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March

A book by Geraldine Brooks

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Sometimes a Good Man Is a Weak Man

  • Aug 11, 2007
  • by
Rating:
+4
March is told largely in the words of Mr. March, father of all those "little women," and it encompasses the year that he spent as a Union chaplain during the early part of the Civil War. Ever the idealist, one who at times refused to recognize the demands of the real world or to compromise his principles in order to better get along with others, March quickly managed to get on the bad side of both the men to whom he hoped to minister and that of his superior officers. As so often happens during war, March lived a lifetime during his one year of service, a year in which he learned more about himself than he really wanted to know. He came to realize that his ideals and principles did not necessarily come with the courage to do the right thing when to do so put him in personal danger. He ended his year a broken man, one barely alive and, more importantly, one who considered his year of service to have been a disaster for himself and everyone he tried to help.

Along the way, March unexpectedly finds himself revisiting a plantation he remembered from his days as a young traveling salesman trying to build the nest egg he hoped to invest for the remainder of his life. Some twenty years after his first visit, the home is now an emergency hospital for Union troops and life there is nothing like the one he remembered from before. But one thing has not changed. Grace Clements, the mulatto slave woman he was so attracted to on his first visit, is still there and he is still powerfully attracted to her. Grace Clements comes to be one of the two most important women in March's life, in fact.

Having so consistently irritated the troops to whom he was assigned, March is assigned to spend the bulk of his war at a cotton plantation teaching liberated slaves to read and write. This is my one quibble with the book. While, in fact, some southern cotton plantations were leased to northern entrepreneurs during the war so that much needed cotton could be brought to market for benefit of the North, this did not occur nearly so early in the war as portrayed in March. Despite the fact that the heart of the story takes place on this plantation, I could never completely forget just how unlikely it would have been for March to find himself on such a plantation during his particular year of the war.

But that's a minor thing because March has so much to offer. It is filled with the kind of period detail that marks the best historical fiction and fans of Little Women will very likely find it to be the perfect companion piece to one of their favorite novels.

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More March: A Novel reviews
review by . April 03, 2013
Historical fiction of the highest caliber, thoroughly researched and truly engaging.
As a reader and a reviewer I will confess that I was biased against the genre of historical fiction, for my image or conveyance of it was of a gothic castle, a beautiful damsel in distress and a clichéd rugged knight riding on a powerful steed. I somehow incorrectly equated it to be on the same level to romance fiction Yes, I genuinely had those thoughts, despite the fact there is a laundry list of reputable historical fiction writers out there who have given the genre a serious literary …
review by . September 30, 2013
    Ask me what book influenced my life the most, and I'll answer unhesitatingly: Lousia May Alcott's Little Women.  I got it for Christmas when I was in Grade Two, and began reading it immediately--but because I wasn't a very good reader it took me until April to finish it.      And then I re-read again.  And again.  And again.      Jo was my heroine for years, and the family's high-minded Abolitionist politics formed …
review by . July 21, 2009
March, historical fiction by Pulitzer Prize-winning Geraldine Brooks, is the story of Mr. March (no first name ever given), Little Women's dad,  while he's off serving in the Civil War. This is definitely NOT a feel-good book, but certainly true to what I think of the real Branson Alcott (a self-serving guy who had more good women around him than he deserved).   To those who do not belong to the Louisa May Alcott cult, a little background might be necessary. During the novel Little …
review by . January 23, 2007
Really 4.5 stars. Brooks wrote an eloquent narravtive about a man who barely sunk into our consiousness. For the March women to be so mindful and strong, they had to influnced by not only a like mother, but also a father who valued the same indepedence for women.     I am not a Civil War expert by any stretch - infact, that aspect almost kept me from reading this book. The War Between the States was was anything but civil - it was brutal and cruel and ghastly bloody on all sides …
review by . February 28, 2006
When I was growing up, I loved Louisa May Alcott and read everything I could get my hands on by her. Later, through reading biographies, I learned more about her life and how actually radical and forward thinking she was for her time. In March, Geraldine Brooks tells the story of the father of the Little Women series of books. In the Louisa May Alcott books, Mr. March is a shadowy character, missing through most of Little Women, and a wise teacher and grandfather in Little Men and Jo's Boys. However, …
review by . March 07, 2005
Taking a page from the classic Little Women, Brooks considers the possible fate of Mr. March, the father from Louisa May Alcott's novel, gone to the Civil War while his dutiful family waits behind. In difficult financial straights since an injudicious investment, March's family has adapted to their reduced fortunes, valuing the fruits of the mind over material possessions, all convinced "that the greater part of a man's duty consists in abstaining from much that he is in the habit of consuming." …
About the reviewer
Sam Sattler ()
Ranked #254
Oil company professional of almost 40 years experience who has worked in oil-producing countries around the world. I love books, baseball and bluegrass music and hope to dedicate myself to those hobbies … more
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Starred Review. Brooks's luminous second novel, after 2001's acclaimedYear of Wonders, imagines the Civil War experiences of Mr. March, the absent father in Louisa May Alcott'sLittle Women. An idealistic Concord cleric, March becomes a Union chaplain and later finds himself assigned to be a teacher on a cotton plantation that employs freed slaves, or "contraband." His narrative begins with cheerful letters home, but March gradually reveals to the reader what he does not to his family: the cruelty and racism of Northern and Southern soldiers, the violence and suffering he is powerless to prevent and his reunion with Grace, a beautiful, educated slave whom he met years earlier as a Connecticut peddler to the plantations. In between, we learn of March's earlier life: his whirlwind courtship of quick-tempered Marmee, his friendship with Emerson and Thoreau and the surprising cause of his family's genteel poverty. When a Confederate attack on the contraband farm lands March in a Washington hospital, sick with fever and guilt, the first-person narrative switches to Marmee, who describes a different version of the years past and an agonized reaction to the truth she uncovers about her husband's life. Brooks, who based the character of March on Alcott's transcendentalist father, Bronson, relies heavily on primary sources for both the Concord and wartime scenes; her characters speak with a convincing 19th-century formality, yet the narrative is ...
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Details

ISBN-10: 0143036661
ISBN-13: 978-0143036661
Author: Geraldine Brooks
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Penguin
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