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Winner of the 2006 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.

From the author of the acclaimed Year of Wonders, a historical novel and love story set during a time of catastrophe, on the front lines of the American Civil War. Acclaimed author Geraldine Brooks gives us the story of the absent father from Louisa May Alcott's Little Women—and conjures a world of brutality, stubborn courage and transcendent love. An idealistic abolitionist, March has gone as chaplain to serve the Union cause. But the war tests his faith not only in the Union—which is also capable of barbarism and racism—but in himself. As he recovers from a near-fatal illness, March must reassemble and reconnect with his family, who have no idea of what he has endured. A love story set in a time of catastrophe, March explores the passions between a man and a woman, the tenderness of parent and child, and the life-changing power of an ardently held belief.

280 pages, Paperback

First published March 3, 2005

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About the author

Geraldine Brooks

62 books7,137 followers
Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the Goodreads database with this name.

Australian-born Geraldine Brooks is an author and journalist who grew up in the Western suburbs of Sydney, and attended Bethlehem College Ashfield and the University of Sydney. She worked as a reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald for three years as a feature writer with a special interest in environmental issues.

In 1982 she won the Greg Shackleton Australian News Correspondents scholarship to the journalism master’s program at Columbia University in New York City. Later she worked for The Wall Street Journal, where she covered crises in the the Middle East, Africa, and the Balkans.

She was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in fiction in 2006 for her novel March. Her first novel, Year of Wonders, is an international bestseller, and People of the Book is a New York Times bestseller translated into 20 languages. She is also the author of the nonfiction works Nine Parts of Desire and Foreign Correspondence.

Brooks married author Tony Horwitz in Tourette-sur-Loup, France, in 1984. They have two sons– Nathaniel and Bizuayehu–and two dogs. They divide their time between homes in Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, and Sydney, Australia.

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5 stars
16,567 (25%)
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 6,651 reviews
Profile Image for Jaline.
444 reviews1,608 followers
March 22, 2019
March took me by my idealistic hands and thrust me completely into the Civil War where I experienced it in ways I had not before. It was easy for me to become invested in this story because it is based on the mysterious Mr. March from Little Women; the husband of Marmee, and the father of Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy.

With this book Geraldine Brooks wrote an important story. In her Afterword, she describes how the characters in Little Women were based on Louisa May Alcott’s own family. In her initial research, Ms Brooks discovered that the absent Mr. March could very likely have been modelled after Louisa May Alcott’s own father, Bronson Alcott. Like Mr. March in this novel, Mr. Alcott also counted Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau among his closest personal friends. Mr. Alcott kept journals throughout his life – an astonishing 61 journals – and his letters can be found in 37 volumes in the Harvard College Library.

There are many other parallels – and paths of divergence – between the fictional Mr. March and the real-life Mr. Alcott. To be fair, I will leave the balance of these for readers to discover for themselves when they read Ms Brooks’ Afterword. Suffice it to say that there are many similarities in ideals, values, and character, and there are also some parallels between their lives and occupations.

This novel is written in the first person, as recorded by Mr. March. Late in the novel, it switches the first person narrative to Marmee – a bonus for this reader and a wise choice due to the time it covered. We have an open door to Marmee’s heart and her own perceptions of the reality they find themselves living. When the story switches back to Mr. March, he is hesitantly facing his homeward journey – home to Concord, to Marmee, and to his little women.

This account of the battles and gruesome circumstances Mr. March becomes part of is offset by recollections from his early life, with one incident in particular a life-changing experience in many ways. This is when, as an 18 year-old trying to make a living ‘down South’ as a peddler, he comes across a family and a place that becomes his ideal and one he wishes to emulate himself. He also meets Grace, a young black woman who cares for the ill mistress of the family, and whose intelligence and wisdom are already in full nascent growth – as rapid as nature herself grows produce in that climate. With that meeting, young Mr. March’s idealism and moral standards take root.

It is also those qualities within Mr. March that cause him and his family much hardship later on. It is also those qualities that ensure the events Mr. March encounters in the war, including a chance return to the now-devastated plantation he had visited more than twenty years before, find him a prime candidate for what we now know of as post-traumatic stress disorder.

Far more than a continuation of a lovely novel for girls and young women, March is an in-depth study of war, of peaceful times, of the intellect versus the heart, of idealism versus pragmatism, of actions and their consequences, and of communication and communion between people, especially perhaps husbands and wives. Beautifully written, with a pace that is perfect, I am so glad that I finally had the chance to read this book and I can’t help but recommend it to everyone who wishes to see deeper into the human heart within the framework of characters we already know and love.
Profile Image for Sarah.
Author 4 books577 followers
September 5, 2007
It's not that I don't like any historical fiction, I just think that it's a really hard thing to do right, without simplifying everything. Nah, I really just hate historical fiction. And I think that March is a perfect example of historical fiction gone wrong.

1. I hate it in historical fiction when... the author seems to cling to one or two details in history and repeat them over and over again. In this book, the author seems intent on measuring everything in rods, no matter how short or long the distance, no matter how unimportant it is to the rest of the story - "the field was six rods away," "he was one rod tall," "I love rods." She does the same thing with the word score - three score, four score, five score... there are never ten or fifty or ninety of anything. Perhaps there was never ten, fifty, or ninety of anything in the 1860s? I suppose I'm not a historian...

2. I hate it in historical fiction when... huge events, such as the Civil War, are simplified down to the most basic historical and moral levels. Sure, I understand that an entire war is too complex to fully cover in a three hundred page novel, but you can still do better than, "War is bad! But slavery is also bad! So is a war to get rid of slavery good?"

3. I hate it in historical fiction when... the main character seems to be best friends with every famous person of the time period. In this book, the main character hangs with Waldo Emerson, Henry Thoreau (notice she drops the "Ralph" and "David" parts because, you know, they're like close friends), Nathaniel Hawthorne, and John Brown. As if, because I live in the 2000s, I am best buds with Dick Cheney, Britney Spears, and Bill Gates. Hi, Brit! Luv Ya!!!
Profile Image for Brian.
20 reviews21 followers
December 5, 2008
I wanted desperately to like this book! And I sort of did! "Little Women" is one of my wife's favs, and I'm a sucker for Civil War novels (all five billion of 'em). But this book, though elegantly written, struck me as too schmaltzy and too overly preachy to enjoy. It was also a wee bit predictable as a Civ War novel. Brooks made sure to hit the Twelve Points of the True CW Novel: (1) interracial romance, (2) old urbane southern woman with power, (3) the meat and stench of the field hospital, (4) inverted moral systems, (5) corrupt or failed preachers, (6) the moral clarity of the narrator compared to those other dirty racists with bad teeth, (7) "powder and ball", (8) a well-stocked plantation library, (9) gorgeous, educated slave women who turn out to be of mixed blood, (10) the senseless suffering of women and children at the home front, (11) hot liberal indignation somewhere in New England, and (12) southern families torn apart by Visigothic Union soldiers who smash grand pianos.

Did I miss anything? Well neither did Brooks. Nevertheless, "March" is a wonderful idea, and as an exciting alter-universe for "Little Women," it probably has no peer.
Profile Image for Hannah Greendale.
703 reviews3,280 followers
February 9, 2017
Mr. March, father to Luisa May Alcott's Little Women, is brought to life in this poignant novel by Geraldine Brooks. When he departs to fight in the Civil War, Mr. March is unprepared for the great cruelties he will bear witness to. His moral certainties are called into question by the atrocities of war; his greatest struggle becomes a search for balance between staying true to his principals and doing what's necessary to triumph in battle so that he may one day return to his beloved wife and daughters.

Many chapters begin with Mr. March penning a letter to his wife. These introductions provide insight to his character and highlight a soldier's struggle in deciding what to write home, weighing the consequences of being truthful against a need to protect loved ones from the horrors of war:

And every day, as I turn to what should be the happy obligation of opening my mind to my wife, I grope in vain for words with which to convey to her even a part of what I have witnessed, what I have felt. As for what I have done, and the consequences of my actions, these I do not even attempt to convey.

Mr. March's letters often segue into the past, allowing for backstory that further enriches his character and depicts the savage treatment of slaves in the antebellum South:

From a burlap sack the man drew out a braided leather whip almost as tall as he was. Then, moving to a spot about six feet from where [she] lay, he made a swift, running skip, raising the lash and bringing it down with a crack. The stroke peeled away a narrow strip of skin, which lifted on the whip, dangled for a moment, and then fell to the leaf-littered floor. A bright band of blood sprang up in its place. Her whole body quivered.

