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March Paperback – January 31, 2006

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Editorial Reviews

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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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books (January 31, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0143036661
  • ISBN-13: 978-0143036661
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.6 x 7.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (426 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #19,883 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Geraldine Brooks is the author of the novels The Secret Chord, Caleb's Crossing, People of the Book, March (which won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2006) and Year of Wonders, recently optioned by Andrew Lincoln. She has also written three works of non-fiction: Nine Parts of Desire, based on her experiences among Muslim women in the mideast, Foreign Correspondence, a memoir about an Australian childhood enriched by penpals around the world and her adult quest to find them, and The Idea of Home:Boyer Lectures 2011. Brooks started out as a reporter in her hometown, Sydney, and went on to cover conflicts as a Wall Street Journal correspondent in Bosnia, Somalia, and the Middle East. She now lives on Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts with her husband Tony Horwitz, two sons, a horse, two dogs and three alpacas.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

307 of 324 people found the following review helpful By Cynthia K. Robertson TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on June 29, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I fell in love with the writing of Geraldine Brooks when I read Year of Wonders, so I was anxious to tackle her new novel, March. While I found the story beautifully written and richly moving, it won't appeal to everyone.

Brooks takes the well known story of Little Women (Louisa May Alcott) and weaves a tale centering on the absentee father and husband, Peter March. March starts out as a Yankee peddler, but the abolitionist movement eventually spurs him on to become a preacher. He marries Marmee, and they have four daughters. Alcott's father, Bronson Alcott, provides the blueprint for the Reverend March, and his good friends are Concord neighbors Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau. When the Civil War begins, March feels it his duty to enlist-even though he well past the age of the average soldier.

March is a man of high ideals and unreachable dreams, but his many flaws keep him from always acting in a noble or heroic manner. His efforts during the war are both heart warming and tragic. Brooks gives us a glimpse of some little-known aspects of the war including the running of seized plantations by northern men and former slaves (contraband). Sometimes conditions weren't much better than working under southern plantation owners. We also get to see a bit of the abolitionist movement as well as the Underground Railroad.

Brooks writes March in the first person (all but several chapters in Peter's voice). You can read each sentence and feel the beauty of 19th Century written and spoken words. But sometimes, this becomes plodding and the plot is slow to develop at the beginning. I can imagine some readers giving up. Also, while I thoroughly enjoyed March, I might have had an even greater appreciation if I had read Little Women.
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158 of 172 people found the following review helpful By Linda Linguvic HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on May 8, 2005
Format: Hardcover
This recent novel by Geraldine Brooks displays her passion for journalism. Here, the fictional character from Louisa May Alcott's "Little Women", the absent father, Mr. March, who is off fighting in the Civil War, is given center stage.

Coupled with scrupulous research of the time period and her wildly creative imagination, she fashions a riveting tale. She captures the sights, the sounds and the smells of a long-gone period of time that has shaped America forever. Some of it is based on the writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau who were friends of Louisa May Alcott's father. And I do believe she encapsulated perfectly the historical realities of the time, especially in Concord, where abolitionist families hid runaway slaves in an underground railroad and there was constant intellectual discussion about the politics around them.

We get to meet Mr. March as a young itinerant Connecticut peddler in the South years before the Civil War. He's in the bloom of youth and attracted to a slave girl. Inevitably, he gets to sees first-hand the injustices of slavery.

Later, we watch him romance and eventually wed the outspoken Marmee. We see his joy at the birth of his four daughters, and watch his faith rise as his fortunes get fritted away with misplaced investments in John Brown's failed ventures, cumulating in the tragedy at Harper's Ferry which was supposed to be a slave rebellion. All this is told in flashback, as he writes letters home to his family, hoping to spare them the horrors that he sees every day during the War.

There were aspects of the Civil War story I had never heard of before. For example, as a Union Chaplain and teacher, Mr.
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118 of 131 people found the following review helpful By Luan Gaines HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on March 7, 2005
Format: Hardcover
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."

A learned man who has traveled the country in his youth, Mr. March is later content to raise his four daughters in a pastoral landscape in Concord, Connecticut, with esteemed neighbors and fellow philosophers Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau. For her part, Mrs. Marsh (Marmee) is an abolitionist in spirit and action, while many northerners are still mired in discussions about the morality of slavery. A long-time member of the Underground Railroad, Marmee is fondest of her husband's nature when he supports her anti-slavery convictions with equal fervor.

Although older than most Union soldiers, Marsh joins the war effort as a chaplain. Broad-minded to a fault, March extends comfort to the injured and dying, torn by the violence around him and the extreme youth of soldiers on both sides. While Marsh believes the war is motivated by the noble effort to free the slaves, he is not oblivious to other realities involved and many of the Union soldiers are there by conscription.

The dialog is perfect, relative to the era and prone to prodigious verbiage. Nor is March suffering from a lack of moral persuasion, so conscience-riddled as to be a bit of a bore, rich in character if not in goods.
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