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The March: A Novel [Deckle Edge] [Hardcover]

by E.L. Doctorow
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (220 customer reviews)


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This Book Is Bound with "Deckle Edge" Paper
You may have noticed that some of our books are identified as "deckle edge" in the title. Deckle edge books are bound with pages that are made to resemble handmade paper by applying a frayed texture to the edges. Deckle edge is an ornamental feature designed to set certain titles apart from books with machine-cut pages. See a larger image.

Book Description

September 20, 2005 0375506713 978-0375506710 1st
In 1864, after Union general William Tecumseh Sherman burned Atlanta, he marched his sixty thousand troops east through Georgia to the sea, and then up into the Carolinas. The army fought off Confederate forces and lived off the land, pillaging the Southern plantations, taking cattle and crops for their own, demolishing cities, and accumulating a borne-along population of freed blacks and white refugees until all that remained was the dangerous transient life of the uprooted, the dispossessed, and the triumphant. Only a master novelist could so powerfully and compassionately render the lives of those who marched.

The author of Ragtime, City of God, and The Book of Daniel has given us a magisterial work with an enormous cast of unforgettable characters–white and black, men, women, and children, unionists and rebels, generals and privates, freed slaves and slave owners. At the center is General Sherman himself; a beautiful freed slave girl named Pearl; a Union regimental surgeon, Colonel Sartorius; Emily Thompson, the dispossessed daughter of a Southern judge; and Arly and Will, two misfit soldiers.

Almost hypnotic in its narrative drive, The March stunningly renders the countless lives swept up in the violence of a country at war with itself. The great march in E. L. Doctorow’s hands becomes something more–a floating world, a nomadic consciousness, and an unforgettable reading experience with awesome relevance to our own times.


Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

As the Civil War was moving toward its inevitable conclusion, General William Tecumseh Sherman marched 60,000 Union troops through Georgia and the Carolinas, leaving a 60-mile-wide trail of death, destruction, looting, thievery and chaos. In The March, E.L. Doctorow has put his unique stamp on these events by staying close to historical fact, naming real people and places and then imagining the rest, as he did in Ragtime.

Recently, the Civil War has been the subject of novels by Howard Bahr, Michael Shaara, Charles Frazier, and Robert Hicks, to name a few. Its perennial appeal is due not only to the fact that it was fought on our own soil, but also that it captures perfectly our long-time and ongoing ambivalence about race. Doctorow examines this question extensively, chronicling the dislocation of both southern whites and Negroes as Sherman burned and destroyed all that they had ever known. Sherman is a well-drawn character, pictured as a crazy tactical genius pitted against his West Point counterparts. Doctorow creates a context for the march: "The brutal romance of war was still possible in the taking of spoils. Each town the army overran was a prize... There was something undeniably classical about it, for how else did the armies of Greece and Rome supply themselves?"

The characters depicted on the march are those people high and low, white and black, whose lives are forever changed by war: Pearl, the newly free daughter of a white plantation owner and one of his slaves, Colonel Sartorius, a competent, remote, almost robotic surgeon; several officers, both Union and Confederate; two soldiers, Arly and Will, who provide comic relief in the manner of Shakespeare's fools until, suddenly, their roles are not funny anymore.

Doctorow has captured the madness of war in his description of the condition of a dispossessed Southern white woman: "What was clear at this moment was that Mattie Jameson's mental state befitted the situation in which she found herself. The world at war had risen to her affliction and made it indistinguishable." And later, " This was not war as adventure, nor war for a solemn cause, it was war at its purest, a mindless mass rage severed from any cause, ideal, or moral principle."