After spending considerable time with Mr. March, the reader is rewarded with a few chapters written from the perspective of Mrs. March, breathing new life into a classic character. These chapters offer the same insightful gems from Marmee (Mrs. March) that readers gleaned from her character when reading Little Women:

I am not alone in this. I only let him do to me what men have ever done to women: march off to empty glory and hollow acclaim and leave us behind to pick up the pieces. The broken cities, the burned barns, the innocent injured beasts, the ruined bodies of the boys we bore and the men we lay with.

More fascinating still is the author's approach to creating Mr. March's character. Following in the footsteps of Louisa May Alcott - who modeled Little Women after herself and her sisters - Geraldine Brooks turned to the letters and journals of Alcott's father, Bronson Alcott. With use of Bronson's letters, the author infused her book with truth and generated a man who was a vegetarian and an abolitionist - both radical ideals in the nineteenth century.

March transports readers to 1861 with sumptuous prose and noteworthy characters, enriching a classic tale with new perspectives from old, treasured characters.
Profile Image for Sarah.
296 reviews10 followers
May 2, 2008
Ok, to be honest - I couldn't finish it! I've completely lost faith in the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. It's becoming like a Grammy award for pop music (see Mariah Carey and Celine Dion). This book is pretentious and short-sighted from page one. Come on, a vegetarian, Unitarian, abolitionist, transcendentalist, book-lover from the North is just one HUGE cliche that, frankly, probably did not exist during the Civil War. I know that Louisa May Alcott's parents (as that is the subject of this book) were revolutionary for their time (in fact, Bronson Alcott was indeed a vegetarian and attempted a community based farm named "Utopia-something-or-other"), but they weren't a tired-out, modern day example of tolerance.

To reinforce my point, here is a quote from the book: "You must know that we in the South suffer from a certain malnourishment of the mind: we value the art of conversation over literary pursuits, so that when we gather together it is all for gallantries and pleasure parties . . . I envy your bustling Northern cities, where men of genius are thrown together thick as bees, and the honey of intellectual accomplishment is produced."

UUUUgggh. One more person, stereotyping the South. Just what we need in this modern day.
Profile Image for Michael Finocchiaro.
Author 3 books5,545 followers
April 15, 2017
This was a fabulous read. I found it more moving and better written than The Known World which treats a similar subject. March and his quixotic battle against slavery and madness during the Civil War is compelling and beautiful. Geraldine Brook's writing is astounding and kept me turning pages because I had to know what was going to happen. Although the characters were inspired by Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, the story Brooks tells is gruesome and heartbreaking. It is not dissimilar to Dream of the Celt by Mario Vargas Llosa is its unqualified condemnation of the institution of slavery and the horrors that man is capable of inflicting on fellow humans in the delusion of feelings of superiority in terms of race - and this on both sides of the Mason-Dixon Line (see Pychon's magnificent Mason&Dixon for how the line was drawn initially).
I can only applaud teary-eyed the Pulitzer that Brooks won after writing this stunning and thought-provoking novel and want to read more from this incredibly talented writer.
Profile Image for Jessica.
Author 31 books5,631 followers
April 27, 2016
Bear with me. I have a lot of thoughts.

I've thought about reading this book off and on for years, since it a) won the Pulitzer, and b) is about Mr. March, the mostly absent father in LITTLE WOMEN, one of my favorite books. Two good recommendations, right? But I've never really been all that curious about Mr. March, and I heard some mixed reviews from friends, so I put it aside. Enter my new book club, and this is the first book we're reading. And so I'm working really hard on finding some ways to talk about the book tonight at our first meeting, without offending anyone or hurting the feelings of the woman who chose it. For all I know, it's her all-time favorite book.

So, anyway! I will share my thoughts here, with you all. And they are, as follows:

What, what, WHAT was Geraldine Brooks thinking?

Okay, okay, I will try to get my thoughts in order. There may be spoilers, just you know, consider yourself warned. Basically, this is not a sequel or prequel to LITTLE WOMEN, it is mostly a book about the Civil War. Fine. Good. But historical fiction, at least that which covers topics that have been covered a lot before, needs a hook. Why read this book, and not some other book about that era, right? So the hook here is the connection to LITTLE WOMEN, which is . . . well, crap. Not just because I have never, NEVER wanted to know about the sex lives of Jo and Meg's parents (MINE EYES HATH BEEN SOILED), but because it also contradicts their characters in the book. You thought that Mr. March, (based on Alcott's own father, a genius, scholar, and philosopher), went to war with the full approval of his family, where he brought strength and comfort to those around him? Nope. He was so blunderingly naive that he was a danger to himself and others the entire time. I lost count of the people who died because he was an idiot. And as for Marmee, that calm wise presence . . . just a bitter, foul-mouthed shrew, really. She reins it in here and there, under the loving direction of her husband, but mostly she is verbally and occasionally physically abusive. Oh. Right. I must have missed that in the original. Such additions, to make the characters more rounded, would have been forgivable if there had been any hints at all of such things in Alcott's books, and if they hadn't made both Mr. March and Marmee seem so completely unlikeable. Not just flawed, human characters, but outright unlikeable. March seems like a fool, and a martyr, trying to get himself killed to make up for his many, awful mistakes. Marmee is such a harridan that I cannot fathom anyone sympathizing with her, let alone loving her. Ever. In one of the first scenes with Marmee it's revealed that she is a conductor on the Underground Railroad. Neat, right? But we find this out because she berates everyone at a dinner party who isn't helping slaves escape. Um, doesn't that actually make her a liability to them? If everyone in Concord knows she's hiding people in her cellar, and they don't approve, aren't they worried that someone will tell the slave-catchers? I't's just bizarre. Had they not been characters I "knew" from another book, this would have been hard enough to read, since reading unlikeable POV characters is not my favorite thing, but since March and Marmee are beloved figures from my childhood, it started to make me think that Brooks had some vindictive reason for doing this. She seemed determined, especially with the final scene, to take a beloved childhood memory for many readers, and just, well, piss all over it.

The final scene! Seriously. Without going into too much spoilage, she essentially recreates an iconic scene from LITTLE WOMEN, only now we (supposedly) know what was "really going on," which makes the scene absolutely horrible. Like, unbearably bitter and without hope of redemption.

What makes this even worse (as if that were possible) is that not only is the prose quite lovely, but Brooks passes over a great hook, a perfect idea for a Civil War era novel, that didn't have to involve the destruction of someone else's characters. The best section of the book involves March spending time on a leased plantation, something that I had no idea was a "thing." As the war progressed, plantations that had been occupied by the north were leased to northerners, and the liberated slaves were paid to stay on and work the cotton for the Union Army. This produced rather mixed results, of course, and with the Secession army sabotaging them along the way. Now that, right there, would have made an infinitely better book! What a waste!
Profile Image for Carol.
1,370 reviews2,138 followers
July 2, 2015
MARCH is the story of a once wealthy man with strong abolitionist convictions who leaves his wife and children behind to minister to union troops hoping to free and educate slaves.

Set during the Civil War, MARCH is filled with slavery's abominable cruelties that test a man's faith in humanity and unmask shortcomings that haunt him during a life threatening illness.

As the father in Alcott's Little Women this 2006 Pultizer Prize winner depicts Mr. March's tumultuous life during wartime with only bits of connection to his family, but is a great read nonetheless.

Profile Image for Duane.
828 reviews404 followers
January 15, 2016
Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 2006. It's a remarkable work of fiction deserving of all the acclaim it receives. Many reviewers and readers like to talk of it's connection with Alcott's Little Women, and while there is a connection, it doesn't define what this novel is about at all. This book stands proudly on it's own merit without any help from it's famous connection. Other than the name and a few references to the little women at home, it has virtually no resemblance to Alcott's work, although Mrs. March is included throughout.
This story is about Mr. March, the husband and father of the famous family, and his pursuit of self perfection that leads him to join the Union army as a chaplain and help contribute to the cause of freeing the slaves. This was a cause dear to the March family as they had used their home as a stopover on the underground railroad. Mr. March's experiences during his year of service change his views from a glorified cause to the harsh reality that one person, do what they may, can never do enough to stop the tragic and inhumane treatment of an entire race of people. The events of the year and his personal failings along the way leave him broken and ashamed with little hope of recovery.
I would recommend this book to anyone, it truly is a modern classic.
Profile Image for Chrissie.
2,737 reviews1,469 followers
September 17, 2019
Why have I given March by Geraldine Brooks four stars?

First of all, the author does an excellent job of drawing the Civil War and the mood of the country at this time. Brooks writes of the abolitionist movement, the Underground Railroad, the conflicting views of the Northerners and the Southerners, John Brown’s raid on Harper’s Ferry, the transcendentalists, the place of women in society and overall, both the time’s new societal trends and the sure and staid views of the past that still held sway. There are many details, and they are backed by thorough research. While interesting, the historical details are pretty much common knowledge and they do not necessarily draw a reader into the story. Nevertheless, the quantity of details is impressive, and they give the reader a good feel for the time period. They are a good backdrop for the story.

