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March (2005)

by Geraldine Brooks

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
6,0922641,234 (3.76)677
"As the North reels under a series of defeats during the first years of the Civil War, one man leaves behind his family to aid the Union cause. His experiences will change his marriage and challenge his ardently held beliefs"--Container.
  1. 121
    Little Women by Louisa May Alcott (infiniteletters, kiwiflowa, Booksloth)
  2. 50
    Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys (CGlanovsky)
    CGlanovsky: Classic stories (Little Women/Jane Eyre) re-imagined through the experiences of characters who are important to the plot while being almost entirely unseen.
  3. 74
    Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier (1Owlette)
  4. 10
    American Bloomsbury by Susan Cheever (bibliothequaire)
    bibliothequaire: Gives an historical account of the life of Bronson Alcott (who was Brooks' inspiration for Mr. March) and the transcendentalist community in Concord.
  5. 11
    The Widow of the South by Robert Hicks (bnbookgirl)
  6. 22
    Property by Valerie Martin (RidgewayGirl)
    RidgewayGirl: Another award winning work that sheds light on the full horror of the results of slavery.
  7. 12
    In the Fall by Jeffrey Lent (1Owlette)
  8. 13
    Gilead by Marilynne Robinson (Anonymous user)
  9. 03
    Redemption Falls by Joseph O'Connor (1Owlette)
  10. 03
    Hester by Paula Reed (KatyBee)
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» See also 677 mentions

English (260)  French (2)  Portuguese (Brazil) (1)  Italian (1)  All languages (264)
Showing 1-5 of 260 (next | show all)
I’m glad I stuck with this book. Early on, there was a plot twist that seemed wrong. Even the language used to convey inner monolog at that point didn’t seem to reflect how a person of the 19th century would think or express himself. In the end, though, this incident was integral to the entire plot, and in this way justified itself.
The idea of taking the family from Little Women and describing the experiences of the absent father, away as a chaplain in the Civil War, was a good one. The narrative also fills in the years before Alcott’s book opens. This involves imagining Marmee as a young woman, which the author does by modeling her on Jo, a decision for which there is some basis in the earlier novel. Alcott also never mentions the town the family lives in by name, but since we all know it was Concord, this gives the author room to bring in not only the fictional neighbors and relations from Alcott’s book but also such down-to-earth transcendentals as the triangle of Mr. and Mrs. Emerson and Henry Thoreau. Even John Brown passes through, fatefully for the family.
For me, the book took a turn for the better in the shorter Part Two, expressing at last Mrs. March’s point-of-view. Particularly effective is the retelling of some key incidents from her perspective, which turns out to be the opposite of her husband’s. In the end, it didn’t even matter to me whether the plot was plausible as something the paterfamilias of the March family would have experienced, much less the real-life Bronson Alcott. The tale even transcended the specifics of the Civil War, although the author had thoroughly researched the topic. It turns out to be about the effect of any war on the men who go off to fight and the women they leave behind and to whom with luck they return. One effective tool of the author is to contrast the narrative with the sanitized letters sent back home.
I read this book in parallel to Booker T. Washington’s Up from Slavery. Although they overlap in time, space, and topic, the contrast between the two couldn’t have been crasser. Brooks graphically recounts what Washington only hints. I suspect the reasons aren’t limited to having been written a century apart, but I’ll reflect more about that when I set down my thoughts on that other book.
One-third of the way into this book, it felt as if I would give it two stars if I were to finish it. But now I think it was a good read, so three stars it is. ( )
  HenrySt123 | Jul 19, 2021 |
I'm not a Civil War buff, and I was not sure how well I would like this spin on one of my childhood favorites. It turned out to be surprisingly interesting, pitch perfect in tone, style, and spirit, and as far as I could tell, thoroughly researched. Most important of all, it did not "contaminate" Little Women in any way. It offered sometimes unexpected perspectives on the original novel on rare but welcome occasions. ( )
  Charon07 | Jul 16, 2021 |
Really I give it 3.5 stars. Most of the book is in Mr. March (the absent father in Little Women--based on Bronson Alcott)voice; a small section at the end is told from Marmee's point of view.

The story follows March's experience in the Civil War (as imagined by Brooks), and his trying to come to terms with his involvement with John Brown, and what is responsibility is in terms of fighting slavery.

I liked reading about his and Marmee's life, as that is seen in Little Women purely through the eyes of Jo--it's interesting to imagine them as adults. In Little Women, it was often mentioned that Marmee had to work very hard to control her temper--but that was always hard for me to believe. In 'March' you get a picture of a young woman driven by her involvement in the abolition movement. And here, it was a little hard for me to believe that she was as temperamental as she's portrayed. ( )
  giovannaz63 | Jan 18, 2021 |
From Louisa May Alcott's beloved classic Little Women, Geraldine Brooks has animated the character of the absent father, March, and crafted a story "filled with the ache of love and marriage and with the power of war upon the mind and heart of one unforgettable man"
  CarolBurrows | Nov 19, 2020 |
[This is a review I wrote in 2008]

**Couldn't put it down!**

What a great story! 'March' is really well-written and researched and fills a neat gap in US Civil War literature.

'March' is the story of the girls' father in Louisa May Alcott's 'Little Women'. In 'Little Women' the girls' father is absent throughout the novel as he is away at war, and Geraldine Brooks has picked up on this thread and woven a wonderfully inspirational novel around the story of Mr. March. Through it she tests out the theme of the morality of war which works ok with the causes of the US Civil War, and re-integration into a normal existence after war - another sensitive subject.

March is an abolitionist and goes to serve for the Union cause as an army chaplain. He joins up in a moment of town fervour, only to find that he cannot join with his fellow townspeople and is left to find his way amongst strangers from another regiment. The writing - predominantly from March's point of view - varies between letters home to Marmee and recollections of earlier times, and stories he wouldn't consider writing about to Marmee and the girls.

It's very sympathetically written and you can't help but be affected by March's journey through the landscape of war. The book doesn't impinge on 'Little Women' until right at the very end when March returns home, so there's no overlap with the all-time classic by Louisa May Alcott, and it complements 'Little Women' really well. Can't recommend it enough! ( )
  ArdizzoneFan | Nov 12, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 260 (next | show all)
Brooks is capable of strong writing about the natural world and nicely researched effects about the human one (on the eve of a battle, March sees ''the surgeon flinging down sawdust to receive the blood that was yet to flow''), but the book she has produced makes a distressing contribution to recent trends in historical fiction, which, after a decade or so of increased literary and intellectual weight, seems to be returning to its old sentimental contrivances and costumes.
 
Fascinating insight, don’t read if you’re a Little Women purist.
 
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Epigraph
Jo said sadly, "We haven't got father, and shall not have him for a long time." She didn't say "perhaps never," but each silently added it, thinking of father far away, where the fighting was. ======= Louisa May Alcott, Little Women
Dedication
For Dorleen and Cassie -

By no means little women.
First words
October 21, 1861 This is what I write to her: the clouds tonight embossed the sky.
Quotations
I am no longer eager, bold & strong.
All that is past;
I am ready not to do
At last, at last,
My half day's work is done,
And this is all my part.
I give a patient God
My patient heart.

(attributed to Cephas White- composed by an unnamed patient of Louisa May Alcott - transcribed in a letter to her aunt that is held among the rare manuscripts in the Library of Congress).
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"As the North reels under a series of defeats during the first years of the Civil War, one man leaves behind his family to aid the Union cause. His experiences will change his marriage and challenge his ardently held beliefs"--Container.

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