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September 2010 BOTM: My Name is Mary Sutter by Robin Oliveira

A monthly discussion on varying themes guided by our members. (Book of the Month discussions through December 2011 can be found in this section too.)
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Divia
Bibliomaniac
Location: Always Cloudy, Central New York

Postby Divia » Wed October 6th, 2010, 10:00 am

"Misfit" wrote:I liked it as well and I'm not a LMA fan. Not because I don't like her, just because I never read her. Or if I did in my childhood I've forgotten about it.


Not sure you would like Alcott that wrote for children. Her adult novels and short stories are more gothic, more wild and more tragic. Typical Gothic stuff. Pretty ladies, castles, drug crazed people.



A lot of people really don't have an understanding of the American Civil War until they read books like this. When I was doing my research I was shocked that most doctors only went to school for a few weeks or months. They were out in a year. They never looked at bodies. They didn't know using dirty knives were bad. And often if someone got shot in the leg instead of taking otu the bullet they'd take the leg. :eek:

Thats why I enjoyed this story. It does a great job of showing the horrors the men faced.
News, views, and reviews on books and graphic novels for young adult.
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Misfit
Bibliomaniac
Location: Seattle, WA

Postby Misfit » Wed October 6th, 2010, 12:45 pm

"Divia" wrote:Not sure you would like Alcott that wrote for children. Her adult novels and short stories are more gothic, more wild and more tragic. Typical Gothic stuff. Pretty ladies, castles, drug crazed people.



A lot of people really don't have an understanding of the American Civil War until they read books like this. When I was doing my research I was shocked that most doctors only went to school for a few weeks or months. They were out in a year. They never looked at bodies. They didn't know using dirty knives were bad. And often if someone got shot in the leg instead of taking otu the bullet they'd take the leg. :eek:

Thats why I enjoyed this story. It does a great job of showing the horrors the men faced.


I doubt LMA is an author for me, you are most likely correct.

I was the same way on the Civil War, they really don't teach it well in the history classes, do they? I was floored when reading the Shaara trilogy. I had no idea how incredibly bloody and brutal it was. Nor how worse it was made by some incredibly incompetent generals, especially on the US side.

Kansas was also quite a hot bed, before and during. It was on the verge of statehood and both sides wanted them to go in either pro slavery or non. Much of that was included in Seventrees by JYB, along with the Lawrence massacre.
At home with a good book and the cat...
...is the only place I want to be

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Michy
Bibliophile
Location: California

Postby Michy » Wed October 6th, 2010, 2:24 pm

The greatest strength of Mary Sutter, I think, is the way the author paints such a real picture of the way things were, and yet without being gross (at least, it hasn't been gross to me). For instance, telling how Mary went from patient to patient, washing all of their wounds using the same sponge and bucket of water for everyone. But even more "real" is the way the author talks about how they dealt with amputated limbs. The first time Mary and Dr. Stipp amputated a leg, they literally did not know what to do with the severed leg. Or the Armory Square Hospital that piled up severed limbs outside underneath a window. I'm sure this was the nitty gritty reality, and yet I'd never thought of it because no author that I've read presented it in that way before.

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Brenna
Bibliophile
Location: Delaware

Postby Brenna » Wed October 6th, 2010, 3:42 pm

"Michy" wrote:I am not an Alcott fan as much as I'm a Jo March fan. I have absolutely loved Jo from the very first time I read Little Women as a kid (about 9 years old, I think?). And every time I re-read it I re-connect with Jo all over again (and even now as an adult).

Ok, back on topic.... I am almost finished with Mary Sutter -- only about 40 pages to go. Yes, I know I should just finish it tonight. But Wednesdays are very early mornings for me, and if I don't get to bed shortly I'll never get up on time. So I'll have to finish Mary tomorrow.

I'm still enjoying the book. Some of the digressions into the politics are helpful, since they help set the context for what was going on medically. But a lot of the digressions -- the infighting among Lincoln's cabinet and generals, the illness and death of his son, his contemplation of the Emancipation Proclamation -- I find to be more distracting than anything else. Not that all of these aren't worthwhile topics, it's just that I don't think they add anything to this particular story.

I did start to feel some emotionalism in the scenes involving Jenny's childbirth and afterwards (I'm being careful here since I don't know if Brenna has finished the book). But gradually I'm starting to feel more distanced, again. But perhaps that's a good thing. Given the subject matter, this book might just be way, way too overwhelming if I felt emotionally connected all the time. Even so, the last 100 pages or so have been riveting.

I have heard several times that more lives were lost in the Civil War than in both World Wars combined (that may just be American lives, not total lives, I'm not sure). That's never made sense to me, until I read this book. Now I understand. Medicine and sanitation were still so primitive in the 1860s (in the US, anyway) that thousands and thousands died of sickness and disease, forget battlefield injuries. That is why there were so many more casualties in the Civil War. In fact, after reading this, I think it's amazing that any men survived the war at all.