Geraldine Brooks’ intention was to take Louisa May Alcott’s Little Womenand fill in what was happening to Marmee’s husband who had gone off to the war as a chaplain. While Alcott’s book focuses on Marmee and her four girls, we see here what was going on in her husband’s life. Letters were exchanged, but did his letters truly express what he was going through down South? In this book we get to find out. Brooks works within the framework of the events of Alcott’s book. The daughters’ personality types are not changed, nor the plot.

Marmee is not drawn as I had imagined her to be. To my surprise this was brought up in the book’s epilogue. Brooks was given Little Women to read by her mother but told that the goody-goody mother character should be taken with a pinch of salt! This explains to me why in Brooks’ book Marmee is not quite the angel drawn in Alcott’s. She is more opinionated, a more modern character than the Marmee in Alcott’s book. Yet I like this. We are allowed to get into her head; we have the opportunity to consider her thoughts and emotions. This gives a reader something to think about. I admire Brooks ability to weave the same story with the events unchanged, while at the same time adding another dimension. Alcott’s book looks at the daughters’ lives, and there is a lot of emphasis on whom they will each marry, which I found rather boring. Here the focus is instead on the brutality of the war, how the war has altered husband and wife and subsequently their relationship.

You know nowadays we often talk about how taking part in a war changes one forever. I very much like that Brooks points out how lack of courage and being ashamed of one’s own behavior, not only survival guilt and what one has seen, scar those taking part in a war. A soldier may demand too much of himself. How does one set the borders for what is reasonable?

The story improves the further you go; it provides more and more to think about. Character portrayals become deeper.

Richard Easton narrates the audiobook. His narration is clear and easy to follow. You hear every word. You don’t pay attention to him; you listen to the story, which is what I prefer. At the end of the tale we are no longer in Robert’s head; we are in Marmee’s instead. Easton does not change his intonation. This does not bother me, but it may bother others. I have given the narration four stars.

Brooks’ book has given me more to think about than Alcott’s. The research is impressive, and I think it Is not an easy task to take another person’s story and make it into something new. I also appreciate the informative afterword at the book’s end.


*People of the Book 5 stars
*March 4 stars
*The Secret Chord 3 stars
*Nine Parts of Desire: The Hidden World of Islamic Women 3 stars
*Year of Wonders 1 star
*Caleb's Crossing TBR

*Little Women by Louisa May Alcott3 stars
*Hospital Sketches by Louisa May Alcott 3 stars
*Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet Ann Jacobs 4 stars
Profile Image for Sandi.
510 reviews278 followers
October 1, 2009
I was all ready to give March by Geraldine Brooks three stars until I got to this passage:

"I am not alone in this. I only let him do to me what men have ever done to women: march off to empty glory and hollow acclaim and leave us behind to pick up the pieces. The broken cities, the burned barns, the innocent injured beasts, the ruined bodies of the boys we bore and the men we lay with.

The waste of it. I sit here, and I look at him, and it is as if a hundred women sit beside me: the revolutionary farm wife, the English peasant woman, the Spartan mother-'Come back with your shield or on it,' she cried, because that was what she was expected to cry. And then she leaned across the broken body of her son and the words turned to dust in her throat."

If you were ever a little girl in America, chances are you have read Louisa May Alcott's Little Women. You probably grew up with Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy. You experienced their life living with their mother while their father was off serving the Union Army in the Civil War. You felt their excitement whenever Marmee would read them a letter from him. You know how Marmee was called away to help her beloved husband recover from some unnamed illness in an army hospital. What you never got was a real glimpse of the adult lives that circled around the March girls. In fact, you never even learn their parents' first names.

Geraldine Brooks must have had the same fascination with Little Women that so many of us former little girls did. She takes that fascination and fleshes out the story of Mr. and Mrs. March. The story opens with March (never a first name) writing a letter home to Marmee. (We find that Marmee is was everyone called her, not just the girls.) As he finishes his writing, the story takes us to the uncensored version of his past and what is happening to him at the moment. It's not all as he portrays in his letters. He's kind of interesting at first, but he gets kind of dull pretty quickly. The guy is just too emotional and flowery. What is interesting is his recollections of Marmee. She is by far a much more interesting character and the story definitely takes off once she takes over the narration in the second part of the book, when she comes to the hospital to nurse her husband back to health. Up until that point, I was thinking that this book was definitely a 3. I was kind of wondering what the competition was for the Pulitzer that year. I do have to give Brooks credit for trying to add a new, adult dimension to a nationally loved work of children's literature. I think she did a good job of creating something fresh while honoring the classic.
Profile Image for Rebecca.
3,608 reviews2,580 followers
May 21, 2018
The best Civil War novel I’ve read. The best slavery novel I’ve read. One of the best historical novels I’ve ever read, period. Brooks’s second novel uses Little Women as its jumping-off point, but is very much its own story. Louisa May Alcott’s father, Bronson Alcott, was too prickly to come across well in a fictional guise (as her other family members did in Little Women), so it’s little wonder that she decided he would be a background figure in that novel. The Alcott family patriarch was an eccentric idealist whose endeavors, including the doomed Fruitlands utopian community, often failed. Many dismissed him as a religious fanatic, and his vegan diet was considered beyond the pale at that time. Brooks relied on Bronson Alcott’s journals and letters in creating Mr. March’s voice, but has succeeded in adding nuance to an often unfairly maligned personality.

The book opens with March, a thirty-nine-year-old Civil War chaplain, stationed in Norfolk, Virginia and writing a letter to his wife and four daughters. The image of the placid family home quickly fades as we see a vulture eating a man’s entrails and another soldier drowning in a river. The beleaguered March soon finds himself in a familiar building: the field hospital where he goes to assist with blood-spurting amputations was once a mansion where he plied his trade as an eighteen-year-old peddler. Before being hastily ejected for trying to teach a Negro child to read, he fell in love with Grace, a dignified, intelligent slave.

Although most chapters open with his missives home, this domestic link becomes increasingly strained as March continues on a solitary odyssey he doubts his all-female family could ever understand; “imagining the four beloved heads, sleeping peacefully on their pillows in Concord” is increasingly difficult, such that “truth recedes with every word I set down.” Through flashbacks we learn how he met Marmee; spend time in the company of their Massachusetts neighbors, Henry David Thoreau and the Emersons; and hear about their abolitionist ventures: housing an Underground Railroad station and giving financial support to John Brown’s ill-fated plans. In the 50 pages when March is incapacitated by fever, we see the reeking swamp that was 1860s Washington, D.C. and the “inconstant, ruined dreamer” that was March/Bronson Alcott through Marmee’s eyes. The whole is a perfect mixture of what’s familiar from history and literature and what Brooks has imagined. Stellar stuff.

(See also my Literary Hub article on rereading Little Women in its 150th anniversary year and watching the new BBC/PBS miniseries adaptation.)
Profile Image for Amy.
660 reviews135 followers
January 15, 2021
This is one of the most Pulizer-worthy novels I've read in a long while. The novel tells the previously untold story of the absent father in Louisa May Alcott's Little Women. In Little Women, the reader only gets to know Peter March through his letters sent home to his family from the Civil War. Of course, in the interest of sparing his family the details of war, his letters are more cheerful than his reality.

Geraldine Brooks uses the novel March to tell of Mr. March's early life as a traveling salesman, of his first kiss with someone other than his future wife, of the meeting of his wife, of his connections to Emerson and Thoreau, of his strong abolitionist sentiments, of the war that changed him both physically and mentally, and of misunderstandings and wrongs that were never made right in his life.

Brooks draws heavily from the journals of Alcott's own father, Bronson Alcott, in order to flesh out the character of Mr. March. Since the "little women" in Alcott's novels were based on her own family members, it makes sense that Mr. March would be based on her father and that the March family would be acquainted with the same people they were. After all, the Alcotts were contemporaries and acquaintances of many of the transcendentalist thinkers and writers of the time, such as Emerson and Thoreau.

This is definitely the best prequel written by a different author that I've ever read. I remember being completely disappointed trying to read sequels or prequels by different authors for books such as Gone With the Wind . The author's journalistic background helped her give attention to the proper details needed to research such a book.

I initially did not recognize the name of the author as being the author of Nine Parts of Desire: The Hidden World of Islamic Women, a book that I loved so much that I ... er ... bought it from the library pretending that I'd lost it (in the days before amazon.com made any book accessible for purchase). Nine Parts of Desire is a work of non-fiction that she wrote as a journalist. So I'm thrilled to see that she has such a beautiful piece of fiction out there as well. Halfway through the book, I found myself saying to myself, "wow, this is a good book," and hoping to read something else by her soon. Years of Wonder tells the story of the bubonic plague in a small English town, and People of the Book is freshly out in hardback.

