Saturday, January 22, 2011

Kelly's Review: MARCH by Geraldine Brooks


By: Geraldine Brooks

Penguin Group / 375 Hudson Street / New York, NY 10014

First Printing: 2005

ISBN: 0-670-03335-9

Amazon; Barnes and Noble; Goodreads

Concept: “As the North reels under a series of unexpected defeats during the dark first year of the Civil War, one man leaves behind his family to aid the Union cause. His experiences will utterly change his marriage and challenge his most ardently held beliefs. Riveting and elegant as it is meticulously researched, March is an extraordinary novel woven out of the lore of American history by the author of the international bestseller Year of Wonders.

From Louisa May Alcott’s beloved classic Little Women, Geraldine Brooks has taken the character of the absent father, Mr. March, who has gone off to war leaving his wife and daughters to make do in mean times. To evoke his voice, Brooks turned to the journals and letters of Bronson Alcott, Louisa May’s father, a friend and confidant of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau. In Brooks’s telling, Mr. March emerges as an idealistic chaplain in the little known backwaters of a war that will test his faith in himself and in the Union cause as he learns that his side, too, is capable of acts of barbarism and racism. As he recovers from a near mortal illness, he must reassemble his shattered mind and body and find a way to reconnect with a wife and daughters who have no idea of the ordeals he has been through.

Spanning the vibrant intellectual world of Concord and the sensuous antebellum South, March adds adult resonance to Alcott’s optimistic children’s tale and portrays the moral complexity of a war and a marriage tested by the demands of extreme idealism and by the temptations of a powerful, forbidden attraction. A lushly written wholly original tale steeped in the details of another time, March secures Geraldine Brooks’s place as a renowned author of historical fiction.”

Review: That’s a pretty wordy description. I can go on with what *I* felt the book was really about, but I won’t because it will make me sound completely unappreciative. I *am* completely unappreciative to be honest. This book came to me as a recommendation for a monthly read from our group. The idea is to expand some of our genre horizons. I’m a paranormal romance nut so reading historical fiction is a stretch. If this is what historical fiction is though, count me out. I’ll stick with the boys in the Black Dagger Brotherhood for my escapism. Ouch right? I’m sorry. I really wanted to like this book. It was very flowery and I didn’t like Mr. March AT ALL. I found him to be completely annoying. I’m afraid I don’t have very many good things to say. I must be too simple to appreciate this sort of book since other reviewers find this book to be excellent.

What I liked: I love the idea of the book. I read Little Women as a teenager and Marmee was one of my favorite characters. I remember wishing my own mother was more like Marmee even. I put Mr. March up there with my own father. His girls adored him as I adored my own father. In my mind, I made him to be some sort of Civil War saint out there fighting for freedom. So I loved the idea of learning what he really did. I did learn some interesting historical facts, and I can see that the book was very carefully researched and for that, I have to give some credit.

What I disliked: Well, most everything, but especially Mr. March. I also disliked that I ever picked up this book in the first place because I may not ever be persuaded to read another historical fiction again. If you are a true literary nut and love, no, ADORE classics, then you may appreciate this book otherwise, I’d advise you to stay away.

My rating: 2 Stars for great research but -1 Star for making me hate a character I used to love. So 1 Star.

by Kelly

for Book Lover's Hideaway


LM Preston said...

Oh, I understand how hard it is to read something that isn't your basic taste. We readers are very picky. I'm also happy you pointed out the good in the book.

TheBookGirl said...

I'm sorry that your stab at historical fiction was such a disappointment for you; I read that genre often, and enjoy it. Sometimes reading outside your comfort zone pays off, and sometimes it doesn't. Maybe you'll have better luck next time -- perhaps a paranormal historical :)

Annette Mills said...

That's too bad. Historical Fiction is probably my favorite genre, and I didn't really like this book either. Please, give it another shot! (historical fiction, not this book!)

Unknown said...

I agree with Annette above - I adore historical fantasy, and it's definitely one of my favorite genres, and I tried reading this book a few years ago & couldn't even finish it. Trust me, there is better HF out there!

Anonymous said...

Don't give up on historical fiction just yet. I read "The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott" this summer by Kelly O'Connor McNees and loved it, and right now I'm finishing up "Gone With The Wind" which is one of the most epic books I've ever read - a pure guilty pleasure as a romance novel and yet a very significant voice with regards to the Civil War and the Southern perspective. WAY better than the movie.

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