Saturday, February 27, 2016


A book so well-written, it causes envy and jealousy within me. How could I possibly expect to write as well as this? If all published works had to be this well-written, few authors would stand a chance.

I realized while reading this that most of Geraldine Brooks's sentences were detail-in-action. (And certainly not the other way around, which mars many works of good writers.) Her sentences are doing one of two things: they're either description, or they are action. Too much of either one would be boring, even if it's well-written and boring. Therefore most of her sentences are a combination of the two, detail-in-action.

In this, she takes a mostly-absent character from Alcott's Little Women (which, embarrassingly, I have never read, though I have it around here somewhere) and fills in his gaps. Where did March go when he enlisted? What did he do? Well, he did these things.

This book is a masterpiece (and therefore worthy of its Pulitzer) of its time, and of its rendition of the people of its time. Yet like all good works, it makes the reader understand that the people of its time are also the people of this time, and vice-versa. Here you have racism among the Northerners and the Southerners, and neither is treated like a stereotype. And so it is today. March comes home a bitter soldier who has seen and done too much, and who has brought with him a PTSD and a Blakian Experience that will never be undone. And so it is with returning soldiers today.

This is a book of all times, of all wars, of all soldiers and of all victims. Wars in Iraq, Syria, and anywhere else of any time will be similar to Brooks's Civil War rendition here.

The sudden POV shift jarred a little, and the shift back to March disoriented a little (I had to go back  to be sure that it was his turn again), but the reader will see the necessity of the shifts. Brooks could have superficially prepared the reader, perhaps by placing character names at the beginning of each chapter--a la George R. R. Martin in his Song of Ice and Fire books--but such is not her way. You'll be able to bear it and move on.

She does an interesting thing with Grace, who seems to turn up a little bit more coincidentally than maybe she should--but the reader will see the necessity for this as well. Brooks gets away with these two things that would have torpedoed lesser writers (such as myself).

This was a quick, intelligent and gripping read that sounds all too true, and will perhaps leave you a little emotional throughout, and certainly at its end. But you owe it to yourself to read it, if not for the great writing and experience, then perhaps to better understand a returning soldier you happen to know today.

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