Frankly, though, what I'm feeling the need to re-read immediately is Little Women. I absolutely adored that book as a child. I always saw myself as Jo because I loved to write. And I always hated that the character with my name (Amy) was such a spoiled brat.
Profile Image for Rebecca.
5 reviews
August 3, 2007
I now know, having perused Geraldine Brooks' website, that March won the 2006 Pulitzer prize for fiction. I had not noticed that it had received such acclaim when I pulled it from the shelf at our modest library, but now, having finished the last page, I am not surprised it did. It is good. Brooks' is an authentic voice. Her extensive reading of primary sources, particularly the writings of Bronson Alcott, that was the inspiration for L.M. Alcott's father figure in Little Women, gives Brooks a handle on the cadences of 19th century prose. Combined with her literary skill, Brooks brings to her narrative journalistic details, a result of her experience as a correspondent in war-torn countries.

In the novel, Brooks gives thoughtful consideration to a quandry common to many: how do we come to terms with the discrepency between our ideals and the realities of life? Mr. March is a pacifist, and enlists as a chaplain, seeking to live out his beliefs. Later, he later sees people in his care killed, and killed because of his own cowardice or in the effort to save him. It is a difficult cross to bear. Grace, the educated daughter of a plantation owner and his slave, offers this perspective to Mr. March as he flagellates himself for the horrors he believe he has caused:

"'You are not God. You do not determine the outcome. The outcome is not the point.'

"'The what, pray, is the point?' His voice was a dry, soft rattle, like a breeze through a bough of dead leaves.

"'The point is the effort. That you, believing what you believed--what you sincerely believed, including the commandment 'thou shalt not kill'--acted upon it. To believe, to act, and to have events confound you--I grant you, that is hard to bear. But to believe, and not to act, or to act in a way that every fiber of your soul held was wrong--how can you not see? That is what would have been reprehensible.'" (258)

Later, Grace continues:

I simply ask you to see that there is only one thing to do when we fall, and that is to get up, and go on with the life that is set in front of us, and try to do the good of which our hands are capable for the people who come in our way. (268)

This embodiment of grace is probably the greatest reason I found to love March, and to appreciate it for more than the historical fiction it is in genre. Brooks is right, and she expresses the truth eloquently; we waste precious time beating ourselves up over past failures. The only hope is to forgive, ourselves, then others, moving forward with conviction and compassion.

Related Links:

"March to the Front," an article about Brooks' journey to writing March, by Catherine Keenan of the Sydney Morning Herald

"The Writing Life," Geraldine Brooks' reflections on her craft
Profile Image for Cayenne.
670 reviews20 followers
January 24, 2020
Disappointing. I think I am done with classics spin-offs. The writing was fabulous, but I got fed up with inconsistencies in the characters and disappointments I felt about their portrayed actions. Halfway through I thought about giving up and should have. I hoped there would be redemption at the end and there really wasn't, at least not enough for me. There were two things that bothered me the most. 1)Mr. March, a poor farm boy, "loves" Marmee enough to teach her to control her temper, yet he can't seem to control his own sexual urges. Whatever. Especially that he risked her good standing by seducing her and then rushing to her father for a quick marriage, thinking he was saving her. Blah. What if her father had refused to let Mr. March even marry her? Mr. March's pride was disturbing. Was Brooks' message that even good, kind people have major faults? 2)The nausiating difference in what Marmee thought about Mr. March going to war and what Mr. March thought she was thinking. I'm sure Brooks was trying to make the Little Women charachters more realistic, but the division and lack of true communication between Marmee and Mr. March really bothered me. I don't even feel like Mr. March repents of his pride, so what was the point of the story? That war is awful? That this life is full of suffering? That men are bad? I have no idea. I don't recommend this book. I did learn that if I don't feel like finishing a book, I probably have the feeling for a good reason and should listen to myself.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for JimZ.
1,021 reviews459 followers
May 10, 2021
I wanted to reach this novel because I appreciated her book on the plague in England from the 1600s, ‘Year of Wonders’. So I thought a novel about the father of Little Women (Louisa May Alcott) would be interesting because I had read that classic about 2 years ago (at least Part 1, I don’t remember reading Part 2 [Good Wives]) and very much liked it. So, what happened to Mr. March?

Well, I went into this just knowing it had a character in it, Mr. March, that was a ‘side-bar’ part of Little Women, a book which I had liked. But my memory sucks, and I should have remembered this was about the Civil War (like, ‘duhhh Jim!’). Wow, talking about a Debbie Downer in reading this book. I read it in 2 days because I wanted to be through with it. The graphic descriptions of war and the dead and the wounded—she spared ABSOLUTELY NO DETAILS in the goriness of the war. In ‘Year of Wonders’ I made the comment that her graphic descriptions of certain things made me uncomfortable, but I also made the comment that I felt that nevertheless she was painting a realistic picture of something that actually happened. So, I appreciated the writing, goriness and all.

Here she continued where she left off in ‘Year of Wonders’. There she described what a swollen lymph node in the neck of a plague patient looked like, and what the pus looked like when the node burst. Super yuck. And in ‘March’ she describes the smell of pus! Yeeeeeeshhhhhhhhhhh!!!! 😬

I did not like one element in the novel that I guess she had felt that she must have in the book…a pseudo-romance between Mr. March and the slave Grace Clement.

I was surprised this won a Pulitzer Prize (2006). But then I am surprised by a lot of things. 😐

Profile Image for Flo.
241 reviews35 followers
May 31, 2023
When I sometimes read historical fiction, I am dismayed by how modern some characters are, and at first glance, 'March' has this problem too. The main character is not only very progressive when it comes to the issue of slavery, but also a vegetarian, a preacher who sees problems with religion, concerned about pollution to the point of giving up profitable businesses, so kind-hearted that he would rather become poor to save a friend. And he goes to war with four daughters at home.

What surprised me is that Geraldine Brooks manages to make this character credible in narrative terms. She achieves this because the Mr. March she presents does not really fit into the world of the Civil War era. We see him ridiculed, avoided, and rejected by his comrades. We see him more losing than winning. And to this external struggle is added an internal one, caused by the horrors of war, separation from family, and the attempt to maintain his principles.

The even more interesting part is that in the afterword, we learn that Geraldine Brooks only dressed up very well-researched stories and realities. Mr. March, taken from the novel Little Women by author Louisa May Alcott, is based on the author's father, Bronson Alcott, who in 1860 believed in everything that the fictional character in this 2005 novel believes.

It is an interesting discovery that does not detract from the merit of this impressive novel. It is probably the best historical fiction novel I have read.
Profile Image for Matt Quann.
630 reviews382 followers
September 7, 2020
Full disclosure: I've never read Louisa May Alcott's Little Women. Given that I've never touched the source material, it may seem like an odd choice to read Geraldine Brooks' March, but it turned out to be a welcome and entirely enjoyable read. In fact, of the three books I've read so far for my 2020 Pulitzer challenge, March is far and away the best.

I was given to understand that Mr. March, the titular lead, is almost entirely absent from the proceedings of Little Women aside from the occasional battlefront correspondence. For me, this worked entirely since I was able to understand and appreciate this novel entirely without knowledge of the classic on which it is based. March's character is perfectly suited to carry the novel on his back with his idealistic aspirations and the way in which those ideals clash with the realities of the American Civil War. Indeed, I was at first taken by March's moral high ground and sunny outlook, but the novel's strength lies in the fragmentary erosion of the lead's ability to make any difference in the world he desires.

The book takes its most interesting turn when Mr. March finds his way to a recently liberated plantation that demonstrates how little he understands of the practicalities of the war. The former slaves and their newfound employer were compelling characters in their own right and act as foils to March. Reader be warned: this is also where the novel treads into its most horrific and depraved scenes. Though the novel can be challenging from a content perspective, I was taken by the complexity with which all characters are able to articulate their viewpoints and how they contrast with the perceived through-line of history.

For my personal taste, when the novel changes near the end to Marmee's perspective all momentum is lost. Though March's climax occurs just before that, the denouement of the story dips too heavily into the themes of marriage and truth, veering from the themes that had anchored the book in my mind. My edition of the book comes with an interview from Brooks who claims this change was in part dictated by the structure of Little Women and in part to explore the March's marriage. Though I can see the logistics of it, it fell a little flat for me and kept it from snagging a five-star review.

Despite that, March is a marvellous novel. I'd find myself thinking about a particular scene, character, or Brooks' excellent writing even when I wasn't reading the book. March challenges simple virtue, or at the very least zooms in on a seemingly straightforward moral dilemma to show all its complexities. I'll be thinking about this one for quite some time.

