From Louisa May Alcott's beloved classic Little Women, Geraldine Brooks has taken the character of the absent father, March, who has gone off to war, leaving his wife and daughters to make do in mean times. To evoke him, 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 her telling, 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 to portray the moral complexity of war, and a marriage tested by the demands of extreme idealism, and by a dangerous and illicit attraction. A lushly written, wholly original tale steeped in the details of another time, March secures Geraldine Brooks' place as an internationally renowned author of historical fiction.
Don't miss Louisa May Alcott's classic Little Women.
©2005 Geraldine Brooks; (P)2005 Penguin Audio and BBC Audiobooks America
"Luminous....Brooks' affecting, beautifully written novel drives home the intimate horrors and ironies of the Civil War and the difficulty of living honestly with the knowledge of human suffering." (Publishers Weekly)
Wow! What a terrific book this is!
As you probably know, this is Geraldine Brooks' imagining of the father's year away from his "Little Women", and what a complete, compelling, thought- provoking imagining it is. Brooks has based the character of March largely on Bronson Alcott, the father of Louisa May and one of the great intellectuals of 19th century Transcendentalism. As we travel with March through his Civil War experience, we also experience his reminiscences of his courtship of Marmee (she is wonderfully imagined also, much more fully than the rather one-dimensional saintly mother of the Little Women), the rich intellectual life of the Concord of Emerson & Thoreau, and his heroic wrestling with issues of war, morality, race, faith, and family.
I chose this selection because I've also been reading the Transcendentalists, and found it to be a wonderful piece of storytelling.
The narration, by Richard Easton, is first rate as well. Movie buffs may recognize Easton's name and voice, notably from Kenneth Branagh's "Henry V" and "Dead Again". Easton's diction is beautiful, characterizations and dialects vivid.
Geraldine Brooks extends the reach of the American classic, Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, by following one of its invisible characters, John March, the girls’ father, through a slice of the Civil War. This book, based on thorough research into the economics & culture of the period, also features flashbacks to embryonic capitalism, the slave economy & the abolition movement of the 1840s & 1850s. Brooks accurately portrays the sometimes crackpot, fringe nature of northern abolitionism before the war, as well as its tinge of racism, in a way that could help educate the often ahistorical views of the movement in contemporary texts. John March, as a character, is able to grow by experience. He moves from an eccentric, idealistic & sometimes irritating character, to a sympathetic yet battle-hardened individual by the end of the book. The outstanding prose & plot development of the book allows the open-minded reader to grow as John March grows. As an added bonus, Brooks provides an author’s note at the end of the book, and of the audiobook, that discusses her sources & methods of translating primary materials of the time into the fabric of the novel.
Based on previous mixed reviews, I was not overly excited to download this book but it was this month's pick for my bookclub so the decision was made. I was very glad it was chosen, it would have been a shame if I had passed on this. One of my favorite reads was Brooks' "A Year of Wonders" and I think this was even better. The story and writing style were superb. The narrator was easy to listen to...a very appropriate voice for the characters. I was always excited to get back to listen as the story moved forward (not always the case for all audio books). I am now looking forward to our next bookclub meeting because the book will most definitely stimulate a lot of conversation about who we are behind closed doors, how we shape conversation to protect ourselves and others, as well as the dynamics of our true beliefs. I highly recommend.
This well-written story brought up so much to think about. I had never heard of contraband in this context and learned much about the treatment of slaves in the transitional period of the first part of the Civil War. The author's background as a war correspondent is very evident in the very bloody descriptions of the battles and the atrocities committed during raids.
Very strong women were prominent in this story about an idealistic and very naive man. Each of them has to deal with the consequences of his impetuous actions. It is interesting that this is exactly the tendency that he is continually trying to squelch in his wife.
This sequel also kept very true to the original book in its treatment of the characters.
I loved this story. Read it with my book group and we were all in agreement. It takes place during the same year as the first part of Little Women. Mr. March, and idealistic preacher, has enlisted in the Union to try and bolster the men's morale. It isn't long before they begin to resent his platitudes and he gets shuffled off to act as a teacher to "contraband", freed slaves still in danger of being taken back into slavery. Soon he begins to lose a grasp of his idealist dreams as the reality of the slaves' situation begins to unravel.
Brooks has done an excellent job showing these characters from an adult point of view rather than that of a child looking at her parents as Alcott had created them. I also enjoy the way we see Mr. March's point of view and then Marmee's view of the same part of the story.
The narrator was excellent and was very believable as both Mr. March and Marmee.
Geraldine Brooks takes the character of the March family patriarch, Papa March, from Little Women and remakes both him and his beloved Marmie in her own image. I suppose that's the beauty and power of writing -- we can all become a little godlike. Unfortunately Brooks' remix takes two sweet and noble characters from a timeless novel and drags them through the mire until they are barely recognizable. I found that disturbing and disconcerting. On the other hand, the story that Brooks tells was engaging enough to keep me listening to the end. The story stands strongly enough on its own -- it doesn't need the gimmick of recreating a well known and well loved children's classic to get our attention. I wish Brooks had realized that. I think it would have made a more powerful novel.
This profile is under my husband's name since Audible merged with Amazon. So just call me Bob. Or wife of Bob. Or the reader in the family. Whatever.
I read Little Women about 500 times in my childhood/adolescence. It was my 'go to' alternate universe to escape from the world I actually lived in. This book fleshes out that alternate universe in such a rich, sophisticated way. Highly recommend. ps...I really hate this format for reviews. I don't need your help deciding what to say, k? thanks.
I love books!
What an amazing story, to think it was written by an Aussie that read "Little Women" when she was ten years old. To think she would go into libraries and other places of letters in Virginia and Massachusetts to do the research that she weaved into this tale. I originally thought this would be a book about the Civil War. In the end it simply about human nature set in the timeframe of the Civil War. Ms. Brooks is a great writer!
Sequels usually fall short in comparison to the original. “March” is no exception. In an attempt to use Alcott’s “Little Women” as a background for this story of the “missing father”, the author has drawn heavily from the characters of the original but has created a new character, Chaplain March, who is best characterized as a “victim”. In his own words he realizes he is an idealist who was not able to deal with the horrors of war and his inaction leads to suffering and death of several characters in the book. His commanding officer, who fired March, was correct in describing this character as one who “no one liked and caused only conflict” in his command. Chaplain March is involved in continual self analysis that becomes burdensome, if not boring.
On the other hand, the book was highly acclaimed by many critics. It is well researched and provides a detailed description of medical service during the Civil War. The author attempts to carry the literary style of Alcott but, as with the sequel to “Gone With the Wind”, it is simply overpowered by the grace and scope of the original. No more sequels of great novels for me.
As a girl, I tried...really tried...to like Little Women for my Mom's sake. I even received a set of dolls for Christmas, Jo, Meg, Amy, and Beth.I tried to treasure them like Mom did. Couldn't. The book was just too sweet and nicey nice.
March was almost 180 degrees in the opposite direction. There was nothing "nice" about this character. He was kind of pathetic in his never ending lapses. He came close to being human, but seemed to lack the ability to get out of his academic, hopelessly idealistic dream world. Not even the interesting character Grace or his beleaguered wife Marmee (what an awful name!!!) could penetrate his shell.
I thought the narrator adopted the perfect tone for March. While reciting the sometimes flowery phrases, he revealed the flaws that plagued him.
Not my favorite book, but I'm glad I persisted. I liked the author's afterwords. Turns out she shared my feelings about Little Women. I'm grateful to her for bringing us March to improve my reactions to the entire package.
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