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.
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!