This is the third book of my 2020 Pultizer Challenge!
Profile Image for Darlene.
370 reviews132 followers
March 22, 2018
This novel, March written by Geraldine Brooks, was chosen as winner of the Pulitzer Prize in 2006. The book has been sitting on my bookshelf for several years and I was reminded of it recently when thinking about one of my favorite books from childhood, 'Little Women' by Louisa May Alcott. I can't say that I ever gave much consideration to the absentee patriarch, Mr. March, while reading 'Little Women'; but after reading this novel, I realized just what a compelling story Mr. March had to tell.

March is the story Geraldine Brooks imagined might be told by Mr. March if he had been asked to share his experiences as a chaplain for the Union during the Civil War. Louisa May Alcott based the March family in 'Little Women' on her own family; and Ms. Brooks used the journals written by Louisa May Alcott's father, Bronson Alcott, as inspiration for her character Mr. March. Ms. Brooks created a fascinating character in Mr. March... he was a man possessing impossibly high ideals, ideals which seemed to me, from the beginning, destined to bring him unhappiness and personal crisis. Mr. March was a preacher, a philosopher and an abolitionist whose moral character, although admirable, often did not seem to be grounded in the practical. From the very beginning of the story and written in his own words to his family, the reader becomes aware of the very serious crisis of conscience that Mr. March is grappling with. He has been struggling with the brutality and injustice he has witnessed while traveling with his regiment and is finding it increasingly difficult to reconcile his principles and idealism with the realities of war. He has been writing letters to his wife, Marmee and daughters, Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy but the reader is made aware that those letters are fictionalized accounts of his true experiences. He can't bear to tell his family about what he has seen and experienced and he is also hiding from his family the fact that he has been suffering from a chronic illness and is unwell...
"I promised her that I would write something every day, and I find myself turning to
this obligation when my mind is most troubled. For it is as if she were here with me;
for a moment, her calming hand resting lightly upon my shoulder. Yet I am thankful
that she is not here, to see what I must see, to know what I am come to know. And
with this thought I exculpate my censorship; I never promised I would write the

In order to gain a better understanding of who Mr. March is, the reader is given access, not only to his current experiences, but also his memories of the past.. in particular, his life as a young man working his way through the south as a traveling salesman in the years long before the war. Looking back on them later, these years as a peddler seem to be almost a premonition of what would occur during the war. A slave woman named Grace would prove to be an important key to understanding Mr. March's past and the development of his strong idealism. And interestingly, Grace will also figure strongly into his war-time experiences and will also figure into major changes in his marriage to Marmee.

This novel is filled with a number of broad, emotionally charged themes... the inhumanity of slavery and the glorification of war... but the theme which stayed with me was the vast discrepancy between Mr. March's ideals and moral certainties and the harsh realities of war. This theme arose over and over throughout the novel. Mr. March was a philosopher... an idealist who possessed the certainty of his moral convictions and whose goal was to one day create a utopian community. To me, those are admirable qualities but the problem Mr.March had was in accepting that others did not always share his ideals and in fact, many of these people were just as certain of their own sense of what was moral and just. And as Mr. March discovered, when at war, both sides of a conflict are equally fervent in their belief that 'God' is on their side and has given them the claim to the moral high ground.... making both sides certain of the righteousness of their beliefs. And having witnessed the brutality of war and the inhumanity which was frequently on display and not being able to stop it, Mr. March was left shaken and in despair... his beliefs in tatters.

I have thought a great deal about this aspect of the story. Although I admired Mr.March's idealism, I couldn't help but feel that his idealism, unchecked by a senses of the reality of the world, left him foolishly charging headlong into situations which ended up making matters worse.. both for him and others around him. His desire to help the abolitionist John Brown, by investing in his plans for ultimate insurrection, led to his own family living in poverty and trying to scratch out a living. His almost childlike belief that the words of the Emancipation Proclamation would magically and instantly change the circumstances of freed slaves left him profoundly disappointed when he realized that not only wasn't there a plan for freed people but that changes would be a long time coming. He couldn't seem to grasp that the world is not always what you WANT it to be.The world is messy and imperfect and human beings are complex. It seemed that Mr. March needed to combine his desire for utopia with the acceptance of the realities of the world around him. But I think that maybe Marmee was correct in the wisdom she shared to comfort her husband while at his bedside...

"You are not God. You do not determine the outcome. The outcome is not the point. The point is
the effort. That you, believing what you believed- what you sincerely believed, including the
commandment 'thou shalt not kill'-acted upon it. To believe, to act, and to have events
confound you- I grant you that is hard to bear. But to believe, and not act, or to act in a way
that every fiber of your soul held was wrong- how can you not see? THAT is what would have
been reprehensible."

Maybe Marmee was right... in the end, maybe making the effort is the most important. All a person can do is try because the outcome is never assured.. no matter how strongly you believe in your cause.

This truly was a beautiful and haunting story of war and one man's struggle with his conscience.
Profile Image for Stacey.
266 reviews449 followers
July 16, 2011
The problem with March is that it's tied in to a beloved children's story. While this might have been a terrific marketing ploy, (fan fiction often is, since it offers immediate context and recognition,) it created two very different stories. The first: a reworking of one absent and one present (and much loved) character in a famous work of fiction. The second: a story of a pacifist who went to war in one of the bloodiest and most tragic conflicts in our nation's history.

The first seems a recipe to designed to anger loyal fans of the original. The second is the more compelling story, and probably more accessible to those who are unfamiliar with L.M. Alcott's novels.

It's probably a good thing I'll never get around to reading Little Women again, because March seems like it was written to slaughter a few babies, and a reread would possibly be spoiled by my constant justifications of my irritations with this Pulitzer Prize winning novel*. In the afterword, the author admits that, though she having loved LW as a child, her mother once told her: “Nobody in real life is such a goody-goody as that Marmee.” It seems Brooks took that statement to heart, and set about to write a story that painted Marmee as a petty, jealous, shrewish, risk-taking idealogue – a woman without restraint of either temperament or libido.

Mr. March expects his wife to be the picture of decorum in every situation, and mentions her piques of temper with disparaging attitude, in contrast with the loving, gentle picture painted of him as devoted father and husband, in Little Women.

Regarding Marmee as a young woman:

“Standing one on either side, they half patted, half held her, as one would both soothe and restrain a lunging, growling dog.”

“The intemperance of her attack left me breathless. Angry women generally cannot be said to show to advantage, and to see that lovely face so distorted by such a scowl as it now wore was immensely shocking to me. Who could have imagined this gently bred young woman to be so entirely bereft of the powers of self-government? I had never seen such an outburst, not even from a market wife.”

“At such times I thought I would rather live in the midst of a crashing thunderhead than with this Fury of a wife.”

“'It is you,' I said, trying to keep my voice even, though my pulse beat in my head. 'It is you who degrade yourself, when you forgo self-mastery.'”

In fact he seems quite disdainful of her throughout much of the story, and yet he is incapable of keeping little mr. march in his pants. (Brooks also seems to think she is quite clever with her allusions to masturbation.)

Later, when the point of view switches to Marmee's, we see more character assassination, and a few scenes that don't even correlate with how Brooks has changed her. Are we to believe that this tireless, passionate and outspoken abolitionist woman, a stop on the Underground Railroad, is going to instantly devolve into racist slurs, when she (uncharacteristically for LW) jumps to the conclusion that her husband is an adulterer? I don't buy either scenario. If the character of Marmee is as Alcott portrays, I don't believe for a moment, that she would assume her husband is an adulterer on such a triviality. And if the character is as Brooks portrays (aside from her temper and her sexual freedom,) I don't find it believable that Marmee would express her thoughts in a racist fashion.

This character assassination doesn't seem to contribute anything useful to the story in any case, and instead comes across as a personal agenda to take Marmee down a peg or ten. The comment in the afterword supports this observation. Because of the above objections, this part of the story fails on every level for me.

The character of Mr. March is built, naturally, on the story of Bronson Alcott, Louisa May's father. Since Little Women was loosely autobiographical, it seems appropriate to do such with March. There was a great deal of experimental thinking and ideology during these years, in New England, and literature bears out the ideals of the time, with thinkers such as Thoreau, Emerson, Dickinson, Alcott, William Elery Channing, and others, developing the ideas and philosophies of transcendentalism, and setting the stage for the emergence of uniquely American faiths such as the Unity Church and Religious Science. The same region and intellectual climate also produced the burgeoning religiosity in the nearby area that came to be known as the “burned-over district,” and the emergence of its insular and restrictive religious ideals. (This book does not address this last theme, but it's historically relevant.)

