October 19, 2009

March by Geraldine Brooks: Review

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Since reading Year of Wonders earlier this year, I wanted to read more from Geraldine Brooks. I recently discovered that I like audiobooks so when I saw March in the audiobook section of the library I knew I should pick it up.

March is the story of Mr March, the father of Louisa May Alcott's Little Women, during the civil war that period of time when he is absent from Alcott's book. Brooks imagines what hardships the man endures, the horrors he witnesses and the guilt he carries. Mr March joins the Union Army as a chaplain but finds that his idealism is not shared by his fellow men. He hides much of the ugliness of the war from his family in his letters home but it is eating him up inside.

March remembers his youth as a peddler, travelling through the South, being seduced by the leisurely life of the plantation owners. After a shocking incident, March becomes a staunch abolitionist and preacher. He is joined by many New England thinkers in his beliefs and they meet frequently to discuss the plight of the slaves. During a meeting, his life is changed forever when he meets the fiery Miss Marmee Day. Together they fight for the freedom of the slaves, becoming paupers in the process, until the day March makes an announcement that will put him on the battlefield.

March is an emotional book. I found myself at times disgusted, angry and in tears. I was often frustrated with him. For a man of the world, he's extremely naive. I wanted to shake him and tell him to wake up. He's too idealistic and expects too much from himself and others. Marmee's point of view is interesting. How could two people so in love misunderstand each other to that extent?

I could understand where Brooks was going with this: war changes people and not in good ways. But... this is a big but... I was dissatisfied with the ending. It just didn't meld with my memories of Little Women. I have really mixed feelings about March by Geraldine Brooks.

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About the audiobook: March was narrated by Richard Easton. It took me awhile to get into it since Mr March is 39 and the narrator sounds much older (and Britisher? That a word?). Eventually I got over it.

I borrowed March from the library and here's a tip for borrowers of audiobooks. Don't use the CDs as coasters or your drive as a plate. Every disc was covered in cookie crumbs and scratched in the same spot. It was very difficult to listen to the book as parts were either unreadable or garbled. Please people, think of the others who borrow after you!

16 comments :

  1. Both of these books are on my TBR list. I think I've hesitated reading March because I loved Little Women so much {and probably just assume it won't measure up}.

    Thanks for the honest review!

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  2. Debi- There was some beautiful writing and it interesting to see his point of view but there were some very dark moments.

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  3. Little Women was the book which initiated me in to reading so I am very apprehensive with anything that might spoil the magic for me. But would want to give this a try.

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  4. I was very frustrated with him when I read this as well. I think a lot of this might have been based on the real Bronson Alcot and the troubles that he faced. It was definitely an interesting portrayal of a very flawed main character. It took me back.

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  5. When I started reading your review, I was think I have to get March, but now that I've finished your review, I don't think I will. I love Little Women and don't want to tarnish it in my mind.

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  6. I tried to read this once and just couldn't get into it. I adored "Year of Wonders," though, so I'll have to give it another try.

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  7. I absolutely loved Year of Wonders. March is on my to read list for an upcoming challenge. Thanks for your review.

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  8. I have this on my TBR pile. I really need to get around to reading it!

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  9. This frustrated me a lot as well. I just didn't feel it jived with Little Women. I did get her point (as you did) about the horrors of war and how it changes people, but I'm not sure I wanted it tied in to one of my favorite books.

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  10. I liked this book, but yes, the ending left a little something to be desired. The strange thing is that I think I have found most of her books to have this same issue!

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  11. I've been wanting to check out Geradine Brooks, but this doesn't look like the place to start.

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  12. Shona- Little Women was my first 'real' book as a child.

    Nicole- Yes, it was. I found the Afterword about her research on Bronson very interesting.

    Kathy- I think it's difficult to write a new perspective on a classic character and not alienate fans.

    Jen- I enjoyed Year of Wonders too.

    Bookshelf Monstrosity- I hope you enjoy it.

    Kailana- Your TBR pile must be huge :)

    Meghan- Yeah, I hope it won't change how I feel about Little Women.

    Marg- Year of Wonders was the same for me. I really liked it until the end.

    Stacy- You might want to start with Year of Wonders.

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  13. I have not read this book but have read several great reviews.

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  14. Christina - Were you as disturbed as I was by his sexual exploits? It just didn't seem to be in keeping with the message behind Little Women - that family is the most important thing. Papa March would never cheat on Marmee, or am I naive to have thought that? It was a real negative to the book, in my opinion.

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  15. Michelle- I didn't like it but I understood why it happened. There was a lot about the book that didn't jive with Little Women.

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  16. Chris, I, too, really liked Year of Wonders, but had mixed feelings about March. I just thought there was too much departure from Little Women with the characters of Mr. and Mrs. March. I do plan on reading People of the Book, though.

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