Doctorow’s The March: 3/13/08

The March
The March by E.L. Doctorow

As often happens, there was a range of reactions to this month’s book, from enthusiastic to lukewarm. Less typically, some of the most positive comments were from CD, who really enjoyed this one. He was intrigued by the combination of historical and fictional characters, and did some research to find out which was which. (Sadly, my notes aren’t detailed enough to tell you what he found — maybe he’ll write in and remind us.) He did point out that at least one of the fictional characters makes a repeat appearance in another Doctorow books: and older and possibly more cold-blooded Wrede Sartorious appears in the earlier novel Waterworks.

RN told tales of his civil war battlefield tour and what he’d learned about the southern perspective on the Civil War, which he says was referred to even recently as the “War of Northern Aggression”. For more on those times, RN recommends Michael Shaara’s Killer Angels, Geraldine Brooks’ March and Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln’s Killer by James L. Swanson.

Others voiced frustration with the lack of character development, the lack of quotation marks and the presence of grammatically incorrect – or at least awkward – writing. DS was itching to take her red pen to the manuscript and help out with some editing. Some mentioned characters they particularly enjoyed: Arly & Will were entertaining and intriguing, and Pearl was inspiring. But was Pearl too empowered and insightful to be believed – for a young woman born and raised in slavery? We missed Emily when she dropped out of the story too soon.

Some enjoyed the wide sweep of the story and the cinematic writing enough not to be bothered by the lack of depth. TL couldn’t put it down, and I sure found it entertaining. GC, BC and B all commented on how vividly the book described aspects of the military undertaking: the gore of battle and surgery, the boredom of an endless march, and the enormity of the troop movements and losses.

In related reading, GB recommends Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin; B enjoyed Ben Ames Williams’ House Divided and Charles Frazier’s Cold Mountain.

Doctorow fans will want to mark their calendars for his appearance in Concord, MA on May 20,2008 The Concord Festival of Authors and The Walden Woods Project’s Stewardship Lecture Series.

Author Biography from BookBrowse E.L. Doctorow
E.L. Doctorow NPR Review and links to Doctorow interviews

More to read and hear by and from E.L.D.

  More on The March:
  • For more articles on Doctorow and his books, try Infotrac Onefile, available at the library, or from home (with a Minuteman Library Network card).