Book Review

Book Review: March by Geraldine Brooks

Title: MarchBook Review - March by Geraldine Brooks

Author: Geraldine Brooks

Publisher: Viking Press

Genre: Historical Fiction

First Publication: 2005

Language: English

Major Characters: Marmee, Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, John Brooke, Grace Clement, Mr. March

Setting Place: Concord, Massachusetts

Theme: The Meaning of Bravery, brutal side of war

Narrator: First Person


Book Summary: March by Geraldine Brooks

From the author of the acclaimed Year of Wonders, a historical novel and love story set during a time of catastrophe, on the front lines of the American Civil War.

Acclaimed author Geraldine Brooks gives us the story of the absent father from Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women—and conjures a world of brutality, stubborn courage and transcendent love.

An idealistic abolitionist, March has gone as chaplain to serve the Union cause. But the war tests his faith not only in the Union—which is also capable of barbarism and racism—but in himself. As he recovers from a near-fatal illness, March must reassemble and reconnect with his family, who have no idea of what he has endured.

A love story set in a time of catastrophe, March explores the passions between a man and a woman, the tenderness of parent and child, and the life-changing power of an ardently held belief.


Book Review: March by Geraldine Brooks

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 2006, March by Geraldine Brooks is a remarkable work of fiction deserving of all the acclaim it receives.

This story of March by Geraldine Brooks is about Mr. March, the husband and father of the famous family, and his pursuit of self perfection that leads him to join the Union army as a chaplain and help contribute to the cause of freeing the slaves. This was a cause dear to the March family as they had used their home as a stopover on the underground railroad.

Mr. March’s experiences during his year of service change his views from a glorified cause to the harsh reality that one person, do what they may, can never do enough to stop the tragic and inhumane treatment of an entire race of people. The events of the year and his personal failings along the way leave him broken and ashamed with little hope of recovery.

“For to know a man’s library is, in some measure, to know his mind.”

March is but a speck in the book, as there is an intricate plot which surrounds him. Through March, the brutal side of war is shown. Still, there is love and love letters to add to the beauty of the plot. There are the horrors of slavery mentioned, horrific scenes that made my insides crawl. Another stamp on history, this book (which uses fact as a scaffold) for a race that has endured unspeakable crimes.

The writing style of March by Geraldine Brooks is exquisite, with beautifully structured sentences and lively expression. Using a slightly antique, formal style, Brooks has evoked the 19th century but her skill means that the words danced off the page for me.

“Instead of idleness, vanity, or an intellect formed by the spoon-feeding of others, my girls have acquired energy, industry, and independence.”

The narrative structure is excellent. March’s letters provide insight into one aspect of his thinking, while his first person narrative shows other facets, more honest and detailed than what he sends home to his family. A potentially disruptive switch in perspective from his narrative to that of Marmee, his wife, is handled with aplomb. It is valuable to get her interpretation of what has happened, and the author uses the crisis evoked by her mis-understandings to delve into the deep nature of the relationships between a husband and wife.

All this, told with the charm of historical language and modelled after the classic, Little Women. Since the classic was about how a year lived at the “edge of war” changed the characters of those little women, Brooks wanted to give the father a voice he never had. How was he changed? What did he see? How did his view of the human race get altered? The result is stunning.


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