Bart's Reviews > The March

The March by E.L. Doctorow
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Aug 28, 07

Recommended for: Contemporary fiction fans
Read in August, 2007

This was good, not great.

Such has been my feeling about all three of the Doctorow novels I've read, Billy Bathgate, City of God and The March. All of these novels are well-structured, technically proficient works, and all contain something that makes them above average.

But nothing quite makes them extraordinary.

Some credit has to go to Doctorow, however, just for picking Tecumseh Sherman's march as his topic. This is a controversial subject, even 140 years later. Truthfully, I most enjoyed the parts where Doctorow - a writer who proved in City of God that he has a top notch brain - tried to lead us inside Sherman's mind.

The novel may have been better for me if it had been more about marching and obligation and mania than bit players. The Pearl character, specifically, just felt like Doctorow was trying too hard to make a somewhat tired social commentary; the ending of the book - with Pearl being "ahead of her time" - was uncharacteristically trite.

Going into this novel, and knowing the abandon with which Doctorow tackled the existence of God in a previous novel, I expected more marching and more Sherman - and all the horrific choices an otherwise decent, but empirical-thinking, man had to make.

Finally, the supporting cast of The March is what makes me hesitate to recommend this novel to historical fiction fans. For now, let's just let contemporary fiction fans enjoy it as an entertaining read that uses very interesting scenery in a pretty good way.
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message 1: by Sonja (new) - added it

Sonja thanks for the review! Before you give up on Doctorow, have a crack at 'Ragtime'. It's great. It's the only one of his I've read, though, so I can't pretend to compare it with the rest of his oeuvre :)

Also, can't speak with much authority on historical fiction, but I thought 'The Secret River' by Kate Grenville was incredible, in case you're looking for something in that genre!


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