the rest of her story ... Even though it ends too soon, Louisa on the Front Lines is a rich, enlightening tale. Seiple wisely lets her subject narrate as often as possible, and Alcott’s voice shines through in her fresh, clean prose.
A swift-moving, engrossing narrative. It is especially good at describing the nursing practices of the day, when, as Ms. Seiple notes, medicine was more 'a healing art than a medical science.' The author deftly weaves in excerpts from Alcott’s journal and letters home, as well as other contemporary sources.