Sunday, September 28, 2008

March by Geraldine Brooks

One of my most favorite books is Louisa May Alcott's Little Women. I've read this book probably close to ten times, and I also really love the movie version with Susan Sarandon, Wynona Ryder and Christian Bale. When I first saw the Pulitzer prize-winning book March by Geraldine Brooks in the bookstore, I knew I had to read it! The central character in March is none other than the father of Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy.

Mr. March (or just "March," as he is called throughout the book) is a man of many principles. He does not eat meat, he does not believe in the institution of slavery, and he does not believe it is ever right to kill another man for any reason. From the time he was 18, and first witnessed the whipping of a young slave woman, March was in strong opposition to slavery. Not only did he preach out against it himself, but he encouraged those with influence to speak and act against slavery. After he married Marmee (Margaret Day), the two of them opened their home as a safe place in the underground railroad. However, when the war begins, March feels compelled to join the army, even though he is against the act of war. He serves as a chaplain to the soldiers of the northern army. What March does not realize when he leaves his home, wife and daughters is that not only will he witness the terrible atrocities of war, but he will be forced to make decisions that go completely against what he believes.

March is obviously written by a different author and for a different purpose than Little Women. From reading Little Women, I imagined Mr. March to be a quietly strong man who is kind and good--much like the male version of Alcott's Marmee. While he does exhibit these characteristics to some extent, Brooks' Mr. March is very flawed. He acts very cowardly and selfishly on several occasions and makes poor decisions that cause harm to those around him. However, if he were perfect, his character would be unbelievable, and in some of the wartime situations he faces, there is no good outcome possible.

Brooks cleverly weaves bits of the stories from Little Women throughout the novel. She also tells of how March and Marmee meet and fall in love. I really like the Marmee of Brooks' imagination. While March narrates the majority of the book, Marmee narrates the last section. She is spirited, intelligent, and passionate about what she believes is right. The younger version of Marmee is a bit too passionate at times, and her temper gets the better of her more than once.

In the afterward, Brooks says that she based Mr. March on Louisa May Alcott's father, Bronson Alcott, who was a bit of a radical in his time. I cannot quite make up my mind about Mr. March--I think I am just having a difficult time reconciling the father that I imagine from Little Women, with the man of Brooks' story. Overall, I really enjoyed March. However, if you are looking for prequel to Little Women or more of the same story, I would caution you that the two novels are quite different.

Date completed: September 20, 2008

# of pages: 280


Literary Feline said...

Thank you for a wonderful review. I am looking forward to reading this one quite a bit. I admit that I have never read Little Women and can't say I've ever really had the desire to do so (that could always change). It's good to know the two aren't tied together to the point that you have to read one to appreciate the other.

Karen said...

I really loved March when I read it (and would highly recommend one of Brooks' other books - Year of Wonders)but I know what you mean about the character of Mr March and not reading the book as an attachment to Little Women.

Nymeth said...

I got a copy of March just last week via Bookmooch and I'm really looking forward to reading it. It won't be for a while yet, though, because I've never read Little Women and I'd like to do that first. Thanks for the lovely review, Laura!

Jeane said...

I have to admit I was never thrilled with Little Women, though I did enjoy the more recent film they made of it. Maybe I would like March better.

Maw Books said...

I bought this book about 3 or 4 months back but completely forgot what it was about. Thanks for the reminder.

Trish said...

10 times--on my goodness! I think it would be difficult to read a different kind of narrative when you have such a strong preconceived notion of what/who a character is going into it. And I have always thought the same of Mr. March based on what I know from Little Women. On the other hand, I do really like stories that tell the other side or what isn't necessarily seen in the primary book. I'll have to think this one through--I still have People of the Book to read first, but I've heard this one is better?

Tiffany Norris said...

I had never heard of this, so thanks for the review! Little Women was the first "real" novel I read, and it has been a favorite ever since. Despite your caution, I'll definitely have to check this one out, too. :)

Bookfool said...

I actually took this one off my wish list because I couldn't stand the thought of ruining my impression of Mr. March. I always thought of him a bit like I did my own father -- strong, kind, faithful and intelligent. Can't mess with Mr. March, so I'm still going to skip it. Thanks for the review. Really, you confirmed my thought that the book would distort my impression of him just a bit too much. I don't really want him to be too human, I guess! LOL

Andrew Clarke said...

Looking at your reviews and book choices, I wonder if I can suggest one to try? "Outcasts Of Skagaray" is an action adventure fantasy which might appeal to you if you like "The Chronicles Of Narnia" and also stories in which characters, male and female, have to deal with issues of principle. For a preview, there are sample chapters on If you decide to read it I would be delighted if you enjoyed the book. Best wishes anyway. My blog is if you feel like visiting.

Laura said...

LF-you could definitely read and enjoy this book without knowing anything about Little Women. I'm sure there are many people who would like March even better!

Karen-I really want to read Year of Wonders and People of the Book!

Nymeth-I hope you like both books! They have each have their own unique feeling, but both are really good!

Jeane-maybe you would like March better! There is more action, and more variety in characters than in Little Women.

Natasha-with how busy you've been recently, it's no wonder you forgot about which books you've bought! :)

Trish-I would guess that you would like March better than Little Women, but I could be wrong. It is fun to see a different writer's perspective on classic characters, even if they aren't exactly what you imagined. I've also heard really good things about Year of Wonders.

Tiffany-You should read March! It's hard not to expect the same writing as Little Women, but if you can get past that, and think of it as its own book, then you can really enjoy it.

BF--"too human"--that is the perfect way to describe my feelings towards Mr. March in this book. Of course he has flaws, but it is hard to see them all right out in the open!

Andrew-thanks so much for visiting! I looked at the website and read Chapter 6 from your book! Now I want to start from the beginning! I'll have to check out your blog too!

Kari said...

I loved Little Women, and still consider it one of my favorite books. I was so excited to see another book about Mr. March, he was such a great father figure in Little Women. Understanding that this book is going to portray another side of him is enticing, but at the same time, I'm wondering if I want the perception of him to change. I may just have to check it out. Thanks for another great review, Laura!