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The March: A Novelby E. L. Doctorow
Synopses & Reviews
In 1864, after Union general William Tecumseh Sherman burned Atlanta, he marched his sixty thousand troops east through Georgia to the sea, and then up into the Carolinas. The army fought off Confederate forces and lived off the land, pillaging the Southern plantations, taking cattle and crops for their own, demolishing cities, and accumulating a borne-along population of freed blacks and white refugees until all that remained was the dangerous transient life of the uprooted, the dispossessed, and the triumphant. Only a master novelist could so powerfully and compassionately render the lives of those who marched.
The author of Ragtime, City of God, and The Book of Daniel has given us a magisterial work with an enormous cast of unforgettable characters — white and black, men, women, and children, unionists and rebels, generals and privates, freed slaves and slave owners. At the center is General Sherman himself; a beautiful freed slave girl named Pearl; a Union regimental surgeon, Colonel Sartorius; Emily Thompson, the dispossessed daughter of a Southern judge; and Arly and Will, two misfit soldiers.
Almost hypnotic in its narrative drive, The March stunningly renders the countless lives swept up in the violence of a country at war with itself. The great march in E. L. Doctorow's hands becomes something more — a floating world, a nomadic consciousness, and an unforgettable reading experience with awesome relevance to our own times.
"Sherman's march through Georgia and the Carolinas produced hundreds of thousands of deaths and untold collateral damage. In this powerful novel, Doctorow gets deep inside the pillage, cruelty and destruction — as well as the care and burgeoning love that sprung up in their wake. William Tecumseh Sherman ('Uncle Billy' to his troops) is depicted as a man of complex moods and varying abilities, whose need for glory sometimes obscures his military acumen. Most of the many characters are equally well-drawn and psychologically deep, but the two most engaging are Pearl, a plantation owner's despised daughter who is passing as a drummer boy, and Arly, a cocksure Reb soldier whose belief that God dictates the events in his life is combined with the cunning of a wily opportunist. Their lives provide irony, humor and strange coincidences. Though his lyrical prose sometimes shades into sentimentality when it strays from what people are feeling or saying, Doctorow's gift for getting into the heads of a remarkable variety of characters, famous or ordinary, makes this a kind of grim Civil War Canterbury Tales. On reaching the novel's last pages, the reader feels wonder that this nation was ever able to heal after so brutal, and personal, a conflict. 7-city author tour. (Sept. 20)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"[N]ever before has [Doctorow] so fully occupied the past, or so gorgeously evoked its generation of the forces that seeded our times....Doctorow's masterpiece uncovers the roots of today's racial and political conundrums..." Booklist (Starred Review)
"Doctorow patiently weaves...several...stories together, while presenting military strategies...with exemplary clarity....Doctorow's previous novels have earned multiple major literary awards. The March should do so as well." Kirkus Reviews
"Although the novel is less inventive, less innovative than his 1975 classic Ragtime, it showcases the author's bravura storytelling talents and instinctive ability to empathize with his characters..." Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
"A serious novel that is at the same time entrancing fun....The March is jangly, loose-jointed and an almost unqualified triumph; it is closer in spirit to Ragtime...than to the author's other novels." Los Angeles Times
"Doctorow's fictional re-creation of the event lacks compelling characters, forceful structure, and dominant themes and so fails to make it much more than a romp in the park....
"It is to the credit of this fine book, that Doctorow's words, his language, bring to life the terrible consequences of what happens when words fail and the fighting begins." Rocky Mountain News
"A connivingly understated work that at times suggests a meeting of Catch-22 and The Red Badge of Courage, The March arises from that special place in our collective sensibility where the human drama meets the human comedy..." Chicago Sun-Times
"Though his prose shimmers here and there, it is more given to catching precisely the sun's glint on a bayonet or the awful moment when death is near....
"[A] swift, page-turner narrative pace....Doctorow's novel is a must-read for anyone with an interest in these issues, and anyone with a penchant for serious and lasting literature." Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
"Like the bloody and brilliant general who gave him his subject, Doctorow has refused to play it safe — and for that we may all be grateful." Newsday
"The book does not just put us in the thick of battle, bullets whizzing by heads, the stench of dead fouling the air. It uses this cataclysm as a powerful metaphor for the dangerous and unstoppable way we humans move through the world." Minneapolis Star Tribune
In the last years of the Civil War, Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman marched 60,000 Union troops through Georgia and the Carolinas, cutting a 60-mile wide swath of pillage and destruction. That event comes back in this magisterial novel.
About the Author
E. L. Doctorow's work has been published in thirty languages. His novels include City of God, Welcome to Hard Times, The Book of Daniel, Ragtime, Loon Lake, Lives of the Poets, World's Fair, Billy Bathgate, and The Waterworks. Among his honors are the National Book Award, two National Book Critics Circle awards, the PEN/Faulkner Award, the Edith Wharton Citation for Fiction, the William Dean Howells Medal of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the presidentially conferred National Humanities Medal. Doctorow lives in New York.
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