Friday, November 20, 2009

March (by Geraldine Brooks)*

As I alluded to in my last entry, I hated hated hated the narrator of this audiobook (Richard Easton). He sounds as if he is spitting into his microphone and his tone is just angry the whole time. I would have switched to the print copy of the book if I'd had any time at all, but I was curious enough in the story to keep reading.

I love Little Women and have read it ten million times. So I was intrigued by the idea of a story from Mr. March's point of view. But it just left me feeling unsatisfied. I didn't find the character of March likeable at all, nor did I find him compatible with Louisa May Alcott's vision--he seems ridiculously self-centered and he does some amazingly stupid things. And then there's the character of Grace Clement, who is not only a contrived character, but way too saintly and good to be true. Ironic, since Marmee is portrayed as kind of a beyotch. (It's a very interesting characterization but could have been done a little more subtly. That being said, the part of the book told from her perspective is by far the best.)

The part that I most disliked was at the very end, when he finally sees his daughters again. It's a scene that resonates in the original text, when he tells his daughters how they've changed in a year... in this version, Mr. March is looking at his daughters and thinking of other people, and just giving mechanical answers to their questions. Like, I was left without a sense that he loves his daughters, and the March marriage seems pretty much destroyed by the end. (Also, he calls her "Marmee" in this--as if it's her first name. I thought it was the girls' way of saying "Mommy"--am I wrong?) This doesn't go into the events of Good Wives or Little Men... but maybe Brooks should have considered how the Marches evolve in those books.

That being said, the language here is great. Brooks based a lot of this on the journals of Bronson Alcott, which seems appropriate, but she seems to have done this at the expense of Louisa's original intentions for the character. Also, my favorite thing in the whole book, a poem written by a dead soldier, was an actual poem written by a dead soldier that Louisa May Alcott found when she was working in a Civil War Hospital.

To sum up: maybe with a different narrator I could have enjoyed this more. (I wish the Jaws guy were reading it!) I wanted to find out how it ends, but having finished it, I just think it frustrated me. I know it won a Pulitzer and all; maybe I'm just too attached to the original.


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