I listened to the March on a 5 hour drive to Charleston And couldn't wait to get back into my car to continue with this moving, powerful and insightful novel. The narrator fit the book to a T. I likened the experience to watching a Ken Burns' documentary and was sorry to see it end.
Positive features: A gripping description of how war affected individuals.
Negative: Feeble attempt to blend fictional characters with historic events. I've read better.
Not unentertaining; mostly average.
This is a very good book but it is long and I am exhausted after marching, burning, and plundering across the South; I am ready to end the war as soon as possible but the characters are fascinating and they are hard to let go.
The reviews on this book have been very good and emphasize the civil war/Sherman context, which I found lacking. The book was an interesting enough listen but no more. The book uses the civil war as a mere backdrop, the March of Sherman is no more than a basic connection between stories and the characters are not terribly compelling. Some of them seem to be more of a reason to flash between stories as opposed to a real character in and of themselves The narrative flows well enough but its not terribly engrossing. If I had gotten this book in print version, I would not have finished it. As an audio book, it is good enough but not great.
I haven't enjoyed a Doctorow novel this much since I first read Ragtime. The structure is similar: the story is told from the points of view of a diverse group of characters who have one thing in common, their participation--willing or unwilling--in events surrounding Sherman's march. The characterizations were fascinating. Someone mentioned his atittude towards Sherman was hostile, but I didn't read it that way. In fact, he tempered it with Sherman's sadness about his son's death and his subsequent sympathy for other children and for parents who have also lost children. And he seems to have a moment of insight when he meets Johnston near the end of the novel. I loved Pearl and Stephen Walsh, Calvin, Sartoris, Arly--all of whose lives had been changed forever by the experience of war--some for the better, others much worse. A solid and engaging work.
Doctorow is a wonderful story teller. The paths of the characters flow, and his language is very satisfying. One of my favorite purchases so far.
I agree with another reviewer that although the book is pretty good entertainment as a listen, I could never have gotten through it as a read. I found the historical aspects interesting, but the characters and plot line were not compelling. It reminded me a little of a made-for-TV miniseries.
I scoff up every historical novel about the civil war I can get my hands on, but this is the absolute creme of the crop. It's about the civil war, but its more about the people who fought it, from the drummer boy up to the generals. Don't miss this one. It is a wonderful experience.