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March [Paperback]

Geraldine Brooks
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Jan. 31 2006

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" (Sue Monk Kidd). With"pitch-perfect writing" (USA Today), Brooks follows March as he leaves behind his family to aid the Union cause in the Civil War. His experiences will utterly change his marriage and challenge his most ardently held beliefs. A lushly written, wholly original tale steeped in the details of another time, March secures Geraldine Brooks’s place as a renowned author of historical fiction.


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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Brooks's luminous second novel, after 2001's acclaimed Year of Wonders, imagines the Civil War experiences of Mr. March, the absent father in Louisa May Alcott's Little 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 always accessible. Through the shattered dreamer March, the passion and rage of Marmee and a host of achingly human minor characters, Brooks's affecting, beautifully written novel drives home the intimate horrors and ironies of the Civil War and the difficulty of living honestly with the knowledge of human suffering.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School-In Brooks's well-researched interpretation of Louisa May Alcott's Little Women, Mr. March also remains a shadowy figure for the girls who wait patiently for his letters. They keep a stiff upper lip, answering his stiff, evasive, flowery letters with cheering accounts of the plays they perform and the charity they provide, hiding their own civilian privations. Readers, however, are treated to the real March, based loosely upon the character of Alcott's own father. March is a clergyman influenced by Thoreau, Emerson, and especially John Brown (to whom he loses a fortune). His high-minded ideals are continually thwarted not only by the culture of the times, but by his own ineptitude as well. A staunch abolitionist, he is amazingly naive about human nature. He joins the Union army and soon becomes attached to a hospital unit. His radical politics are an embarrassment to the less ideological men, and he is appalled by their lack of abolitionist sentiments and their cruelty. When it appears that he has committed a sexual indiscretion with a nurse, a former slave and an old acquaintance, March is sent to a plantation where the recently freed slaves earn wages but continue to experience cruelty and indignities. Here his faith in himself and in his religious and political convictions are tested. Sick and discouraged, he returns to his little women, who have grown strong in his absence. March, on the other hand, has experienced the horrors of war, serious illness, guilt, regret, and utter disillusionment.-Jackie Gropman, Chantilly Regional Library, VA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Human life experience in its most realistic form Aug. 28 2007
Format:Paperback
This book has NOTHING to do with Alcott's Little Women in terms of style or subject matter. It is actually a form of reaction to the original book and Brooks' desire to fill in the blank of Chaplain March's Civil War experience, not merely in fluffy descriptions fit for letters sent to a sentimental readership. Some passages are unbearably tangible and goary, but they are always counterbalanced with extremely real human feelings as well. A book one can read many times and still appreciate.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The gender question Dec 10 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I enjoy historical novels, some of which are much more interesting than mere "genre" fiction. This particular one relies on a literary conceit. It's supposed to fill in what Louisa May Alcott left out of Little Women: what happens to Mr. March during the Civil War. It works in literary terms, to some extent, because Brooks writes in the style of a nineteenth-century author: the narrator for much of this story being March himself. Okay, she allows a few linguistic anachronisms such as "multiple," a mathematical word that no one until very recently would ever have used as a substitute for "many." But by and large, as I say, Brooks succeeds in her use of nineteenth-century dialect. Even allowing for the general prissiness of that era, though, this is probably more like the dialect of a woman than that of a man. Brooks does allow at least one significant historical anachronism. All the nurses in this novel are women. In fact, they were men.

Brooks tries very hard to see the world through the eyes of a male protagonist. This is crucial, because he lives through a war (albeit as a chaplain). Far from suggesting that the war was amusing or even glamorous for the soldiers, most of whom were actually boys, she makes it clear through March's experience that soldiers (on both sides) were wantonly exploited and brutalized, although she doesn't make it quite clear that this was specifically because they were men. In letters to his wife and "little women" back home, March finds it necessary to omit the grotesque reality of war.

And yet, Brooks appears to use a woman's voice, that of his wife, to undermine this consequence of the gender system. She presents Marmee not only as a fierce abolitionist but also as a fierce proto-feminist.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant Historical Rendition March 30 2014
Format:Paperback
For history lovers like me, those who want to be transported in time to truly sense the intensity and dynamics of the U.S. civil war, this is a brilliant book, one of Brooks' very best, similar in heartbreaking detail to 'A Year of Wonders'.

High points for me are the detail around the actual treatment of slaves, a rich inter-racial love story that effectively re-interprets the deepest meaning of freedom, and the condition of early hospitals/medicine at the time, all combined to make this a great, riveting and educational read. Five shining bright stars and a big thank you, as always, to Geraldine Brooks.

A History of a Pedophile's Wife: Memoir of a Canadian Teacher and Writer
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