Thursday, December 04, 2008
March by Geraldine Brooks
March, by Geraldine Brooks, imagines the life of Mr. March, the father who is absent during Louisa May Alcott's Little Women. In this captivating back-story, which Brooks researched with loving care, Mr. March's character, based on A. Branson Alcott, takes center stage as a man whose views were most radical, at the time: he is a transcendentalist philosopher, educator, vegetarian, and fervent abolishionist who is actively involved with the underground railroad. In this novel, he is also presented as a cleric.
It is also about the pain--emotional, physical, and financial--inflicted by The Civil War. Many different stories have been written about this time period, and March adds yet another look into the motives and feelings of those people who struggled for a more perfect union for their country, as well as those who can't help being caught up in the conflict.
Specifically, this is the story of a man who started out as an innocent with lofty ideals who is actually put to the test of living by them in the most harsh and insane arena, war. As a young man, he felt that he stood on solid moral ground, but after his one-year enlistment as a Union soldier, he faces uncertainty and guilt. The transformation March undergoes is heartbreaking and very real. He becomes haunted by his past and in the end, struggles to keep his sanity and to find the will to live.
March is not only touching, but also historically fascinating. Brooks explores the racism of the time in both North and South and to do that, she created a cast of supporting characters who came alive on her pages to undoubtedly stay in the minds of their readers for a long time. It is a beautifully written book, and won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 2006. I would recommend it to anyone.