From Louisa May Alcott's beloved classic Little Women, Geraldine Brooks has animated the character of the absent father, March, and crafted a story filled with the ache of love and marriage and with the power of war upon the mind and heart of one unforgettable man (Sue Monk Kidd). With "pitch-perfect writing" (USA Today), Brooks follows March as he leaves behind his family to aid the Union cause in the Civil War. His experiences will utterly change his marriage and challenge his most ardently held beliefs.
Pages: 280 (paperback)
Rating: 10 out of 10
Source: checked out from the public library
When my book club selected March by Geraldine Brooks as the June book, I felt lukewarm about the pick. I read Little Women and watched a film adaptation, but was not very excited to read about Mr. March. When I finished the first chapter, I was concerned that getting through the rest of the book would be painful. I put the book away for a bit and took it with me on our week long vacation to MD. I got the chance to read a lot of the book while I was pumping since my parents were able to keep the Little Lady. Two pages into the second chapter and I was hooked!
**Caution strong language ahead**
Mr. March is a badass! Wow!! I really loved how he was constantly challenging his peers and working to bring his hope for equality into a reality. Through his story, we see how simple things can be revolutionary. Simple things like viewing all people as equal and teaching someone to write. I also loved that he was a man of deep faith who challenged other believers to extend those principles into every aspect of their lives. Even though I knew that the Civil War was not simply a battle of good versus evil, the point was brought home as I realized that not all Union soldiers believed in Emancipation and that not all Southerners believed that slaves were less than human.
** Mild spoilers ahead **
In addition to Mr. March, my two favorite characters were the women who occupied his heart. First is Grace who is a slave that embodies many of the ideals that March admires-- education, compassion, and strong work ethic. Her beating is a big wake-up call to March and his encounter with her, in my opinion, deepens his resolve to work as an abolitionist. The second is Marmee March whose dialogue and speeches were some of my favorite in the book. I love her discussion with Mr. March about the education of women when they first meet. I was nodding vigorously and wanted to cheer, "PREACH!" Instead, I kept turning pages. When she returns to March's bedside and the story continues in her voice, I loved her insight on how she held her tongue and the different perspectives on her sacrifice versus her husband's.
The contrast between Mr. March and these two women illustrates the differences in how men and women are activists. It seems that March was more easily able to risk and sacrifice everything-- he left his family because he had a wife at home to look after the kids, he could risk teaching a slave to read because he could leave the house. Grace had to be more measured. She received physical scars as a result of her choices and the consequences were more immediate and severe. Marmee March was more acutely aware of what would happen if her husband died. She asks questions about the necessity of his sacrifice. Both Grace and Marmee bring to light the point that you can support and work for revolution without being entirely self-sacrificing and that advocacy work is not done by people in isolation.
In addition to book club, I am counting this book for the following challenges:
2012 Global Reading Challenge: The author was born in Australia and still spends some time there. I am counting the book for the Australia continent.
What's in a Name Five: The title March fits into the category of something you would find on a calender.