March by Geraldine Brooks: 2/12/09

March March

by Geraldine Brooks

Brooks’ story explores the Civil War, marriage, and passionate idealism. Her main character, March, sparked a fair amount of controversy in our group. Is he a sanctimonious, narcissistic loser, or an admirable idealist with the courage to keep on trying even in the face of setbacks?

March strikes me as a (less successful) version of a class of men – including Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King – whose ability as charismatic leaders comes with a corresponding lack of ability to behave as reliable husbands and fathers.

Several readers wondered how his wife tolerated him. The change to Marmee’s voice toward the end was a great relief to them. March and Marmee’s thorough misunderstandings at several profound moments in their marriage struck some as laughably familiar.

Overall, we were impressed by Brooks’ research and her writing skills. JS was touched by her clear depiction of individual freed slaves, many of very high intelligence in spite of a lack of formal education, all struggling to determine what aspects of their freedom they could trust.

For TL the key point to the story comes on page 268 when former slave Grace Clement says,
“Go home, Mr. March. If you sincerely want to help us, go back to Concord and work with your own people… Be a father to your daughters. That, at least, you can do. They are the ones who need you.”

Geraldine Brooks
Geraldine Brooks
Geraldine Brooks From Wicked Local Watertown
More about Brooks and “March”:
  • For more articles on Brooks and her books, try Infotrac Onefile, available at the library, or from home
    (with a Minuteman Library Network card).