Geraldine Brooks continues to amaze me: Year of Wonders, People of the Book, and now March. I am so happy that I have her newest, Caleb's Crossing, to look forward to.
I must admit I wasn't terribly enthused about the idea of March. I knew that the story was about Mr. March, father of Little Women's Meg, Jo, Amy, and Beth. Somehow that just didn't excite me, perhaps because I was a huge Little Women fan as a girl. But March jumped out at me on my last library visit, so I grabbed it.
I loved it. Recently I reviewed Chris Bohjalian's The Double Bind, which I really liked largely because he wove a contemporary story in with the fictional The Great Gatsby, treating the characters in Gatsby as if they had actually lived. Although March isn't a contemporary story, Brooks uses the same device of expanding on a famous novel by giving marginal characters new life in their own story.
I haven't read Little Women in its entirety in probably 30 years, although I have read an abridged version and watched both the movie and a play in the past five years or so. But I read it multiple times as a tween/teen, and the story is quite vivid for me. But Mr. March was always a shadowy character, the father-at-war.
In March, we read his side of the story: the ugliness of war, the devastation, horror, and degradation he faces, all while putting on a pretty face in his letters back home. We also hear about his youth and courtship with Mrs. March, which includes some wonderful scenes with Emerson and Thoreau. These scenes are based on the journals and letters of Bronson Alcott, Louisa May's father, and brilliantly done.
Who is the real Mr. March? A devout minister, a coward, an adulterer, a doting father? Ultimately he is not the man his wife or daughters think he is, but he's also not the man he thinks he is.
There's a reason Geraldine Brooks won the Pulitzer for March. Highly recommended, even if you've never read Little Women. But you'll probably want to when you finish.
Other Bloggers Review March
Fat Books and Thin Women
One Librarian's Book Reviews
The Blue Bookcase