Saturday, May 31, 2008

Book review: March, Geraldine Brooks

A fascinating, if overblown, look into the life of an absentee character in American literature: Mr. March, the patriarch of the March family of Little Women fame.

The book follows Mr. March's tribulations during the year he served in the Civil War, and takes us, in flashbacks, to scenes of his youth, his courtship of Marmee, and how his family fell into the vaguely mentioned financial ruin of his book.

As Brooks describes in her afterward, the character was modeled after Alcott's father, a noted philosopher and philanthropist of the era, in the same way that the March girls were modeled after the Alcott sisters. Brooks has been thorough in her research, and seems to have mastered the oblique language of the Victorian era. Garish descriptions precede prim omissions, but it's still not a challenging read.

I liked Mr. March, for the most part. He was a little self-pitying at times and the psychological anguish at the end smacked of martyrdom. Marmee was another story. She was written as a harridan. I particularly enjoyed the way Brooks wove moments from Little Women into March's narrative.

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