Like many women, Geraldine Brooks was inspired by Louisa May Alcott's Little Women, which she first read as a girl in Australia.
March is the second novel by Australian author, Geraldine Brooks. It tells the story of Mr March, the absent father in Louisa May Alcott’s classic novel, Little Women. But as well as giving the reader an idea of his experience “at the war” (the noise, smell, blood, cold and death are almost palpable), Brooks provides background on the Civil War: attitudes to slavery in the north and south, behaviour of soldiers on both sides of the war, and the experience of the civilian population. She touches on the North’s mixed record of high idealism, negligence and outright cruelty regarding the contraband (slaves who came within Union lines) and vividly illustrates the moral dilemma faced in war by pacifists who were also ardent abolitionists. A multitude of facts is incorporated into the story in a way that renders them easily absorbed. By having March narrate the first two thirds of the book, Brooks also gives the reader some of Mr March’s history: his youth, his career, meeting Marmee, his involvement in the Abolitionist cause, the reason for his reduced circumstances. Marmee’s thoughts and feelings about her husband’s actions are detailed when she takes over the narration: this wise, dignified, compliant woman is shown to have unspoken opinions while remaining the strength of the March family. All this Brooks meshes seamlessly with the events in Little Women. While Alcott would have been able to write from personal experience, the vast amount of research that Brooks has had to do is evident on every page. March adds some darker adult resonances to the voids of Alcott’s sparkling children’s tale. An outstanding read.