As we have come to expect, Doctorow puts the reader in the picture; never more so than in recalling "The March" and letting us see it as a cautionary tale for our times. --Valerie Ryan

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Sherman's march through Georgia and the Carolinas produced hundreds of thousands of deaths and untold collateral damage. In this powerful novel, Doctorow gets deep inside the pillage, cruelty and destruction—as well as the care and burgeoning love that sprung up in their wake. William Tecumseh Sherman ("Uncle Billy" to his troops) is depicted as a man of complex moods and varying abilities, whose need for glory sometimes obscures his military acumen. Most of the many characters are equally well-drawn and psychologically deep, but the two most engaging are Pearl, a plantation owner's despised daughter who is passing as a drummer boy, and Arly, a cocksure Reb soldier whose belief that God dictates the events in his life is combined with the cunning of a wily opportunist. Their lives provide irony, humor and strange coincidences. Though his lyrical prose sometimes shades into sentimentality when it strays from what people are feeling or saying, Doctorow's gift for getting into the heads of a remarkable variety of characters, famous or ordinary, make this a kind of grim Civil War Canterbury Tales. On reaching the novel's last pages, the reader feels wonder that this nation was ever able to heal after so brutal, and personal, a conflict.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 363 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; 1st edition (September 20, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375506713
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375506710
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.6 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (220 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #677,394 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

E. L. Doctorow's novels include The March, City of God, The Waterworks, Welcome to Hard Times, The Book of Daniel, Ragtime, Loon Lake, Lives of the Poets, World's Fair, and Billy Bathgate. His work has been published in thirty-two languages. Among his honors are the National Book Award, three National Book Critics Circle awards, two PEN/Faulkner awards, the Edith Wharton Citation for Fiction, the William Dean Howells Medal of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the presidentially conferred National Humanities Medal. E. L. Doctorow lives in New York.


Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
222 of 246 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Cry "Havoc," and let slip the dogs of war. October 12, 2005
Format:Hardcover
Mark Twain often blamed, not without some reason, the onset of the U.S. Civil War on the writings of Sir Walter Scott. Scott's romantic view (Twain called them Scott's enchantments) of war, chivalry, and honor colored southern culture to such an extent that war became inevitable. Any lingering romantic notions about war were put to rest by General William Tecumseh Sherman's march through the south. Sherman's view of war was simple: war is brutal and it must be fought with brutality and overwhelming strength if victory is to be achieved. Sherman's often brutal march through the south forms the centerpiece of E.L. Doctorow's "The March". Both havoc and the `dogs of war' form the underlying background against which the novel's plot plays itself out.

In a recent discussion about "The March" Doctorow stated that he intended to give the book a "Russian feel". In that he has succeeded. The broad canvas painted by Doctorow, a multitude of characters (both real and fictional) who meet, interact, and depart while war is waged all around them does contain stark similarities to Leo Tolstoy, Boris Pasternak, and Vasily Grossman. Doctorow's unique voice and style allows him to impart this "Russian" flavor to a novel about the Civil War without it seeming imitative or derivative. The March is an original and entertaining piece of work.

There are a host of characters in the book. Some, like Sherman, appears throughout. Others, who shall remain nameless, make an impact on the reader and advance the story but suffer untimely fates. As with any war untimely deaths are the rule rather than the exception.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars What was Sherman Thinking? March 19, 2007
Format:Paperback
The March dramatizes Sherman's terrific coup de grace on the Confederacy. The novel weaves together many disparate characters, including a white-skinned slave, an Irish enlisted man, 2 rebel turncoats, a Union doctor, dispossessed plantation owners, a British journalist, a photographer and his protégée, several Union Generals [including Sherman], and a few soldiers who meet their ends along the way.

The book has some outstanding passages about the march itself, how it can be seen as a living organism unto itself, or even a roving civilization. Also, Doctorow has written fine, balanced dialogue; this seems to me an extremely difficult task, but somehow Doctorow has his characters sound exactly right -- not too antiquated or too modern. Add to this the author's obvious assimilation of the historical milieu and you've got the raw materials of a great novel. But, wait ... not quite.

