Read “March” by Geraldine Brooks at long last. It was the Pulitzer winner for fiction in 2006, and it tells the story of “Mr. March” – the mostly absent father from “Little Women” by Louisa May Alcott. I have had this on my TBR for a long time, because a) I have been trying to read Pulitzer winners slowly, and b) I loved the book “Year of Wonders” by Geraldine Brooks.
This book…not so much.
First, I’m not really a huge fan of messing with my childhood favorites. It’s okay in some cases – “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” rocked, and I really loved “Rhett Butler’s People”, but have not been able to get into any of the “Rebecca” followups, “Scarlett,” or any of the other P&P “sequels”. And let me say, I probably have NEVER expressed this before, but “Little Women” was my go-to book for at least a decade. I remember when I checked it out from the library for the first time – and I was very young. I remember when I saved enough to buy this beautiful gold-edged edition from Waldenbooks. I remember reading this book, much as Jo would approve, by sitting in a tree that lightning had struck. Little Women was the FIRST book that caused me to be interested in history – I had to know more about Louisa May Alcott, and it just snowballed from there. (I moved from her to the Bronte sisters – not odd, because Louisa May read a biography about Charlotte Bronte, who she then compared to herself. But then, oddly enough, on to JFK, natural progression, right?) I actually USED Little Women in my grad school letter of intent/personal essay. Sooo…the real wonder here is that I would read anything that might defile my precious March girls. (Also, no version of the movie has ever been able to do justice to the motion picture in my own mind).
Second, Mr. March and Marmee were just perfect in Little Women. Now, of course Mr. March was based on Bronson Alcott, and he might have been crazier than a shit-house rat, or quite possibly one of the most brilliant minds in our country – I will be examining more of his own personal works in the near future (not surprisingly, this book DID give me another possible thesis thought, I have to look into). But…I did not like either of the March parents in Brooks’ work, “March”. Mr. March really reminded me of an even more mealy-mouthed version of Ashley Wilkes, and if I have not waxed poetic on that before, well, I will spare you all – just suffice it to say, I cannot stand Ashley Wilkes. What a wuss. Marmee’s part in this book was brief, to be sure, but she did not act at all like I imagined her to act. Fail.
Third, the timing was off. Of course, Brooks ‘splains that away in the “Afterword” (which I read before I was halfway through with the book and was my favorite part).
But, on the other side of things, it was a bold maneuver. She got the tone right, and it was refreshing to be reminded of all the wonderful literary influences in Louisa May Alcott’s wonderful life – Thoreau, Emerson, and Hawthorne. John Brown even makes an appearance or two. Brooks did a good – albeit toned down – view of slavery; of course, this is not fair after all the texts I read last semester that were definitely not toned down.
3 1/2, maybe 4 stars. The writing was great. Hey, Laurie and Mr. Brooks were in there, briefly. It was nice to have a bit of backstory, could have had more Aunt March (whom I really liked). There was a scene that was basically straight out of LW that I thoroughly enjoyed – teared up and everything, because it did bring back the days of reading it over and over (when I ran out of my books from the library and had, I don’t know, a night before we could go back, yep this is what I read). Thing is, I WAS Jo, at least in my own feeble mind. I digress again.
I did not love this book. It did not leave me with warm fuzzies when I closed the final page, but I did *like* this book. The language was well done, the writing beautiful, I am just glad I did not think of the Ashley Wilkes connection until I was almost done. LOL Now, I have to go find another beautiful gold-edged copy of Little Women.