Sarah's Reviews > March

March by Geraldine Brooks
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Aug 28, 2007

it was ok
Recommended for: people who like historical fiction
Read in September, 2007

It's not that I don't like any historical fiction, I just think that it's a really hard thing to do right, without simplifying everything. Nah, I really just hate historical fiction. And I think that March is a perfect example of historical fiction gone wrong.

1. I hate it in historical fiction when... the author seems to cling to one or two details in history and repeat them over and over again. In this book, the author seems intent on measuring everything in rods, no matter how short or long the distance, no matter how unimportant it is to the rest of the story - "the field was six rods away," "he was one rod tall," "I love rods." She does the same thing with the word score - three score, four score, five score... there are never ten or fifty or ninety of anything. Perhaps there was never ten, fifty, or ninety of anything in the 1860s? I suppose I'm not a historian...

2. I hate it in historical fiction when... huge events, such as the Civil War, are simplified down to the most basic historical and moral levels. Sure, I understand that an entire war is too complex to fully cover in a three hundred page novel, but you can still do better than, "War is bad! But slavery is also bad! So is a war to get rid of slavery good?"

3. I hate it in historical fiction when... the main character seems to be best friends with every famous person of the time period. In this book, the main character hangs with Waldo Emerson, Henry Thoreau (notice she drops the "Ralph" and "David" parts because, you know, they're like close friends), Nathaniel Hawthorne, and John Brown. As if, because I live in the 2000s, I am best buds with Dick Cheney, Britney Spears, and Bill Gates. Hi, Brit! Luv Ya!!!
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02/04/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-29)




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message 29: by K (new)

K Great review, Sarah -- I also hate (most) historical fiction. I would add another item to your list: I find that many historical fiction writers' emphasize historical detail rather than characterization or plot. It's as if they don't want all the research they did for the book to go to waste, so they shove it in wherever they can. Most of the historical fiction books I've read have had superficial characterization, clicheed romance novel plots, and really forced writing.

I would make an exception for another Geraldine Brooks novel -- "Year of Wonders." Did you read that one? I think it was much better written than "March," although a lot of goodreads reviewers complained about the ending.


Joanne Great reviews! I also found this book very disappointing and certainly not an homage to the disaster wrought by the Civil War.


message 27: by Barb (new) - rated it 4 stars

Barb Geraldine Brooks based the character of Mr March on Louisa May Alcott's father, Bronson Alcott. Two of Mr Alcott's closest friends were Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau so it would be a little strange were they NOT included in the story...


Emily Thanks Barb. Agreed.


Darlene I suggest Sarah visit Concord, Massachusetts. There, she would find the Alcott home as well as the homes of Emerson, Thoreau, and Hawthorne. The writers were contemporaries and believed passionately in freedom for all slaves.


message 24: by Jo (new) - rated it 3 stars

Jo I felt the same way about March knowing Emerson and Thoreau, until I read the end of the book...where Brooks explains that she based the character of March on Alcott's father.....who did actually know those people.


message 23: by Nancy (new) - rated it 1 star

Nancy Sarah, love this review. Your commenters are of course correct about Bronson Alcott - but what the heck, I hated the book anyway, for all the reasons you gave PLUS the plodding style.


Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship It makes sense for a character to know a bunch of famous people who all live in the same place and move in the same social circle. Now, if Abe Lincoln had paid a surprise visit to the hospital (seems like I once read a civil war novel where that happened), then I'd've been rolling my eyes....


buffy Don't comment on things you know nothing about. If you would have just read the back of the book, you would have known march's character was based off of Bronson Alcott.He lived in concord massachusetts, in the same neighborhood as henry David thorough and Ralph Waldo Emerson. Not only were the neighbors, they were also close friends. Do some research before you make any more embarrassing comments.


Courtney Recently finished this and hated it too, though for a different set of reasons. Also, defenders who say some of the unbelievable aspects of the book are drawn from Bronson Alcott's should note that other unbelievable aspects of the book contradict that life. And unbelievable events aren't always crimes against literature. My bigger complaints are that the writing does not hold together, the main character is a weak and unlikable whiner, and the plot does not overcome these faults to make the book worth the effort.


message 19: by Lisa (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lisa Rathbun I also hate how characters in historic fiction always meet famous people, but I felt that the people March met were totally believable. The Alcotts lived in Concord and would have met Thoreau, Emerson, and Hawthorne. Also his support of John Brown makes sense. Abolitionists went on lecture tours; March would conceivably gone, listened, and chose to support Brown's cause.

I also didn't think that the author's contention is that a war to end slavery is good. Mrs. March's thoughts upon first arriving at the hospital were all on how wrong it was for boys to be killing boys over their beliefs. I myself on reading it was wondering, "What else was one to do at that point in our history?", but I definitely felt that the author was negative toward war.


