27 February 2014

American Bloomsbury, by Susan Cheever

An audio book.

This book is an account of the lives and interactions of some of the denizens of Concord, Massachusetts in the mid-nineteenth century. These are none other than Margaret Fuller, Louisa May Alcott, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and various members of their respective families.

I had not realized how close together all of these worthies had lived, excepting possibly Thoreau and Emerson. Furthermore, I had known little or nothing of Alcott, except that she was the author of Little Women, and Fuller was only a familiar name.

Cheever has written an interesting and useful account here, which highlights a time of intellectual brilliance in the young United States, in the time leading up to the Civil War. The story continues through that war, in which Alcott worked as a battlefield nurse. (Whitman is also mentioned in this account, of which I am reminded, for he also nursed the wou8nded in that grisly theatre.)

This might have been a little heavy for the driving-and-listening environment. When piloting the car becomes a little thrilling, one's attention tends to wander. Nevertheless, I'm not sure I would have had the motivation to finish this book from paper (a judgement on me and my dismal attention span, not on Cheever or her book), so I'm glad to have gleaned what I did by listening.