Dominic's Reviews > March

March by Geraldine Brooks
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's review
Mar 21, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: modern-literature, pulitzer-prize
Read from March 21 to April 02, 2011

March tells the fictionalized story of the father of those four Little Women sisters as a Union chaplain during the Civil War. I have a fondness for Alcott's novel, and while I am not usually drawn to creative spins on classic literature (which most often feel gimmicky), something drew me to this novel. And reading this book over these last couple weeks in smaller chunks instead of a few longer sittings gave me the feeling of sneaking glances at long letters of longing sent home. It was a special experience, and Brooks' writing style is effortless. I just loved that.

My favorite thing about March is March himself. As a narrator and a character, I found him incredibly appealing. March, a "good kind man," is really close to the man I aspire to be; he shares several of my flaws, as well. He has deep-set ideals about freedom, justice and education, but he also holds himself to incredibly high expectations. He is a lover and a family man, yet he struggles with guilt and pride and passion and doing his best. He is also deeply feeling. So while some reviewers here seemed to have grown tired of him, I never wanted to let him go. When the point-of-view changes near the end, I was disappointed, and when it finally returns to March at the very end, I was unsatisfied by the brevity of his final words. I could have easily endured another 273 pages.

But Brooks does leave a ton that resonates with me. I will surely remember many things about March and the devastating impact of War, and some of the passages are wonderful aphorisms, such as: "For to know a man's library is, in some measure, to know his mind." Or, "I am interested in money, of course sir; it is necessary for a young man in my circumstances to be so. But I trust you will not think me irresponsible if I tell you I am more interested in laying up the riches of the mind."

I will cherish, too, this additional look into Transcendental living, reminiscent to the wonderful play, The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail, and into slave rebellion, reminiscent of many transformative slave narratives and slave fiction, from Beloved to Harriet Jacobs' searing autobiography. But the part that resonates most is this glimpse into the mind of a devoted husband who is so full of conviction but is ever fully human--someone damaged by war and so wonderfully real that even his transgressions are like wounds the reader wants to tend to.

I'm not a connoisseur of historical fiction, but this is a satisfying novel that transcends easy categories and says powerful things about families and about marriage, how we attempt to live with the unspeakable parts of ourselves while still giving voice to the new selves we become with each passing day.

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