Subversive Reader Reviews: March (AWW2013)

Book reviews and AWW posts can be found here.

AWW2013 – Book 34

March

March: Adventures of a Subversive Reader

Geraldine Brooks

Adult Historical Fiction


March is, in some ways, a retelling of Little Women, only from the point of view of Captain March and Marmee. Primarily we are focused on the girl’s father, an idealistic captain in the American Civil War, setting out to support the notion of a free and fair society for everyone.

March’s idealism and naivety allow him to take every loss, every injustice that he comes across, to heart. From the moment he first understood the brutality of slavery, as a young man, he threw himself into solving all the World’s problems. Although it’s clear that he makes his decisions from a place of good intentions, he often takes a patronising approach, showing a clear lack of understanding of the full situation. We learn that it’s up to Marmee to pull the pieces together when the weight of idealism becomes too much.

This is obviously a well researched book, filled with the raw details of war. The reader is exposed to multiple shades of grey and complexities, the kinds we don’t always see when getting a ‘facts only’ approach to history. At one point, March works as a teacher, teaching history through stories – while we ourselves are getting a greater appreciation of history through a story – I know I want to go back and look at the story of John Brown at Harper’s Ferry again.

There’s some stunning writing in the book, the type that forces you to stop and ponder on it for a second, even when the weight of the story is pulling you on. Early on, March describes the red of blood in a river being like the marbled end papers in a much loved book or the spill of red ink on a hardwood floor – these sort of descriptive phrases are littered through the book, as we move forward and backwards through the story of March’s life and help to paint a world that feels extremely immediate and vivid.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and was quite sad to leave the world of Captain March. I’m going to have to reread Little Women at some point now!

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