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A book by Geraldine Brooks

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Historical fiction of the highest caliber, thoroughly researched and truly engaging.

  • Apr 3, 2013
  • by
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 credibility that easily squeezes into the canon of weighty global literature. To name a few: MacKinlay Kantor's 1956 Pulitzer Prize-winning Andersonville and Michael Shaara's 1975 Pulitzer Prize-winning The Killer Angels, just to mention a couple that even I am aware of. Otherwise, that's essentially all who I knew who wrote in this area. Fortunately, after hearing so much about the novel March by Geraldine Brooks, I decided to give it a whirl. I would either get confirmation of my original beliefs of the Southern gentleman and of the delicate Southern belle or I would be pleasantly surprised. I am so happy it was the latter. Geraldine Brooks, by the elegant clarity in her writing of gruesome actions of human brutality and the suffering stemming from it, has opened this reader's eyes to the historical fiction genre in general, and for that, I am grateful. I look forward to eventually reading more historical fiction.

What I thought was so unique about this novel was Brooks' usage of the character of Mr. March from Louisa May Alcott's Little Women, an absent character who is an internally ardent abolitionist who is ministering to soldiers and slaves, hence his physical vacancy in Alcott's classic book. Brooks expands quite nicely and convincingly upon the work of Little Women. Without going into too much detail, the story is, in essence, about the united March family, the values they share-religious, political, social and otherwise-living in Concord, MA, friendships forged and trying to live the highest ideals (their opinion) of what can and what cannot help and heal humanity. Mentionable guest characters include the likes of Emerson and Thoreau, among others. Melding the ideals of religion and Transcendentalism together, March heads off to the South to do his ministry, much to the dismay of Mrs. March, who is worried about his safety and the well being of their five young daughters. Both Marches are involved with the Underground Railroad and non-slavery activities, some of which is deemed (in those times) illegal in Massachusetts. Yet, Mr. March goes to the extreme and volunteers his ministering services to the soldiers. He is an older man too by military standards, and that also elicits family concern. But the public adulation that he receives for his act is like a toxin that feeds his ego, and he cannot quit now. But the reality of war-once he gets to Oak Landing-sets in, and he sees that his ideals will be and are truly trusted. Amidst the violence and inhuman conditions, he sees an old flame from long ago when he was a peddler of wares in the South. Her name is Grace Clement, a slave, and she plays a pivotal role in the book. Fast forwarding, March is essentially a broken man and is taken back home. I will leave it at that, for I do not want to ruin a great experience by revealing too much.

March is essentially about war, all wars, but in this case it is the Cilvil War. It goes into the psyche and soul of the human person, for what happens when that spirit is ravaged by human evil? What does it do psychologically and otherwise? Are March's ideals compromised by politics, religion, philosophy or for mere survival? He is the embodiment of all men and women who fortunately return home from war and then suffer the grim consequences. In showcasing that truth, Geraldine Brooks has done a fantastic job. And the writing makes March true literature. Treat yourself and enjoy-one and all-this 2006 Pulitzer Prize winner!
Historical fiction of the highest caliber, thoroughly researched and truly engaging.

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More March: A Novel reviews
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 . August 11, 2007
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 …
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." …
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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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ISBN-10: 0143036661
ISBN-13: 978-0143036661
Author: Geraldine Brooks
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Penguin
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