Michy-

I finished the book last night and since you haven't finished it, I won't say specifics. I will see at the end, I was like WAIT?! What happened? I have so many questions. I don't know if the author plans to expand the story or add a sequel, but I just felt like the book ended abruptly. I do agree with you about Jenny's birthing scene. That was one of the few times where I really related to the characters and felt what they were feeling. I did like the inclusion of Lincoln's narrative but I agree that the infighting got a bit distracting. Overall, I like the book and the subject as it was new territory for me and it was an easy read. I wish there would have been more character development though.
Brenna

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Michy
Bibliophile
Location: California

Postby Michy » Thu October 7th, 2010, 12:41 am

I've finished the book. I didn't have a problem with the ending; it felt right to me.

Overall I have mixed feelings about the book. What I liked was the very realistic, stark feel to it; I felt like I was seeing things as they were without any whitewash. There was one scene that seemed like a stretch to me, and that was where Mary marched into the White House, gained a meeting with President Lincoln, and was given permission and carte blanche supplies to tend men on the battlefield. I just couldn't really see that happening. But, the rest of the book was so starkly realistic that I readily forgave the author that one small contrivance. :)

My main dissatisfaction was that the author's style left me feeling distanced from the characters, and their emotions were depicted in a way that felt strangely murky. The scenes around Jenny's childbirth and its aftermath was the only time when I really felt connected to Mary, and felt my emotions being touched. After a few scenes it slid back into me feeling like a detached, unemotional observer. Given the subject matter maybe a constant emotional connection with Mary would have been too intense, I don't know; I just know that as it was, I felt disappointed.

On the author's website she talks about how she came to write the book. I found that interesting.
Last edited by Michy on Thu October 7th, 2010, 12:43 am, edited 1 time in total.

47Rah1980
Newbie

Postby 47Rah1980 » Thu October 7th, 2010, 12:54 am

[QUOTE=Michy;71183]There was one scene that seemed like a stretch to me, and that was where Mary marched into the White House, gained a meeting with President Lincoln, and was given permission and carte blanche supplies to tend men on the battlefield. I just couldn't really see that happening. But, the rest of the book was so starkly realistic that I readily forgave the author that one small contrivance. :)



In 1861 is was common and accepted that if you wanted to speak to the President you just went to the White House. Presidents kept office hours to meet with people, hear their requests, etc. Presidents would then consider and occassionally grant requests. Therefore, for me, Mary going to see Lincoln was actually the norm of the day rather than an exception. It was a different era in our history and why it may seem contrived today.

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Divia
Bibliomaniac
Location: Always Cloudy, Central New York

Postby Divia » Thu October 7th, 2010, 8:59 pm

"Michy" wrote:The greatest strength of Mary Sutter, I think, is the way the author paints such a real picture of the way things were, and yet without being gross (at least, it hasn't been gross to me). For instance, telling how Mary went from patient to patient, washing all of their wounds using the same sponge and bucket of water for everyone. But even more "real" is the way the author talks about how they dealt with amputated limbs. The first time Mary and Dr. Stipp amputated a leg, they literally did not know what to do with the severed leg. Or the Armory Square Hospital that piled up severed limbs outside underneath a window. I'm sure this was the nitty gritty reality, and yet I'd never thought of it because no author that I've read presented it in that way before.


Good points. I think that everyone just assumes that the doctors and nurses knew what they were doing during the Civil War. That's not true at all. In fact a lot of people were outraged that women would become nurses. It was very shocking, what if they saw a bare chest???? :eek: a penis? EEKKKK.
News, views, and reviews on books and graphic novels for young adult.

http://yabookmarks.blogspot.com/

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Michy
Bibliophile
Location: California

Postby Michy » Thu October 7th, 2010, 10:47 pm

"Divia" wrote:In fact a lot of people were outraged that women would become nurses. It was very shocking, what if they saw a bare chest???? :eek: a penis? EEKKKK.


I think those attitudes took a long time to die out. I remember my aunt (who was born in 1919) telling me that as a young girl she always wanted to be a nurse. But my grandpa was like, my daughter is not going to work on naked men!!!! So, of course, she didn't.

BTW -- she was the only avid reader on either side of my family. So I obviously inherited it from her! She was a voracious reader who used to bring home HUGE stacks of books from the library. She would literally read anything and was one of the most intelligent people I've ever known.

User avatar
MLE (Emily Cotton)
Bibliomaniac
Interest in HF: started in childhood with the classics, which, IMHO are HF even if they were contemporary when written.
Favorite HF book: Prince of Foxes, by Samuel Shellabarger
Preferred HF: Currently prefer 1600 and earlier, but I'll read anything that keeps me turning the page.
Location: California Bay Area

Postby MLE (Emily Cotton) » Tue March 13th, 2012, 10:13 pm

I just finished this book, and read through the comments afterwards.

All in all, I enjoyed it. It kept me turning pages, which, at this jaded state of my reading career, is an accomplishment.

Regarding Michy's comment that it felt detached, I believe that was the effect of the author using the omniscient point-of-view, where you could 'see' into the thoughts of different characters in the same scene, switching back and forth or 'head hopping' as it is now called. That tends to make the reader feel like an observer instead of a participant. It was routine in third-person novels before about 1970, less so now. I was raised on it, and so didn't mind, but I agree that seeing things from Mary's POV only would have made you feel more connected to her.

In the scenes with the other character, say Thomas Fall or Bonnie's husband Jake, she does stay in their POV.

But given the subject matter, I agree that a little distance is a good thing.

The setting was very well illustrated in the plotline, not too much extemporaneous 'information dumping'. Good job overall.


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