March is the finest fan fiction I expect I will ever read. Starting with the story and people from Little Women, Brooks turns the perspective from home and hearth to the shock of the Civil War by telling her tale mainly from Mr. March’s point of view. I re-read Little Women
right before reading this, so that story was fresh in my mind.
I enjoyed the old-style language and cadence of the sentences; one of the hardest things for me is to write so it sounds old but still is readable. This actually reads “older” than Little Women did to my ears, which seems appropriate as March is a well-read man who would enjoy using the rarer words and sentence structure. My paperback copy now has lots of checkmarks on lovely lines.
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. (p. 113)
The story travels from March’s present, trying to write letters home after another horrendous or demoralizing day, to his past, as a young man before he met Marmee, and back again until the threads tie in the present.
If war can ever be said to be just, then this war is so; it is action for a moral cause, with the most rigorous of intellectual underpinnings. And yet everywhere I turn, I see injustice done in the waging of it. And every day, as I turn to what should be the happy obligation of opening my mind to my wife, I grope in vain for words with which to convey to her even a part of what I have witnessed, what I have felt. As for what I have done, and the consequences of my actions, these I do not even attempt to convey. (p. 65)
While faithful to the words of the previous book, his character and others gain dimension as they gain voice. There are two amazing plot coincidences that involve the same character, but it’s fiction after all, so fine. It’s a little distracting that the Marches know lots of the major abolitionists in the period—part of the appeal of Little Women was they were regular people maybe like me—but many abolitionists *were* in Cambridge so why not? The historical detail is sound, and compelling.
I wondered how she would handle the part where March is delirious with fever in the hospital; her solution tells us more about women’s thinking in those days but took away from the strength of his story (also Amazing Coincidence Character gets to be even more angelic). The white characters are the stars, and are flawed and venal and conflicted, while the African characters are more one-note. I’ve read quite a few stories about slaves told by modern white women; while memorably horrorshow, they are starting to sound the same. Maybe based on the same reference material?