Sunday, November 19, 2006

March by Geraldine Brooks

The drought is over.

Finally, a book with which I connected.

I've been intrigued by this book's concept since I first became aware of it right after it was released in paperback. I have no idea how many times I've held it in my hand, contemplating its purchase. It was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in April and it's been on my Amazon wish list since May.

Then, a week ago Wednesday, the woman next to me on the plane was holding it in her hand. I asked her if she liked it and she said she hadn't even started it yet. A few minutes later, she looked up from it and exclaimed that it was wonderful.

So I took the plunge. So many unread books in the house, but still I'm buying more.

I started it Friday night and finished it this afternoon.

Partially because it's written in the first person, partially because it's so well written and partially because I was already acquainted with the characters by virtue of reading and re-reading Little Women and Little Men, I felt an immediate connection to Mr. March (as I'm writing this, it occurs to me that I don't think we're ever told his first name) and his travails. For the most part, the plot flows naturally and does not seem contrived but for the repeated reappearance of Grace, which is a necessary and welcome coincidence.

All but four of the chapters are written from March's perspective. Those other four chapters are a surprising and illuminating look at the story from Marmee's perspective. I especially appreciated learning that certain interpretations presented as gospel from March's perspective were in fact utterly misguided. Brooks' portrayal of March's motivations for certain actions and Marmee's differing understanding of those same motivations was a masterful chronicling of the pitfalls of marital communication.

While the ending of Brooks' previous novel, A Year of Wonders (which I also highly recommend), seemed forced and artificial, March does not suffer so.

Brooks reads my mind when she states,
The thing that most attracts me to historical fiction is taking the factual record as far as it is known, using that as scaffolding, and then letting imagination build the structure that fills in those things we can never find out for sure.

1 comment:

Susan Kelly said...

I'm starting to read Emma with my freshmen and found A Year of Wonders listed on Penguin's Readers' Guide under "If you like Emma, try one of these." With Bridget's endorsement, I certainly will.