Alcott and his contemporaries were ideologically progressive, pioneering new ideas regarding education, communal living, and veganism, as well as exploring other cultural ideals. Alcott himself seemed to be somewhat incapable of providing well for his family, so Brooks uses L.M. Alcott's backstory that Mr. March once made a fortune, then lost it.

Unlike Alcott, Mr. March – a strict pacifist, in both stories, goes to war as a chaplain. This is where the story improves, the irony being that it would be possible to utterly separate the narrative from the LW storyline.

Mr. March is an idealist, quite naïve and more than a little self-righteous. He joins the war effort without really understanding the political or moral climate – which is perhaps more realistic in its portrayal than not. As I read these parts of the book, I thought that here was potentially the real meat of the story – the picture of close range war, the destruction of lives, families, home, property. Personal tragedy, horror and degradation. It certainly is rich with commentary on slavery and its obvious and less obvious evils (although Brooks makes quite a lot of use of slavery/civil war cliches to make her point: the beautiful mixed-blood house slave/interracial romance, the powerful old genteel southern woman, Reb rapists, sawing off limbs in a field hospital, the stench of blood and bowel, etc,) but I find that as I sit down to write this review, I realize the novel falls victim to political correctness; for every evil Southern Rebel, you must show an equally despicable Northern Unionist. For every ignorant/uneducated slave, you must write an intelligent/educated one. In one sentence she writes with flagrant disregard for cultural behavior in the interaction between Black and White, and in the next, she stops to point out how few Northerners were actually motivated by abolitionist ideals. It detracts from the argument against slavery, but unfortunately falls short of contributing any meaningful discourse of the disunion present on both sides of the Mason-Dixon Line.

Maybe it's unfair to make something of that, because modern fiction set in 19th century America frequently raises this exact dichotomy. America really was two very different countries, and in many ways it still is. Maybe it's picking nits to point out the way Brooks handles this conceit, after all her prose is beautiful, drawing one along in the story, in spite of itself. Except that it feels like she had a checklist of “fair” that she drew up before she could write this novel.

Brilliantly done, however, are the final two chapters, when we are returned to Mr. March's point of view. Brooks hands over an eloquent portrayal of Soldier's Heart and survivor guilt. It's a bit of a shame that these chapters were not expanded just a little.

I would not have read this book, had it not been for it being included on an assigned summer reading list for matriculating Stanford University students (my nephew is leaving for Stanford in the fall! *little brag*) and its inclusion grabbed my eye as being odd. After a little discussion with him, my curiosity got the better of me, and I decided to read it. After reading, I admit I'm still a little baffled as to its selection.

*I dug around quite a bit on the 'net, trying to find the criteria for a Pulitzer Prize. There really doesn't seem to be much; the book needs to be by an American, or about an American, or about America, or... “other.” I guess if the little panel at Columbia likes it, for any reason, it qualifies.

Maybe I should make a prize called the Stacey Prize. You can qualify thus: Any book, written by a human, about a human, or about something that resembles a human, or any book that a human can read.
Profile Image for Manybooks.
3,125 reviews104 followers
May 22, 2020
I do know and very much also realise that technically speaking, Geraldine Brooks' March is not really and actually either a sequel or a prequel to Louisa May Alcott's Little Women, but rather an adult-oriented historical fiction novel specifically focusing on the US Civil War. However, because Ms. Brooks has indeed and deliberately used Louisa May Alcott's Little Women characters, because she has used the fictional March family of Little Women as the main protagonists in March, many of us who have read and loved Little Women over the years (and indeed, often since our childhood) will of course try and desire to make the connections, will expect Geraldine Brooks' March family to correspond to Louisa May Alcott's March family. And thus and yes, as soon as I started reading March and realised that in particular Mrs. March and Mr. March are actually and uncomfortably very much differently presented (and totally negatively so, at that) by Geraldine Brooks compared to how both Papa March and Marmee are shown by Louisa May Alcott in Little Women, I very quickly lost any and all interest and became so annoyed with my reading experience that yes, I decided to abandon March and to consider it yet another did not and could not finish book (and I actually even toyed with casting March into the garbage, so annoyed and furiously disappointed was I).

For honestly and infuriatingly for me, even though in Little Women Marmee does repeatedly mention to Jo that she and much like Jo has always had a bit of a temper, the depicted in March often raging and generally really nastily bitter and even quite majorly foul-spoken Mrs. March that Geraldine Brooks presents to her readers is in my opinion in no way even remotely close to and like Marmee and is actually even someone whom I for one could and would only despise and feel major animosity for (not to mention that Geraldine Brooks' Mr. March is also basically much too too negative for my tastes and as such also not really akin to how Louisa May Alcott presents the pater familias in Little Women). And while the depiction of the father in March might (I guess) actually be closer to Bronson Alcott (how Bronson Alcott was in real life, and how he often made his family's life a proverbially living hell), well, in my opinion, if Geraldine Brooks is going to be using the actual characters of Little Women in her story, then they really and truly should for the most part be similar to and not so horribly different from how Louisa May Alcott has depicted and shown the March family as being.
Profile Image for Cheryl.
464 reviews592 followers
February 20, 2015
You read a book and its complexities will devour you and leave you unable to describe the feeling. There is not much I can say here. Complex characters, complex story, a complex timeframe, embodied within graceful prose. Enough narrative distance to create objectivity. Gut-wrenching. Soul-searching.

There is March, the main character, an abolitionist, who leaves his family to join the American Civil War as a chaplain. Then again, March is but a speck in the book, as there is an intricate plot which surrounds him. Through March, the brutal side of war is shown. Still, there is love and love letters to add to the beauty of the plot. There are the horrors of slavery mentioned, horrific scenes that made my insides crawl. Another stamp on history, this book (which uses fact as a scaffold) for a race that has endured unspeakable crimes.

All this, told with the charm of historical language and modeled after the classic, Little Women . Since the classic was about how a year lived at the "edge of war" changed the characters of those little women, Brooks wanted to give the father a voice he never had. How was he changed? What did he see? How did his view of the human race get altered? The result is stunning.

Daylight. Still, at last. Underneath me, leaves. Above, a blur of branches. My eyes focused on a single leaf, turned before its time. Scarlet and gold. The color throbbed against a sky of brilliant blue. All that beauty. That immensity. And it will exist, even when I am not here to look at it. Marmee will see it, still. And my little women. That, I suppose, is the meaning of grace. Grace.
Profile Image for Michael.
1,094 reviews1,510 followers
July 30, 2012
Outstanding tale of Peter March, a Concord minister who serves as a Union chaplain early in the Civil war and then as a teacher for a Virginia plantation settlement for runaway slaves. Brilliant rendition of a the wartime experiences of the absent father in Alcott's "Little Women", with much return in memory of his life before meeting his beloved wife Marmee and the family accommodation to his loss of fortune due to funding of the abolitionist John Brown. Essentially the story is about the nature of love. How the love of one's family and concerns for human injustice can stimulate one to take action to improve the world and validate the worthiness of that love. Yet, the commitment to such causes can lead to neglect of family, and the human failings and mistakes in facing such challenges can make one feel unworthy of such love or make it seem a selfish refuge. The heroism of March and the tragedies surrounding his efforts are very moving, and the pathway back to life is a triumph of the human spirit. �
Profile Image for Doug Bradshaw.
257 reviews221 followers
May 1, 2018
Well written, excellent book about the tolls, misery and injustice of the Civil war. It was a bit too lugubrious for me so I marked it down a star. The main character, Peter March, is a well meaning vegetarian (hard to be a vegetarian back then...not that many whole food stores.) and at the ripe old age of 39, is trying to do good things for the abolitionist movement of the time. But the system is so horrible, so narrow minded and cruel, almost all of his efforts end in disaster and many of the efforts are thwarted and end up with death.

Sadly, some of this mindset still exists today.

