Rummanah Aasi
  Julie had such a great time doing her first review that she wanted to do another one. I didn't even have to bribe her with chocolate! Thanks again, Julie, for being my guest blogger. Enjoy her review of March!

   I’m always intrigued and not a little wary when an author attempts to take on the embellishment in some way of a beloved classic such as Little Women. I can’t begin to count the number of books published around Austen’s character of Mr. Darcy. Do an Amazon search--I dare you. Even Winnie-the-Pooh spawned a series of philosophy books. I’m not a huge fan of fan fiction either. I find most of it somewhat self-indulgent on the author’s part. March sets itself up not as a sequel or an alternative storyline, but as a companion to Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, exploring the experiences of Mr. March while he was away from the girls during the Civil War.

Description: March imagines the wartime experiences of the absent father in Louisa May Alcott's beloved classic Little Women.

Below is an outtake from The American Masters segment about Louisa May Alcott, where Brooks is interviewed:

Review: Little Women holds a very special place in my heart as it was the book my mother sat and read to me over the course of a week when I was eleven years old, recovering from major surgery. She patiently read, I yelled at both the characters and the author, she waited and then read some more. At the time my favorite character was Beth, but I see my life has played out much more like Jo’s even though I can identify in some way with all the girls. Clearly that is a major part of Little Women’s timeless appeal; we all see some piece of ourselves alive and coming of age in its characters. In shelving her book next to Alcott’s classic, Brooks had some really big shoes to fill and for most of the book I wasn’t entirely convinced she pulled it off. I’ve always believed, however, that every book is ultimately made or broken by its ending. March ends well.

    Much of the book serves as a social commentary on the issues of slavery and racism. Very often I felt preached at. That’s not entirely without base since Mr. March was a preacher, army chaplain, and teacher. He is a man of ideals and strongly held beliefs. It is completely within his character to see the world, internalize it, and then sermonize on it. (At times the audio version even makes March sound pompous. I’m not sure, however, if that should be attributed to the author or the actor’s interpretation.) In any event, the overwhelming feeling is one of helplessness to effect any change for both Captain March and the reader since he is up against such appalling and prolific inhumanity. Capt. March has every one of his dearest held beliefs challenged by the realities of war, pervasive public opinion, and even his own mortal weaknesses.

  March is very well written and dove-tails beautifully with the original. Brooks clearly did her research, even basing her characterization of Capt. March on Alcott’s father, Amos Bronson Alcott. Alcott freely admitted that Little Women was based on herself and her sisters. The last third is told from Marmee’s prospective when she leaves Concord for Washington to bring a very much changed Capt. March home again. This is where I could insert myself easily into the story. Marmee voiced the uniquely female perspective that is Alcott’s strength. This is where I was finally returned to what I loved about Alcott’s book. Given its subject matter and prose, I’m not surprised it won the 2006 Pulitzer.

Note: Alcott did write three sequels to Little Women with Good Wives, Little Men and later Jo’s Boys, but I wonder where she would have taken Mr. March’s story since her own attachment as a writer always seemed to be toward her female characters. Perhaps she intuitively knew that tracing Captain March’s travels and experiences would be as harsh as Brooks wrote it to be. I liked Brooks’ development of the courtship between Marmee and March, how their marriage endured the separation, and the introduction of both Hannah and Aunt March.

Rating: 4.5 stars

Words of Caution: There are graphic descriptions of the treatment of slaves and heavy philosophical questions are raised, which is why I think it is more fitting as an adult book, however; I would recommend this book for mature readers over fifteen.

If you liked this book, try: Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks.
1 Response
  1. SocrMom78 Says:

    Hello, I am stopping by from the Blogger Hop. I loved hearing your story about having "Little Women" read to you in your childhood. I read to my daughter every night, probably because I love to be read to as well. I will have to check this book out when I'm done with my colossal list. :) You have a great blog!

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