Tuesday, June 29, 2010

March by Geraldine Brooks


"March" tells the story of John March, known to lots of us  as the absent father  in "Little Women", Louisa May Alcott's classic American novel.

I would normally avoid novels like this one, where the author has taken a character or characters from someone else's novel and creates another novel around them.

It always feels to me like they are sort of cheating. What do you think? Is this a reasonable thing to do with someone else's original work? Despite my reservations on this method of creating a novel when I heard that March had been written I decided to give it go, if only because 'Little Women' is one of my all time favourite novels.

Well did I do the right thing giving March a chance? No, not really as I doubt I would ever have read this if it had not been about a fictional character whose existence I already knew of. Although of course I did not know much about him, as he is away at war in Little Women.

There is no doubt that Geraldine Brooks has produced a well researched novel basing the character of the protagonist John March on her studies of the letters and journals of Louisa May Alcott's father Bronson Alcott.

So from 'Little Women' and her other research she created the fictional world of Mr. March's experiences as a chaplain during the American Civil War. As an abolitionist he finds the war very testing of his beliefs, especially when he witnesses acts of cruelty and racism.
Much of the story is written in the form of letters home as he promised to write often to his beloved  wife and daughters telling of his experiences. He protects his family from the true horrors of his wartime experiences but this inability to tell them the truth causes him distress in its self.

In other parts the story is told in flashbacks to us by John March himself. Telling how during the war he meets once again a young slave girl, Grace who had a great impact on him in his youth.

Grace appears for a third time when an injured John is sent to a hospital in Washington and as in the original novel his wife is sent for. This part of the novel is told by Mrs March herself giving her voice the chance to express the grief felt as she is reunited with her husband, whom she finds tormented by what he sees as failure. The final chapters are once again in the voice of John March. Physically but not mentally he is soon well enough to go home. Finding he does not want to it is to Grace he turns only to be gently told that 'home' is where he is needed.

Using the character of John March, Geraldine Brooks has created a touching well written story which is in my opinion a decent read but nothing more.

It seems I may well be in the minority holding this opinion as I learnt that the novel won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 2006.  This award is presented to a 'distinguished' work of fiction by an American author, preferably dealing with American life.   http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/March_(novel)http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pulitzer_Prize_for_Fiction

More information about March and Geraldine Brooks can be found on her website.

Geraldine BrooksPhoto by Randi Baird


  1. Interesting review. I'm with you - not sure this is something I would have read. Interesting concept though.

    Hope you're having a great weekend!

  2. This sounds very interesting! My dad is a chaplain for the army, and I reread Little Women shortly before he left for Afghanistan last year. I just remember reading and really wanting to know what was going on in Mr March's time at war.

    Thanks for the review!

  3. Talli - Little Women is a favourite of mine which as why I decided to read 'March' Having been disappointed I will continue to steer clear of novels of this type.
    Bethany - As your father is a chaplain and you have recently re-read Little Women, you may well find this interesting. If I had known this just a few days earlier I would have sent you my copy, just to late as it has been mooched from me now. Do let me know what you think if you do get hold of a copy :)


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