- Paperback: 384 pages
- Publisher: Abacus; New Ed edition (2 Nov. 2006)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0349119597
- ISBN-13: 978-0349119595
- Product Dimensions: 20 x 2.6 x 13.1 cm
- Average Customer Review: 25 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 174,890 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
The March: A Novel Paperback – 2 Nov 2006
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marvellous, sweeping...The cruelties of war, the desperation, the rape and the pillage, the great rolling river of refugees and freed black slaves all comes indelibly to life. (SUNDAY TELEGRAPH)
Doctorow has created a commanding, timeless meditation on war... Modern and prophetic, it is an astonishing achievement (GUARDIAN)
An entirely convincing recreation of a violent, frantic time, in which his cinematic technique of rapid, short scenes, works wonderfully (DAILY TELEGRAPH)
Historical fiction is always a difficult balancing act for an author, particularly when he is incorporating the thoughts and actions of famous historical figures. Thankfully EL Dotorow is up to the task... (RTE GUIDE)
A brutal and brilliant novel set in the American Civil War.See all Product description
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But to start with, I found this book verging on the Oprah-ish - the fact that the two American reviews posted on co.uk here, can be so - matter of fact about reviewing it, making it sound like an epic movie... shows that.
I really felt disappointed - I expect so much more from this writer than a beautiful freed slave girl and a cantankerous general - just felt these were cliches out of a tv miniseries.
But in fact the book does have its own strangeness - and the incredibly layered story does help to add to that. I'm still not sure, on finishing the book, whether this wasn't a very conventional book from a usually-more-unusual writer. But I stayed up late to finish it. It really did involve me.
And the book is still so much more worth reading than a lot of other things. I'm still not sure what i think about Pearl - whether i believed in her. But to read this book and to think about the march through Iraq, happening at the same time Doctorow was writing the book - I found very interesting.
Doctorow begins his story of Sherman's campaign in the midst of it -- after the Union Army had captured Atlanta and begun the first leg of its march to Savannah, Georgia. Doctorow gives a vivid picture of an Army on the march, for the most part unopposed, destroying everything in its path. The march through Georgia is the subject of the first section of the book.
The second part of the book describes the campaign into South Carolina. Destruction in this portion of the campaign reached astounding levels because Sherman, together with most of the Union leaders, held South Carolina responsible for initiating the war. This section of the book includes graphic pictures of the Union Army's difficult march through the swamps of lower South Carolina and of the burning of Columbia. (There is still disagreement about whether the North or the South was primarily responsible for the burning. Doctorow shows that it was some of both.)
The third section of the book, set in North Carolina, deals with the waning days of the War, with the final battle of Bentonville, with Sherman's meeting with Grant and Lincoln, and with the end of the War and Lincoln's assassination. The Nation clearly and a great deal of healing and soul-searching to do.
Doctorow gives the reader an excellent sense of the movement of the armies, the horrors of war, death, injury, and barbarity, and, in particular, of the state of medical practice during the conflict. We are given a good portrait of General Sherman, but of the other leaders of the Army only the clvalry leader Kilpatrick, known as "Kil -Kilpatrick" for his feckless behavior gets a great deal of attention.
The book takes a broad sweep, but there is no single main character that stands out. The story is mostly presented through vignettes and miniatures involving a wide cast of characters. These include a brilliant but emotionally cold Union doctor, Wrede Sartorius, a beautiful young former slave, Pearl, who can pass for white, former Southern slaveholders whose plantations are destroyed and lives uprooted, and Arly and Will, two poor rural Southern soldiers who endure a variety of adventures behind Union lines and provide comic, if sardonic, relief. These individual stories are told from a variety of perspectives and are interlaced with each other. Thus, it takes attention on the reader's part to follow the narrative.
The stories show a great deal about the effects of the march on specific people and groups of people -- we see the war through the eyes of the newly freed slaves, of the dispossessed plantation owners, and of the troops on the ground, among other people and are encouraged to think about its scope and significance. Doctorow puts meditations and soliloquy passages into the parts of some of his protagonists about death, freedom, destruction, and sexuality. These are among the best parts of the book. Doctorow's characters are well-developed and their stories help us to understand varying perspectives on the conflict. But at times, I found them somewhat mannered and a distraction from the focus of the book on Sherman's march.
There are several highly graphic depictions of death, injury, suffering, and surgical operations in this book which capture unforgettably the brutality of warfare.
Doctorow has written an excellent novel about Sherman's march which will encourage the reader to reflect upon its meaning for and continued influence upon our Nation's history.
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