planetkiller's Reviews > The March

The March by E.L. Doctorow
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U 50x66
's review
Sep 01, 11

really liked it
bookshelves: martin-library, let-s-talk-about-it-book-group
Read from August 23 to September 01, 2011

** spoiler alert ** Doctorow attempts the tell the story of the entire march in this novel. This is both the best factor of the book and the worst.

Because he is telling everyone's story, there are several interesting plotlines that interweave. If one doesn't like one set of characters, in a few pages, the narrative will shift to another set. This also allows Doctorow to examine a wide variety of perspectives. I really like this decision; I feel like I actually experienced the march with the characters.

However, because of this shifting focus, the novel doesn't really have a protagonist. The closest to a protagonist is Pearl because she appears in the first chapter and on the last page. She's one of the few characters who get a full arc, but in the early pages of the novel, she's not really focused on, so it's a surprise when she becomes important to the narrative. Also, Doctorow stops writing about the characters after they leave the march, so prominent characters, like Emily Thompson, that seem like a good candidate for a protagonist have no resolution to their story. Emily's story literally stops in the middle with no sort of resolution, neither emotional nor narrative. Also, a few characters, specifically Morrison, seem to take over narration duties solely to be killed off.

The result is a very uneven narrative. The writing is quite good. Doctorow mostly curbs his desire for dramatic irony, and the characterizations are well done. The intermingling of fictional and historical characters is quite good; I even had to google a few names to see if the character was real or not. The plotting is very quick, and the individual plotlines are mostly interesting and entertaining. But overall, there is no plot. There are no protagonists and no antagonist more specific than "the Confederates." (Though, that isn't even entirely true as some parts of the novel are narrated by Confederate soldiers.) Also, plotlines that are very interesting are suddenly dropped, mostly without resolution.

Overall, the positives outweigh the negatives, though, and it's a very solid work of historical fiction.

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08/23/2011 page 33
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