So if you're looking for a fluffy read, something with laughter and redemption, this isn't your book. But I can see why it won the Pulitzer in 2006.
Profile Image for مصطفى.
296 reviews220 followers
September 6, 2018
" كانت عمتي علي حق عندما أشارت بأن ميدان المعركة وهذه المهمة الدينية التي أقوم بها لا تناسب بأي حال من الأحوال رجلاً في مثل سني في الأربعينيات من عمره . هذا المكان لا يناسب رجلاً يتعامل يومياً مع الكلمات ، ويدخل في سباق الكلام والإقناع ، هذا المكان ليس مكاناً يتسابق فيه المرء بوسائل اللغة والإقناع ، إنما مكان السباق فيه يكون سباق الدم "


اه ، ما هذا الذي قرأت ؟
هل هو العمل الذي إنتظرت دوماً أن أقول عنه أنه الأعظم ، أم الأكثر تكاملاً ، أم كلاهما ؟
من جديد لا يخذلني الأدب الأمريكي ، خصوصاً حينما يتعلق الأمر إذن بالحرب والعبودية والجنس الأسود وهو الأدب الذي أكون شغوفاً بالقراءة في أدبه أو ما يُكتب عنه ، فهم بالفعل مميزون ، فالكلام عنهم ومنهم دائماً مفعم بالحب والأمل والألم ، ويخرج أرقي ما بالإنسان وأسماه من مشاعر
الأدب النسوي من جديد يثبت أنه رائع ، وحقاً أن الأنثي تكتب بحروف رقيقة وشاعرية تمس القلب ، وتترك الألم ممزوجاً بالأمل
علي عكس أدب الرجال فهو حينما يتحدث عن معاناة يترك الألم ممزوجاً بالموت والتوق إلي الإنتحار
" مارتش "
ليست رواية تقليدية عن الحرب والدم والرصاص ، أنها من القلائل التي تضع الإنسان تحت الميكروسكوب في المواقف الشديدة والصعبة
هي رواية عن النفس البشرية في المقام الأول ، وما يصيب الإنسان من إضطراب تحت الظروف المختلفة ، أنها رواية دوستويفسكية حيث تتميز فيها بالروح المسيحية المسالمة ، والمثل والقيم التي تدعو إليها المسيحية ، حينما تصطدم إذاً التجربة العملية للبشر ، وما يصيبها من جمود وكونها مجرد نصوص في الإنجيل المقدس فقط ، وليست في قلوب البشر أنفسهم
رواية ليست فقط تقف ضد العنصرية ، ولكنها تقف ضد المثالية البشرية ، فأين المثالية وكيف لها أن تتحقق طالما أن الإنسان هو الإنسان ؟
ذلك القس - مارتش - التي تصارعه نفسه بين الدين والدنيا ، بين الواجب والواقع ، بين الحب والبيت والزوجة والعائلة والخيانة
لو كنت تتطلع إلي قراءة رواية تتحدث عن الحرب فأنت خاطئ ، إنها رواية عن الجنود - البشر - وأنها تضعك دائماً في خط رفيع بين الخير والشر ، فأنت تشعر أن ما يدور من بشاعة وفظاعة هي ليست وليدة خيال القلم ، بل أشياء ربما ترتكبها انت لو تربيت مثلما تربي هؤلاء البشر علي الذل والخنوع والكراهية والدونية ، تجعلك تتأثر بعقلية الرجل الأبيض تارة وتقتنع بنظرته إلي العبد الأسود وما يتطلع إلي صناعته ، وتجعلك تتوحد تارة أخري مع حالة العبد الأسود وتشعل نار الثورة في قلبك والغضب ، اه ، أي أسلوب متمكن تتملكينه يا جيرالدين ، ما كل هذه الروعة والقدرة علي سبر الأغوار ، والتمكن المدهش في تصوير الألم والعذاب والدم والعفونة والفقر والعوز والثراء وحب المعرفة والثقافة وحياة الكتب ، والكتب والمكاتب ، فهي حينما تختار تحسن إختيار التعابير
فهي تقول أنها ظنت ان الجنة عبارة عن مكتبة ، وكم مس هذا التعبير قلبي وقلب من يقرأون فمن منا لا يظن أن الجنة عبارة عن مكتبة كبيرة فيها من كل ما نفسنا نقرأ به ..
وقد أجادت التعبير عن مخلفات الحرب وما تسببه من دمار وموت وإنتحار لروح الإنسان
الكثير من الأشياء التي أحب أن أقولها ولكن تضيع وسط إمتزاج عاطفتي وحبي لتلك الرواية بقدرتي العقلية علي الكتابة فلتعذروا كوني سكراناً بجمالها .


" إن تضحية مثل هذه التي يقوم بها يطلق عليها العالم عملاً نبيلاً لكن هذا العالم لن يساعدني في أن أقوم بجمع ما حطمته وكسرته الحرب "


الأن أريد أن أتحدث عن البناء الروائي في نقاط سريعة ولكن أولاً يجب الثناء علي الترجمة المتميزة التي أعتقد أنها لو قرأتها جيرالدين لأحست ان الترجمة فاقت اللغة الأصلية جمالاً ,
إستطاعت الكتابة جداً من إحكام الحبكة الروائية ، وضبط السرد بما يقتل الرتابة والإطناب الذي لا يسمن ولا يغني من جوع ..
كما أن العناوين التي اختارتها لفصول الرواية كم كانت جميلة ومعبرة عن جوهر كل فصل ..
وطريقة العرض التي جاءت رائعة عن طريق أزمنة تتقاطع ، فهكذا يفعل الجندي حقاً ، وهو في ميادين المعركة في وقت الراحة لا يفعل شئ سوي أن يتذكر الماضي وحياته الحقيقية ، لهذا عرضت لنا الكاتبة حياة البطل في تقاطع مع أحداث الحرب في شكل ذكريات ..
برعت أيضاً في إضفاء الأبعاد النفسية وتوضيح الأهداف والأفكار الخاصة بكل شخصية في الرواية ..
كما أن أسلوب التناول في الحكي الذي حدث بين مارتش وزوجته أضفي علي الرواية متعة وشكل وطريقة حكي أكثر من رائعة ، فإن أهم وأجمل ما بالرواية أنه لا أحد يحكي لك ، ولكنها الشخصيات تتحدث عن نفسها بنفسها ، وتري الحكاية من بُعدين وشخصين ووجهتين مختلفين
إن تكلمت فإن كلامي لا يفي ، وإن خير ما يُقال عن تلك الرواية لإعطائها حقها هو أن أنصحك فقط بقرائتها وأترك لك أن تعيش التجربة بنفسك كاملة مكملة
وهذا كل شئ !


" لقد قلت له ان يذهب لم أبك علي فراقنا لقد قلت إنني أبذل ما في وسعي للبلد الذي أحبه ولم أذرف الدمع إلي أن رحل ولكنني ذرفت الدمع وأنا بمفردي ، لقد قلت للفتيات لا حق لنا في أن نشكو عندما يبذل كل واحد منا واجبه ففي النهاية سوف نكون جميعنا سعداء بما قمنا به ، كانت تلك كلمات
مجرد كلمات فارغة في ذلك الوقت وهي فارغة أيضاً الان ، فأي سعادة إذا احتضر هنا في ذلك المكان الكئيب ؟ وأي سعادة إذا تماثل للشفاء ؟ "
Profile Image for Trish.
1,352 reviews2,414 followers
November 3, 2012
It feels like a long time since I’ve read such an accomplished novel. Geraldine Brooks manages to catch the horror of war in a phrase: “…[men] were clinging [to the rocky bluff over the river] as a cluster of bees dangling from a hive, and slipping off in clumps, four or five together.” Her characters are so richly drawn and steeped in a historically accurate language that we feel transported, and are eager to delve into our own researches.

In this novel she recreates the environment of one of our most beloved and earliest American writers, Louisa May Alcott. But instead of walking on furrowed soil, she moves back to imagine Alcott’s father, using his own journals and those of his friends, as well as the journals of Civil War chaplains, soldiers, medics, and slaves. She chose an unusual man, but she made him gracious, sympathetic, fallible, generous, and loving. This is essential to carry us through those bitter days of war, for we need a man willing to mull over events of that time but also to guide us.

He was sincere, but must have also been painfully strict with his family:
…I had come in stages to a different belief about how one should be in this life. I now felt convinced that the greater part of a man’s duty consists in abstaining from much that he is in the habit of consuming…None in our household ate meat but now we learned to do without milk and cheese also, for why should the calf be deprived of its mother’s milk? Further, we found that by limiting our own consumption to two meals a day, we were able to set aside a basket of provisions from which the girls were able to exact a pleasure far greater than sating an animal appetite. Once a week they carried the fruits of their sacrifice as a gift to a destitute brood of German immigrants.
I laughed to read this, for the sincerity of the father must be the disappointment of the daughters.

Part I is written in the voice of Captain March, chaplain of the Union Army. Though we learn the deepest secrets buried in his heart, we never learn his first name. Part II is written in the voice of his wife, Marmee March née Day of Concord, Massachusetts. The juxtaposition of the two voices shows us once again, should we need reminding, that gestures alone between husband and wife are often miscontrued and that we should try to give careful voice to our meaning and intentions if we wish the union to succeed.

“Ragged scallop of cypress woods”, Jo's “lawless strands” [of hair], “a cold drizzle [falling] from heavily swagged clouds”: such phrases spike the book with rich flavor and bursts of color, and these are all Brooks. It is a masterpiece of historical reconstruction, but what I reveled in most was her smooth and seamless telling of the tale in backward glances and nineteenth century cadence and language, her use of metaphor, her rich imaginings, and its grounding in historical record. We can thank her for reminding us of our history and for remembering those men and women who left records of their lives and of our most uncivil war.

