[Note: The following review was also published in the Georgia Library Quarterly.]
From the author of such acclaimed works as Ragtime and Billy Bathgate...more[Note: The following review was also published in the Georgia Library Quarterly.]
From the author of such acclaimed works as Ragtime and Billy Bathgate, The March is E.L. Doctorow's first full-length work in five years. Doctorow’s novel covers the Civil War march of General William Tecumseh Sherman and his soldiers as they move through Georgia and the Carolinas. The swath cut by Sherman's troops is an uprooting for everyone - black and white, young and old, North and South. With scant notice, plantation owners and their families flee the approaching army, leaving behind livestock, provisions and their former slaves. Foraging parties, sent in advance, raid and collect those supplies that help keep the army on the march. Slaves are free but now they must find their own way into their new lives. For a time they follow the Union army, swelling the numbers of people on the move; but they are left behind whenever the march’s pace demands it.
The March is an epic journey brought to life in a skillful blend of fact and fiction; it is a story told through the fog of war, with impressions of life and death on the march in its various states. As the Union army makes progress, fighting those Confederate forces they should encounter, the march itself becomes its own essential, structured world. There is an advance, there is a battle, they capture a city, they gather supplies, they regroup, and then move on to the next stage, where the cycle of events repeats. In its best moments, The March captures the intense, mythic quality of the Civil War. The novel depicts scenes of the corporeal, physical state of war but it also offers insight into the simple human response during that historical age.
History is illuminated through Doctorow’s varied and vivid characters who populate the novel. There is Pearl Jameson, the beautiful, pale-skinned daughter of a slave and plantation owner who seizes the chance to make something of her new-found freedom. The bereft Emily Thompson, daughter of Judge Thompson of Milledgeville, finds herself joining the march and working as a nurse with Colonel Wrede Sartorius, a brilliant but detached field surgeon. Will and the garrulous, possibly mad Arly are Rebel picaresques who contrive to make the best of a given situation, whether that requires a gray or blue uniform. There is even General Sherman himself, shown in moments of strategy and moral philosophy.
The first section of the novel tells the story of Sherman’s march through Georgia and its effect on those caught in its path. As a glimpse into Georgia during the Civil War era, Doctorow’s novel is compelling and illuminating. Overall, this work is recommended for any general fiction collection, not just as a work of literature but also for its insights and impressions of a particular time in American history.(less)
Regency-era fairy stories, including the title piece, which inludes a minor appearance by the character Jonathan Strange. Very English in sensibility....moreRegency-era fairy stories, including the title piece, which inludes a minor appearance by the character Jonathan Strange. Very English in sensibility. Also accompanied by some wonderful illustrations that recall the kind you'd see in old books of fairy tales.(less)
The truth is stranger and perhaps more fascinating than fiction, as this book demonstrates. The focus is the story of the 1893 World's Fair in Chicago...moreThe truth is stranger and perhaps more fascinating than fiction, as this book demonstrates. The focus is the story of the 1893 World's Fair in Chicago and how it came to be. It is no dry history. The book tells the parallel stories of two men. One was the primary architect who helmed the design and planning of the Exposition, which was a massive, Herculean effort. The other was a man who might be considered one of the early modern-day serial killers, who took advantage of the circumstances surrounding the World's Fair, in order to act out his crimes. In addition to these narratives, there are plenty of vignettes and appearances of recognizable, contemporaneous figures. The book reads like a novel, yet it's clear that every page is backed by meticulous, detailed research of an incredible period in American history.(less)
One of those books that gets under your skin, and not in a pleasant way. As a reader, it's a difficult experience to be manipulated on every page, and...moreOne of those books that gets under your skin, and not in a pleasant way. As a reader, it's a difficult experience to be manipulated on every page, and to know that you cannot trust your narrator.(less)
It was beautifully written, but it's a grueling read. Set in India, it's a novel in which life is bleak, depressing, and then it gets worse, yet what...moreIt was beautifully written, but it's a grueling read. Set in India, it's a novel in which life is bleak, depressing, and then it gets worse, yet what saves one is the ability to find small joys in life, in spite of the card life has dealt.(less)