Geraldine Brooks – March

lmabooks_0001-copyLast night, fighting off sleep and sickness, I finished this slight volume March by Geraldine Brooks. At parts this novel wowed me with its eloquent rendering of Civil War era diction and stylized banter between the intellectual elite, lines Brooks portrays beautifully fabricated conversations between some of the most interesting characters in American literary history, Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, John Brown and the like. There are intensely moving passages of war and love, of lies or carefully constructed artifice. Brooks investigates some interesting themes throughout this work, and I think she explores them well and artfully. At points though one of my criticisms is that she resolves things almost coyly, too mechanical, too clean and cool. Some of the plot points start wrapping up near the end and it seems really forced. That is my only concern, dealing with the horror of war we end feeling like a Shakespearean comedy without very much intrigue. Brooks is a master of her craft, but she doesn’t have the heart to deal get her hands dirty. She shows us some horrifying images that which can only be rendered of such a traumatic time in American history, but I think she does it from a removed point of view. Her character March seems out of place and disconnected with his time and I think almost too much so. I think she may have stumbled a bit in importing too much post-modern sensibilities into a pre-modern thinker, which I felt a little misleading or leading which might have been the point I don’t know. She gives a very post-1970’s feminist voice to the female lead Marmee, which may have been true the person she was based I don’t know. They are an interesting bunch of characters interacting in an interesting time and interesting things happen to them. On that level this novel is a smashing success. Diving further into this work, I feel a little disappointed that its themes and images are expanded upon or their cool detachment from a gritty realism I think she could have aspired to. Nevertheless, I enjoyed reading it thoroughly. I looked forward to it, and I loved the main characters voice, a voice I wish I could render in my own writing as authentically as she has here.

As I mentioned in my last post, I am going to pursue this time period throughout the winners as far as I can. The two books I am starting now are The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara that which I am listening to while delivering pizzas for Pizza Hut, and also just started this evening is The Color Purple by Alice Walker. Both works are masterful so as I have enjoyed them briefly.

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