Reviewed by Renée Bosman, Reference Librarian for Government and Public Affairs
In this beautiful novel, Geraldine Brooks breathes life into Mr. March, the father in Louisa May Alcott's beloved Little Women. As March is largely absent from Alcott's story, it is Brooks who truly introduces us to this character whom we follow from his youthful days as a peddler in the south to his post as a Union chaplain in the Civil War — first ministering to soldiers and later as the teacher at a contraband farm. Self-taught scholar, passionate abolitionist, and unorthodox clergyman, March is modeled on Alcott's father, Bronson Alcott, with inspiration drawn from his own papers, as well as those of friends Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau.
Narrated in the first person by March (with some chapters from wife Marmee's point of view), this very personal account of war, with all its brutality, inhumanity, and both physical and emotional suffering is quite disturbing, and difficult to read at times. Yet it is nicely interspersed with reminiscences of the Marches' domestic life in Concord, Massachusetts, which help create the rich character development of both March and Marmee. March won the 2006 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.
Interested in more by Brooks, or other works about the Civil War? Check out Year of Wonders: A Novel of the Plague by Geraldine Brooks, or Confederates in the Attic: Dispatches from the Unfinished Civil War by her husband, Tony Horwitz.