For those contemplating the audio version, the Richard Easton narration is magnificent. His reading's fluency of expression and elegance of tone mirrors the beauty of the text.
Profile Image for Gary  the Bookworm.
130 reviews127 followers
May 4, 2013
In March, Geraldine Brooks imaginatively writes a back story for Little Women by turning a beloved children's novel into an adult tour de force. She takes on many of the critical social issues facing Americans in the Nineteenth Century and weaves them into the lives of the fictitious March family.

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The mostly absent father from Little Women takes center stage and confronts the prevailing moral crisis of the day-slavery and the abolitionist response. Real historical figures are introduced and the interaction between fact and fiction makes for an unforgettable reading experience. This is outstanding historical fiction.

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Profile Image for Belen (f.k.a. La Mala ✌).
846 reviews560 followers
August 15, 2015
(Reseña un poco más completa en La Loca de los Libros.)

ACLARACIÓN: lo que a continuación he escrito, no es una reseña, sino un desvarío lleno de sentimientos encontrados. Todavía no estoy segura de que me haya gustado esta novela. No sé si una novela que te angustia a la vez que te produce ganas locas de querer saber que hay más allá, pueda calificarse como un éxito o una pasión inconclusa--insatisfecha.

Fue difícil leer sobre March desde su propio punto de vista. Me sentí incómoda, triste, furiosa, indignada... y de nuevo, triste.

Antes que nada, saben quién es March, ¿no?


¡El papá de Meg, Jo, Beth y Amy! ¡El marido de Marmee! ¡El suegro de ! ¡El abuelo de Ya saben, ese tipo. Y bueno, pues aquí lo tienen ahora. A ése CON HISTORIA PROPIA.

Desde que leí Mujercitas por primera vez, cuando tenía once años, que siento a las hermanas March como si fuesen mis propias hermanas: todo aquello que gire en torno a ellas, o que tenga algo que ver con su mundo de antaño, sus voces, sus juegos, la familia y las historias; todo lo remotamente Marcheano me provoca un arranque de ternura teñido de nostalgia casi instintivo. Por ello, tenía que leer esta novela .


Hay cosas que odié Y cosas que amé (.

Aún así, a pesar de que es una novela muy buena, no llegué a disfrutarla--y esto lo digo en el sentido de que no es MUJERCITAS, obvio. No te deja con una sonrisa en la cara. Es todo lo asquerosamente realista que el libro de Alcott se cuidaba en no ser (al menos, no demasiado).

Ahora bien, me gustaría decir que muchas de las acciones del protagonista no son acordes al March que imaginara Alcott, pero si lo hiciera estaría errada, ya que no sabemos realmente qué pensaba la autora de Mujecitas sobre su patriarca March. Recordemos que es un personaje secundario en la novela: sabemos poco y nada sobre él, así que, en ese caso, por más que me encantaría indignarme y patotear al son de Imposible que March decidiera hacer eso!! (Y Cito, para que se hagan una idea a lo que me refiero: Este March, más allá de lo "humano" que la autora lo pinta, es un luchador, igual que el padre ausente de Meg, Jo, Beth y Amy. Y a pesar de que lo prefiero en la luz santificadora de la pluma original, este hombre es mucho más real e igual de conmovedor. Por ello, la novela no llegó a decepcionarme del todo. Me gustó el protagonista al mismo tiempo que me desagradaron muchas de sus decisiones.

En fin, a pesar de algunos malos tragos, amé leer sobre los inicios de la relación entre Robert y Marmee; sobre las similitudes entre esta última y Jo (ese "carácter podrido" de ambas, sin miedo a nada (; sobre John Brooke llevando la señora March a ya saben donde si leyeron Mujecitas; cierta escena que tiene como gran protagonista a BETH---porque,¿lo dije ya? amo a BETH, también. Las amo a todas en realidad, y no puedo explicarles la alegría/tristeza inmensa que me provoca el leer más sobre ellas, sea el libro bueno o malo.

Este, si bien me dejó bastante deprimida (), resultó ser una novela excepcional, la disfrutase o no; y la recomiendo para cualquier fan de Mujercitas y , porqué no, para cualquiera que quiera leer un buen libro sobre la guerra civil estadounidense.
Profile Image for Sara.
Author 1 book488 followers
April 24, 2019
March is a novel type that I confess I normally despise: the novel in which a character from a classic work is uprooted and expanded on, sometimes in what is obviously not the direction the original author would have intended or applauded. In that sense, March is an exception to the rule, as Brooks does a deft job of developing the character of Mr. March from Little Women into a story of his own. She does so by incorporating both the character that is put forth in Little Women and drawing from the historical facts that surround Bronson Alcott, Louisa’s father. It fits because Little Women itself is so obviously autobiographical, and because there is so very little told us about Mr. March in the famous novel.

The novel deals with the obvious hard questions of the Civil War period--slavery and abolitionism. There is reference to John Brown, and to Alcott’s close friends, Emerson and Thoreau. There is also a very fictional side of March, who makes his way through the battlefields and has close contacts with slaves, that would not have been any part of Alcott’s experiences.

In a very early chapter Brooks shows, in juxtaposition to one another, a slave auction, where families are being separated and children sold, and a church meeting, in which the pastor is requesting donations to “send the scripture of Africa.” The contrast is striking, and the message is clear, the irony being that no one in the church meeting seems to even be aware of the activity next door.

I am proud of Brooks for addressing the horrors of slavery without painting the northern army as a selfless brigade of liberators. A northern colonel says, “I have no love for slavery. But most of these boys aren’t down here fighting for the nig--for the slaves. You must see it, man. Be frank with yourself for once. Why, there’re about as many genuine abolitionists in Lincoln’s army as there are in Jeff Davis’.”

I believe this is a balanced and accurate picture of the situation, and if considered coolly, makes the released slave’s predicament all the more dangerous and precarious. He has few real friends and still fewer champions. This is another fact that serves to set March apart, he is a champion, a sincere believer in the need to both free the slaves and provide for their education and he sees them wholly as human beings, in a way that few other characters in the novel are capable of.

Apart from its exploration of abolitionism and the complicated social fabric of black and white societies, March also addresses the complications of marriage, particularly the misunderstandings that can occur. I found Marmee to be unfamiliar as she is presented by Brooks. Alcott gives us such a wise, controlled and virtually perfect woman, but Brooks tells us this is the surface, just scratch and there is a layer beneath that is confused, wild, and far from perfect. That she and March are often at cross purposes is a variation from the faultless marriage Alcott presents.

Brooks does a marvelous job of preserving the integrity of the characters we know, while giving us a depth and background that the originals are missing. In Little Women, Mr. March is off to the war when the book begins, and now we know exactly what he was doing, and it wasn’t just ministering to dying soldiers, he was growing and changing, just as the little women he had left behind.

The book is beautifully written and is a lovely companion to Little Women. It will be easily appreciated by anyone who loves or respects Louisa Mae Alcott's classic.
Profile Image for MaryG2E.
372 reviews1 follower
February 22, 2016
There have been so many reviews of this Pulitzer Prize winning novel, that I don't think I can add anything more to the discussion. What I would like to say is that I absolutely loved this book and think it a deserved winner of such an august award because of its exceptional qualities and the literary vision of its author. This is what I think about March:

The writing style is exquisite, with beautifully structured sentences and lively expression. Using a slightly antique, formal style, Brooks has evoked the 19th century but her skill means that the words danced off the page for me.

The narrative structure is excellent. March’s letters provide insight into one aspect of his thinking, while his first person narrative shows other facets, more honest and detailed than what he sends home to his family. A potentially disruptive switch in perspective from his narrative to that of Marmee, his wife, is handled with aplomb. It is valuable to get her interpretation of what has happened, and the author uses the crisis evoked by her mis-understandings to delve into the deep nature of the relationships between a husband and wife.

The literary allusion, to the junior fiction novel Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, is clever, but does not overwhelm the reader familiar with that delightful volume. Instead, Brooks has created an insightful work of adult fiction, in which mature issues of love, loyalty, fidelity, family, ego and pride are examined, to my satisfaction as a reader.

The historical events fascinated me. Brooks is married to a Civil War historian, and she has used the historical records brilliantly to paint an honest picture of the inexactitudes, inanities and inequalities which are borne out in such an emotion-charged conflict. Both Union and Confederate troops were involved in atrocities. Their commanders were guilty of poor decisions, which cost countless lives. Not all slaves wanted freedom, if they had a vested interest to protect. For me, the most enlightening part of the book were the chapters relating to March’s time at Oak Landing, the so-called liberated plantation. It functions as a microcosm for all the human frailties, nobility, evil and senseless violence than occurs in war.
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