I really enjoyed Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks, so I was looking forward to this. I probably shouldn’t have been quite so excited, though. Little Women was my first “adult book” in elementary school and I have a lot of sentimental attachment to it. Besides that, I don’t normally like Civil War fiction but with the great exception of Sweetsmoke earlier this year I felt I should give it a try. And it was from the library, so giving it a try didn’t put me out any money or space on my shelves.
This book covers both the idealistic young adulthood of Mr. March and his current missionary duty in the south at a plantation where he teaches the former slaves. We’re used to the loving image put forth by Marmee and the girls in Little Women, but here we get the brutal reality of war as it affects the man himself and watch as his ideologies are eroded in the face of the struggle.
Honestly, I didn’t really like it. Like I said, this might just be me not liking Civil War books and nothing to do with the book itself. Mr. March irritated me with his high and mighty ideas. Worse, the way he treated Marmee after they married was intolerable and I think shameful, just because she didn’t conform to his ideas about how women should be. Gah. Maybe that’s period appropriate but it bugged me.
I did like how he had to adjust to the war and the hardships he went through, so maybe it was just all too harsh for me, raining too much on my Little Women parade. I thought the book did a great job exploring the issues of how the war could affect him and the problems of being so far from his family for so long. I liked the depiction of the March’s mind afterwards and the impact it made on his psyche.
I just didn’t like most of it. Unfortunate but true. I think if you like Civil war stories and aren’t attached to Little Women, you may like this one – it did win the Pulitzer, after all. It just wasn’t for me. Regardless, I am still planning on reading People of the Book, because at least I don’t have any expectations and nostalgic love wrapped up there.