Review: March

Sunday, October 17, 2010

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From Louisa May Alcott's beloved classic Little Women, Geraldine Brooks has animated the character of the absent father, March, and crafted a story "filled with the ache of love and marriage and with the power of war upon the mind and heart of one unforgettable man" (Sue Monk Kidd). With "pitch-perfect writing" (USA Today), Brooks follows March as he leaves behind his family to aid the Union cause in the Civil War. His experiences will utterly change his marriage and challenge his most ardently held beliefs.

As a kid, I read Little Women but it never held a special place on my bookshelf the way it seems to have for other people. I picked up March hoping for a good Civil War novel from one of my favorite journalists (Brooks wrote Foreign Correspondence - a book that made a huge impression on me in my early teens and helped me decide on a career in journalism) but with little interest in the way it tied back to Little Women. 

March turned out to be a well-researched, solidly written effort examining the gap between intentions and actions, between blacks and whites and husband and wife. I turned the last page and didn't feel a thing - the story completely failed to move me in any way.

I failed to make a connection with Mr. March - he seemed like one of those sanctimonous people who are always running around telling people that they're making things better when they're actually complicating the situation and bullying those who get in their way. I felt his relationship with Grace, a house slave with complicated parentage, was artificial and unbelievably presented. To add to my frustration, she seemed to only pop up during key moments of the story when March needed a "slave conscience" to tell him how to feel.

It kills me to give Geraldine Brooks a bad review but I just don't understand why this was awarded a Pulitizer Prize - perhaps my expectations were too high after reading Mary Sutter. I would certainly not dissuade a reader from picking up March but they should take the enormous hype surrounding the book with a grain of salt.

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