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The Glory Cloak    by Patricia O’Brien order for
Glory Cloak
by Patricia O’Brien
Order:  USA  Can
Touchstone, 2004 (2004)
* *   Reviewed by Mary Ann Smyth

Take historical personages Clara Barton and Louisa May Alcott. Add a fictional character named Susan Gray, the Civil War, and an author with a wonderful imagination. Toss them together, swirl them all around a bit and The Glory Cloak is born.

O'Brien takes these diverse people to Washington during the height of the Civil War to work as nurses in Union Hospital. Susan Gray plays the part of Louisa's cousin, who fell on hard times and came to live in the Alcott house. The two women become fast friends, but wish to escape the confines of stuffy Concord, Massachusetts. The story is evocative of Alcott's Little Women, which in fact is written in the same time period. Conditions in Union Hospital are horrendous, particularly for women of genteel backgrounds. But they stick it out until Louisa falls ill. Clara Barton opens an office to locate missing Civil War soldiers. A trip to now closed Andersonville evokes the horrors of that prison camp.

I've already told enough of the plot. Find out for yourself what a charming book this is (despite its Civil War context). The writing is tight and the conversations have more than a touch of realism. The plot moves at a good pace. One line struck me as worth repeating - and thinking about ... 'How quickly the blood shed by one generation is forgotten by the next!' A truism if there ever was one. Especially today.

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