March

This is the book I chose for the ‘month’ category of the whimsical reading challenge

cover

Even though in this case March actually refers to the surname of Meg, Beth, Jo and Amy. Yes, this book is based on the beloved Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, but instead of girly escapades Geraldine Brooks tells us the story of their absent father.

One of the things I truly loved about this book was the amount of historical detail. The American Civil War fascinates me, but growing up in the UK and Spain, my exposure was limited to books and films. Contextually she seems to have done an excellent job, you can really tell that a lot of research has gone into the weaving of this tapestry…

Except when it comes to the protagonist. Mr March is portrayed as a hippy in Unionist uniform, and I just didn’t find it convincing. I’m very surprised that this vegan, caffeine-free, non-smoking old man managed to survive any amount of direct combat. I think perhaps that 21st century ideals may have allowed to creep in a little too much here.

Although I’m not his biggest fan, I did enjoy his mismatched marriage. The narration is divided between both of their perspectives so we get insight into what both are thinking. It’s quite amusing to see how out of sync they are! March pretty much does everything he does just to impress his wife, and Marmee only endures everything he does out of womanly duty. I can’t help but wonder if there’d have been any novel at all if they had a functional relationship…

Because Brooks incorporates a series of flashbacks into the narrative, we see a lot of character development. She really does explain how and why each character came to be the way they are. This backstory to the March family provides additional context to Little Women, and depth to the character of the little women themselves, which made me think that these two novels could be read in conjunction with each other…

Until the UNTHINKABLE happened. Brooks gives a slightly revisionist account of certain key plot events which I just cannot condone. I, as much as anyone, understand the appeal of a happy ending, but any author who bases their work on a classic should not alter the integrity of the original. In other words, they can add to the story, but taking anything away is unforgivable.

In general I enjoyed the book, and I probably wouldn’t be so critical if I wasn’t such a diehard Alcott fan. But I think that’s the danger when you write anything based on something so well-loved!

D x

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