Sunday, November 04, 2007


March by Geraldine Brooks

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

I was so excited to read this book by Geraldine Brooks since I loved "A Year of Wonders." After finishing 'Invincible Louisa" by Cornelia Meigs about Louisa May Alcott, this book seemed the logical follow-up. Like Year, the story revolves one central character and how that character deals with the catastrophe that surrounds him. Year was about a woman living through the bubonic plague in England. March fills in the story of the father who is missing through most of "Little Women," and how he deals with the catastrophe that surrounded this country in the years leading up to and including the beginning of the Civil War. Mr. March is based largely on the life of Bronson Alcott, Louisa's father, whose journals Brooks studied closely. He tries to be a high-minded man of integrity, but is still quite imperfect. In the end, he can't reconcile himself to returning to his wife and family when he feels there are so many events that he needs to recompense for, but has no other choice. The book is a scathing indictment of the practice of slavery, and the descriptions of Southern practices are quite wrenching. But Brooks' greatest condemnation fall on war itself.
"I only let him do to me what men have ever done to women: march off to empty glory and hollow acclaim and leave us behind to pick up the pieces. The broken cities, the burned barns, the innocent injured beasts, the ruined bodies of the boys we bore and the men we lay with.The waste of it. I sit here, and I look at him, and it is as if a hundred women sit beside me: the revolutionary farm wife, the English peasant woman, the Spartan mother--"Come back with your shield or on it," she cried, because that was what she was expected to cry. And then she leaned across the broken body of her son and the words turned to dust in her throat. " Marmee March "I wonder where he lies. Wedged under a rock, with a thousand small mouths already sucking on his spongy flesh. Or floating still, on and down, on and down, to wider, calmer reaches of the river. I see them gathering: the drowned, the shot. Their hands float out to touch each other, fingertip to fingertip. In a day, two days, they will glide on, a funeral flotilla, past the unfinished white dome rising out of its scaffolds on a muddy hill in Washington. Will the citizens recognize them, the brave fallen, and uncover in a gesture of respect? Or will they turn away, disgusted by the bloated mass of human rot?" Mr. March Brooks shocks the reader with her graphic prose but the pictures she draws are unmistakable. The book completely puts you in mind of the Victorian era with the words she uses. She also creates two memorable characters in Marmee March, quite a different picture than we read about in "Little Women," and Grace Clement, a black slave who Mr. March first meets at the age of eighteen. Unfortunately, I couldn't quite like Mr. March himself. Although he wants to do good for his fellow men, he is so unbending in his ideologies that he pushes people away. Even though he is able to help a large group of contraband slaves learn to read, he is unable to do what needs to be done to protect them from a descent back into slavery. I found him very impracticable and a little weak. Even though the book is very powerful, I just couldn't reconcile myself to him. Rating: 3.75
Posted by Framed at 8:18 PM

3M said...
I felt much the same way you do. I also rated it almost the same--mine was 3.5.
8/02/2007 6:59 AM
Cassie said...
Maybe I won't read this one. I loved Year of Wonders too. I think I just need to read the original Little Women and leave it at that.
8/02/2007 8:23 AM
Carrie K said...
He does sounds a lot like Bronson Alcott then. I keep eying the book - I loved Year of Wonders too, but I can't quite bring myself to read it.
8/03/2007 5:32 PM
Tristi Pinkston said...
Hey Framed --I just gave you an award on my blog. Come get it!
8/03/2007 6:57 PM
Framed said...
Yikes, this post turned screwy. I wish I could get into HTML to edit my posts when this happens, but I can't. I'm pretty sure it's my computer because I can edit them on other computers. I've checked my settings but can't figure out what the deal is. Any ideas??
8/03/2007 8:56 PM
Literary Feline said...
I've never really had the interest in reading Little Women and so this one has never really sparked any interest for me. I do plan to read Year of Wonders eventually though. I've heard great things about that one.
8/04/2007 10:42 AM
Booklogged said...
I liked this book more than you did. I thought of Mr. March as very human, as well as ideological. Being from the north he was ignorant of many of the practices of the south, but I think he basically tried to do what he felt was right. I liked him and felt extreme sympathy for his plight. He definitely was not a man made for war. I look forward to reading A Year of Wonder because I enjoy Brooks' writing.

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