March by Geraldine Brooks

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Title: March
Author: Geraldine Brooks
Length: 273 pages
Published in: 2005
Genre: fiction; spoof, though more spin-off
ISBN: 9780670033359
Source: personal collection
Reason(s) for Reading: 1) I have loved all of Geraldine Brooks’ other books; 2) Personal Collection Resolution 2012

Summary (from Goodreads):

As the North reels under a series of unexpected defeats during the dark first year of the war, one man leaves behind his family to aid the Union cause. His experiences will utterly change his marriage and challenge his most ardently held beliefs. Riveting and elegant as it is meticulously researched, March is an extraordinary novel woven out of the lore of American history.

From Louisa May Alcott’s beloved classic Little Women, Geraldine Brooks has taken the character of the absent father, March, who has gone off to war, leaving his wife and daughters to make do in mean times. To evoke him, Brooks turned to the journals and letters of Bronson Alcott, Louisa May’s father,a friend and confidant of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau. In her telling, March emerges as an idealistic chaplain in the little known backwaters of a war that will test his faith in himself and in the Union cause as he learns that his side, too, is capable of acts of barbarism and racism. As he recovers from a near mortal illness, he must reassemble his shattered mind and body and find a way to reconnect with a wife and daughters who have no idea of the ordeals he has been through.

Spanning the vibrant intellectual world of Concord and the sensuous antebellum South, March adds adult resonance to Alcott’s optimistic children’s tale to portray the moral complexity of war, and a marriage tested by the demands of extreme idealism, and by a dangerous and illicit attraction

My Thoughts: I was pleasantly surprised with this story. At the beginning, I wasn’t sure if I’d like a book that was so much more geared towards adults than children. But, as was probably the true case for many a family, the men at war had a much harsher story to tell than what they might want their wives and children to know.

As the summary said, this story looks at Mr. March’s life during his time in the army, while his daughters lives out Little Women at home. In that sense, this is a spin-off, not really a spoof, of that American classic. With some flashbacks, we read of March before he met Marmee and their early life together. I was a little surprised by some of the choices Brooks made for the characters–for instance, how the Marches were once quite wealthy, or the entire family being vegan. Later in the book, Marmee OS the narrator, when she goes to D.C. to tend to March in the hospital. I was more interested in the portion from March’s perspective, because it was more telling of parts of the US during the Civil War. All in all, I think Brooks did a great job telling the story of a very minor character in a beloved American novel.

“If a man is to lose his fortune, it is a good thing if he were poor before he acquired it, for poverty requires aptitude.” (p113)

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“‘We do not have ideas. The idea has us…and drives us into the arena to fight for it like gladiators, who combat whether they will or no.'” (p124)

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Little Women and Werewolves by Louisa May Alcott & Porter Grand

TitleLittle Women and Werewolves
Author: Louisa May Alcott & Porter Grand
Genre: fiction, spoof-of-a-classic
ISBN: 9780345522603
Pages: 393
Year Published: 2010
Source: public library
Rating: 3/5
Reason for Reading: my Civil War class made me want to read Little Women again, but I thought I’d try something new with this spoof

Summary (from back cover):

Little Women is a timeless classic. But Louisa May Alcott’s first draft–before her editor sunk his teeth into it–was even better. Now the original text has at last been exhumed. In this uncensored version, the March girls learn some biting lessons, transforming from wild girls into little women–just as their neighbors transform from gentlemen into blood-thirsty werewolves.
Here comes tomboy Jo, meek Beth, ladylike Amy, and good-hearted Meg, plus lovable neighbor Laurie Laurence, now doomed to prowl the night on all fours, maiming and devouring the locals. As the Civil War rages, the girls learn the value of being kind, the merits of patience and grace, and the benefits of knowing a werewolf who can disembowel your teacher.
By turns heartwarming and bloodcurdling, this rejuvenated classic will be cherished and beloved by those who enjoy a lesson in virtue almost as much as they relish a good old-fashioned dismemberment.

My Thoughts: I really didn’t mind this spoof. I didn’t find it as humorous as I found Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, but it was an interesting idea to go with. But something that I liked in some respects and didn’t like in other respects was the way Grand portrayed the relationships between the characters.

For instance, I didn’t exactly like the way she made Jo seem all goo-goo-eyed over Laurie. It’s been awhile since I read Little Women, but I don’t remember Jo ever seeming like she love loved Laurie–she just loved him as a brother. But here’s an example of what Grand used to describe Jo’s feelings towards Laurie:

Something in the way he held himself, in the very way he breathed, and in his animal alertness made Jo want to sit nearer to him. She knew she would feel safe nestled against him, inhaling the intoxicating musk of his skin, but she fought the urge and stayed where she was. She sat crookedly, though, to face him and she breathed deeply, hoping to swallow the very same air he was exhaling as he recited an amusing story he had heard…Jo had laid a hand on Laurie’s arm when she thanked him for the ride home. A jolt had run up her arm, and she could feel the cloth of his sleeve on her fingertips until she fell asleep that night.

This makes Jo seem too girly for me. And I think it misrepresents her true feelings for Laurie.

But, I did like how Grand went into more detail about the blossoming love between Laurie and Amy. I think Alcott sort of just thrust the two together and never really explained how and/or why it happened. But this book does change it up a little and shows how they grew to love each other.

Other than these aspects, I did like how werewolves were woven into the story. Of course it seemed a little fantastical, but that’s the fun of it 🙂 I don’t know if I would recommend it to others, unless they enjoy spoofs on classics. But, for what it was, I just felt it fell short of what I had expected. It took me about two weeks to read it and I think that was because it was just didn’t interest me. However, that might have been because I’ve known the basic plot behind the book for 15 years 😕

::EDIT::
I forgot to mention that I also didn’t care for the ending. I’m not exactly sure where Little Women originally left off because I know Alcott wrote continuing books. But both films I’ve seen end when Professor Bhaer proposes and Jo accepts, saying “Not empty now” (because he said “I have nothing to give you. My hands are empty.”) But Grand added on an ending, I think taking on a little of the sequel, Little Men. I just didn’t like this tactic to end it at a different spot 😦

My Thoughts on the Cover: Pretty self explanatory cover. A werewolf shadow and claw marks and blood along with the four March girls–not really a whole lot of hidden meaning 🙂

Some Quotes I Like:

“I have often felt an aloof neighbor is preferable to a nosy one,” Marmee said, laughing. (p17)

Mrs. March knew that experience was an excellent teacher, and whenever possible, she left her children to learn their own lessons. (p170)

Kindness is the greatest gift one can give the world… (p386)