This Pulitzer-Prize winning novel brings imagines the life of Little Women father Mr. March, absent for most of that famous novel to serve as a Union chaplain in the Civil War. As a childhood fan of Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy, I gave little thought to their father and had only a dim understanding of the transcendentalist beliefs driving March and Marmee's ways of being and raising their family. I certainly never imagined him to be in much danger during his service (why, I'm not sure).
Brooks' imagining of March is based on the life of Alcott's own father, Bronson Alcott, heavily documented in his letters and journals (though dramatized and fictionalized by Brooks).
The tie to the Little Women provides points of familiarity, but it isn't the focus and fans hoping for a new perspective on the girls will be disappointed (though the new view of an outspoken and impulsive Marmee is refreshing). Instead, the novel provides insight into one man's experience of the Civil War, life as an abolitionist, and his human fears, failings, and moral quandaries when faced with the violence of war and the horror of slavery.
Lately, I'm appreciating darker, more realistic takes on my childhood favorites, and March puts Little Women more clearly into historical context. This was a slow read, at times, but worth it for fans of both Little Women and historical fiction.
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From the publisher’s description:
Winner of the 2006 Pulitzer Prize For Fiction. From the author of the acclaimed YEAR OF WONDERS, an historical novel and love story set during a time of catastrophe, on the front lines of the American Civil War. Acclaimed author Geraldine Brooks gives us the story of the absent father from Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women – and conjures a world of brutality, stubborn courage and transcendent love. An idealistic abolitionist, March has gone as chaplain to serve the Union cause. But the war tests his faith not only in the Union – which is also capable of barbarism and racism – but in himself. As he recovers from a near-fatal illness, March must reassemble and reconnect with his family, who have no idea of what he has endured. A love story set in a time of catastrophe, March explores the passions between a man and a woman, the tenderness of parent and child, and the life-changing power of an ardently held belief.