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March by Geraldine Brooks

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Gordon This novel deals with Mr. March, the father of Louisa May Alcott's little women. In this interesting book about a stuffy, principled, and interesting protagonist, we learn what makes Jo so creative and at the same time priggish. Much like Mr. Timothy (an offshoot of A Christmas Carol by Bayard) and Finn (a book about Huck's father) this book takes a minor character and expands him into a fictional world that leaves us much richer for having explored it. I did not like this novel as much as Year of Wonders, but I enjoyed it much more than Little Women, something that could enrage the average American critic. Oh well.

Jean I would count myself as a Little Women fan, but I also found this book to be a great counterpoint. Of course, Louisa May Alcott sugar-coated her story of her family. This book does a great job of showing the downside to being an ideologue. However, I keep going back and forth as to whether the author went too dark with March in not allowing him any heroism. But his feelings of shame at the end certainly made the book more poignant.

Amanda The thing I really did like about March was that it gave me a picture of Marmee that I could believe. The Marmee in LW is so saccharine, so kind, so loving, and patient, and giving. She's a plaster saint of a person, and I never felt she could be real. The Marmee in March is much more real. She is kind and caring, but also passionate, full of real feelings like anger, resentment and irritation.

Mr. March irritated me, his naivete and self involvement were astounding - but I really did think March was good.

Jean I agree - it was great to see Marmee flying off the handle, arguing for what she believed in. I was surprised, though, when the voice shifted to her and her inner thoughts were so different from what Mr. March imagined her thinking - especially that moment when he announced that he was joining the army and he interpreted the look on her face as approval. I thought there was too much disparity between that and the later report by Marmee that she was actually completely against the idea. Based on the picture of Marmee given in the first part, I thought it more likely she would want him to go, on some level. Did anyone else have trouble with this?

Mackay Yes, you picked a big issue - what we are shown of Marmee conflicts with what she tells us of herself. I couldn't buy that at all.

Amanda It seemed to me that Mr. March was just so self-involved and determined to follow the philosphical course that he had laid out for himself that he misinterpreted and misunderstood his wife's views completely. He always talks about how he interprets the looks that she gives him or the expression on her face (always to approve of him or to be proud of his decisions, always made without consulting her)-- never about any direct communication between them. I think the character just sees in Marmie what he wants to see, and I think that the disparity is in the views of the characters, not in the narrative itself.

Matthew I've never read Little Women, yet I read and greatly enjoyed this book. As a student of American literature, its always fun to see Thoreau, Emerson, and the transcendentalists in a work.

I agree with Amanda's take on the March relationship. Although Mr. March espouses many radical ideas, he still seems to value a very traditional role toward the role of his own wife.

Brenda Clough Yes, I think that Mr. March lives in his own world, and poor Marmee never had a chance. In that time period she had no recourse, anyway -- he had all the agency and as his wife she had zero. Note how he was able to burn through all the money without having to consult her. Compared to LITTLE WOMEN the two of them are far more exciting, however. Sex on the beach! Louisa May Alcott would blanch.

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