Perhaps the book's greatest shortcoming was intended to be its greatest strength: the vast array of characters. Although we can see why they are there [to present unique perspectives to better understand the great events], they are not given enough space to fully, deeply flourish. Another problem is that the narrator's omnipotence bleeds into the characters, making them at times seem less characters and more representations of historical forces. Thus the reason for writing a novel, instead of a history, is lost. It seems to me that fiction should allow us complete entry into another time and place, with all the prejudices and limitations of that experience. This novel never does that. Instead the reader feels "taught" the material, and is always aware of the distance between when the book is written and the events taking place within it.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The most brutal of wars November 20, 2005
Format:Hardcover
A sprawling epic of Sherman's march through the South, Doctorow's story once again illustrates why the effects of the Civil War endure in our country to this day. In part because it was fought on our own soil, in part because the North and South were such totally different cultures, and of course because the issue of race remains a burning one even today, the Civil War continues to fascinate. Reading Doctorow's story, it's hard to imagine that Sherman's march covered a mere 60 miles--its effects were so brutal and deadly. The Civil War occurred at a time when the weapons of modern warfare had emerged--repeating rifles, cannon and shells decimated thousands, but medicine was in the dark ages. Much of the story takes place just behind the lines in the medical units, where the distant Wrede Sartorious operates with cold-blooded efficiency, while an ever-changing cast of assistants and nurses make futile efforts to staunch the blood and ease the pain.

Doctorow's characters shift in and out of the story as Sherman's juggernaut makes its way through the countryside. Freed slaves, camp followers and whites whose homes have been destroyed by the army attach themselves to the rear of the army expecting to be fed and protected because they have no place else to go. Black men who still need the cover of a white "boss," black women passing for white, lost children, sheltered white women cut loose from their protective coccoons all tag along, until one wonders how Sherman could move at all.

Like all war stories, one becomes hardened to the blood and gore of it all, and yet Doctorow won't let us forget.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars An intimate view of the Civil War
My daughter suggested that I listen to this book. The author struck me as the "arty" type, but since my daughter is never wrong I got it. Read more
Published 1 month ago by H. Gibbons
4.0 out of 5 stars Marching with Sherman
Vivid tale makes you realize what life was like during this troubled time. The empathy I had for the characters in their situations made the story that much more real. Read more
Published 1 month ago by JAMES R WALKER
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book
This novel follows Sherman's march through the south and seems to have been thoroughly researched. The historical aspects of the story line, the battles, how the army was able to... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Jane Trezise
5.0 out of 5 stars Novel of history
This is an animated canvass of what war does to people, and what people do in war time. Pain, victory, empathy, cruelty, fear, vengeance, vanity, greed, tears, loss and hopes for... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Amazon Customer
1.0 out of 5 stars I'm Out of Step, I Guess
I guess I'm out of step with American literature today. I got this book from the library after reading the glowing reviews. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Tom Bigbee
5.0 out of 5 stars The March
What a great read about a glimpse as to the way it might have been during the Civil War. Doctorow is a master of painting the time as it was.
Published 3 months ago by G.
5.0 out of 5 stars History alive
This story was well written, I picked up the history bug from my Dad, when he passed I found myself reading more and more about the civil war, this is a very worth while read!
Published 4 months ago by T. Kingsbury
5.0 out of 5 stars WITH THIS BOOK ONE JOINS THE MARCH
The Civil War is always favorite reading for me, and General Sherman and his troops an especially-significant piece of the puzzle. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Margaret McLaughlin
3.0 out of 5 stars War ravages the soul
What a terrible war our country went through, the stories of so many people that lived during it was enlightening. I was moved
Published 5 months ago by brenda shelton
4.0 out of 5 stars Doctorow's March Through Georgia
With Doctorow's early novels, and particularly Ragtime, I found myself lulled to sleep by his simple and compound sentences and his cool, almost cold, handling of characters both... Read more
Published 5 months ago by Susan E. Meyer
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Is this a Russian novel?
Well, I just replied to this and had my reply vanish.

So again, Hi, Len. I didn't see this as a particularly Russian novel, other than in the fact that it's a big novel about a big war, as are the Russian novels you mentioned. In the Russian novels, we see war over an extended period of time... Read more
Nov 4, 2005 by Mary Whipple |  See all 16 posts
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