Sharon If you had read the author's (extensive) notes, you would have discovered that she based Mr. March's character on Bronson Alcott who ... wait for it ... was friends with Thoreau and Emerson. It's not THAT far-fetched. Good grief.


message 17: by Mary (new)

Mary historical fiction is still fiction bases loosely on historical facts.it's not meant to be taken as the end all of the time period. that being said the book was well written in prose reminiscent of the period. I did not think it underrated war on the contrary.what I did think was that one white man endured one small year of hardship and he was almost distorted emotionally ans mentally. the compared strength of the African Americans depicted is a powerful testimony to their spirit.


message 16: by Laurel (last edited Jul 16, 2014 08:27AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Laurel I had some issues with this book as well, but apparently, the relationships with Thoreau, Emerson, etc. were based on fact. From the Huffington Post: "Many forget that the beloved purveyor of moralistic tales for young girls, Louisa May Alcott, had quite a radical streak. Alcott came from a leftist, abolitionist, transcendentalist family, and she counted Henry David Thoreau and Nathaniel Hawthorne as family friends. One of the most significant family friendships in Alcott’s life was that of Ralph Waldo Emerson, a lifelong friend of her father’s. In an essay written in 1882, Alcott remembered Emerson’s contribution to her education as a writer, recalling that he allowed her free rein in his extensive library: “His kind hand opened to me the riches of Shakespeare, Dante, Goethe and Carlyle, and I gratefully recall the sweet patience with which he led me round the book-lined room.” To a reader like young Alcott, Emerson’s willingness to share his literary bounty was the greatest gift possible."
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/07...


message 15: by Massimo (new)

Massimo Dellavalle Hahah!! Well said Sarah!


Stephen Good points all, but I especially agree with your 3rd point. I mean, come on! It was so ridiculous and absurd!


message 13: by Manybooks (last edited Oct 11, 2015 08:04AM) (new) - added it

Manybooks I understand and appreciate what you have pointed out, and for the most part, I agree one hundred percent (and I did not like the novel either, too unbelievable and strange for my tastes). However with regard to your annoyance about all the relationships with and to these famous literary people and philosophers, March (actually rather Bronson Alcott, Louisa May Alcott's father, on whom the character of Mr. March is strongly based) would have and should have, in fact, been friends with Thoreau, Emerson, Hawthorne etc. and not having the main character be friends with these individuals would have been historically inaccurate (Brooks did not make this up, any biography of Bronson Alcott will show his friendships with many of the most well known transcendentalists of the time). Geraldine Brooks, thus, did not artificially strive to make her main character friends with as many famous people as possible, Mr. March's relationships to Emerson, Thoreau and company are based on the historical fact that the model for Mr. March, Bronson Alcott, was good friends with the these individuals (the entire Alcott family was).


message 12: by Makenzie (new) - added it

Makenzie I agree with point three the most. I call it Forrest Gump syndrome


message 11: by Makenzie (new) - added it

Makenzie I agree with point three the most. I call it Forrest Gump syndrome


message 10: by Manybooks (last edited Jan 18, 2016 02:48AM) (new) - added it

Manybooks Makenzie wrote: "I agree with point three the most. I call it Forrest Gump syndrome"

Yes, but Bronson Alcott (the model for March) was indeed friends with (and good friends with) all of the famous people mentioned in the novel. Brooks did not make this up and if she had left this information out, that would have been very historically inaccurate (as the entire Alcott family was friends with Hawthorne, Emerson etc.).

With regard to historical accuracy the third point of contention actually makes no sense at all for this particular book, as ALL the friendships did occur and were not invented by the author or added by the author.


message 9: by Jim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jim Davis Then why are you reading historical fiction?


message 8: by Jim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jim Davis Then why are you reading historical fiction?


message 7: by Jim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jim Davis Then why are you reading historical fiction?


message 6: by Manybooks (new) - added it

Manybooks Jim wrote: "Then why are you reading historical fiction?"

That is definitely a question that comes to mind. I did not like this book all that much, but especially point three in the review makes absolutely no sense whatsoever, as its criticism does not pertain to Bronson Alcott.


message 5: by Sue (new) - rated it 5 stars

Sue What a silly review. This is one story about one man. Not meant to be epic! Did you read the "Afterward"?


Doris Evans-McCarthy If you read historical fiction, you have to be willing to ask questions and then go digging for answers. Brooks did her homework on this book, as she has done with all her others. You must also realize that early involvement in the war meant having a very myopic view of the bigger picture. March was an idealistic preacher who thought by showing up he could instantly make a difference. What he found was exactly what John Brown found. Sometimes people will cling to the only home they know rather than risking death for the unknown.


Shana He really was close personal friends with Ralph' Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau. That part is accurate. I'm the curator of Fruitlands Museum, the site of the community he created in Harvard MA.


Kate I totally disagree. This book was amazing. She actually based the story on Louisa May Alcotts real father. He did know Emerson and Thoreau.


message 1: by Rina (new)

Rina I haven't read this book yet, yet it appears to me to be quite an interesting historical fiction. It is what the author imagines the father of the March sisters - yes, you remember "The Little Women" by Louisa May Alcott (a historical war time classic, which by the way I LOVED!) - does when he's away from home fighting the in the war. And I do believe that Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Henry David Thoreau, and other literary figures like them, were contemporaries (or possibly) at that time. The author is taking what's known as "poetic license" (although this is not a poem, that's just the term) with her historical fiction.

And hey, Ms Sarah, WHY DID YOU PICK UP THIS BOOK
1. to read, knowing it is a historical fiction
2. and then give it a bad review.

Maybe bodice rippers are more your style? Next time, I suggest, you and the others who trashed this book - since none of you appear to like historical fiction - RESEARCH THE BOOKS YOU PICK UP MORE THOROUGHLY. Yeah?

And you may call me Ms Michelle... Personally, because of your review, I can't wait to read this book. So in effect, yes, you've written a good review.


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