I declared the month of September :
"Read What I Want" month.
This month, I have been pulling books from that shelf in my bedroom. I started with March by Geraldine Brooks. Several years ago, I read Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks. I loved it and so I added all her other works (fiction and nonfiction) to my wish list. I discovered March at a used book sale a year ago and it has been waiting on the shelf ever since.
March : A Novel finds Mr. March, the father of the March girls in Little Women, running for his life from the advancing rebels. As iconic literary characters, I loved Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy the first time I read Louisa May Alcott's novel as a young girl. I'm still a little upset that Jo didn't end up with Laurie. The only thing we know about Mr. March from Alcott's writing, is that he was a recently impoverished abolitionist who left his family to go serve with the Union army in the Civil War.
In her novel, Brooks tells Mr. March's story at war. Using journals and information about Louisa May's father Bronson Alcott, Brooks imagines a fascinating and idealist character who strives to further his righteous cause. During the war, Mr. March will encounter people and situations that do not always fit so easily into his ideals. He will also witness the atrocities and horror of war and slavery. He is changed and broken and must eventually rely on his family to help him heal.
Geraldine Brooks is a brilliant writer. Well researched, she takes a minor character in beloved literature and brings him to life. Staying true to Alcott's work, Mr. March is completely believable as the father and husband of the amazing women that inhabit Little Women. The plot is also well developed and Brooks exposes the barbarity of war and slavery. While these are not new themes, Brooks writes of them in a fresh style, showing them through the innocent and optimistic eyes of Mr. March, who as a Transcendentalist in Concord, Massachusetts spent time philosophizing with Emerson and Thoreau.
March, the Pulitzer Prize winning novel is amazing literature in it's own right and will find a place next to Alcott's novel. I might have to dust off my copy of Little Women and read it again. I have no doubt that Brooks' novel will forever change the way I read the classic.