This is one of the most Pulizer-worthy novels I've read in a long while. The novel tells the previously untold story of the absent father in Louisa May Alcott's Little Women
. In Little Women
, the reader only gets to know Peter March through his letters sent home to his family from the Civil War. Of course, in the interest of sparing his family the details of war, his letters are more cheerful than his reality. Geraldine Brooks uses the novel March
to tell of Mr. March's early life as a traveling salesman, of his first kiss with someone other than his future wife, of the meeting of his wife, of his connections to Emerson and Thoreau, of his strong abolitionist sentiments, of the war that changed him both physically and mentally, and of misunderstandings and wrongs that were never made right in his life. Brooks draws heavily from the journals of Alcott's own father, Bronson Alcott, in order to flesh out the character of Mr. March. Since the "little women" in Alcott's novels were based on the members of her own family, it makes sense that Mr. March would be based on her father and that the March family would be acquainted with the same people they were. The Alcotts were, after all, contemporaries and acquaintances of many of the transcendentalist thinkers and writers of the time such as Emerson and Thoreau.
This is definitely the best prequel written by a different author that I've ever read. I remember being completely disappointed trying to read sequels or prequels by different authors for books such as Gone With the Wind
. The author's journalistic background definitely helped her to give attention to the proper details needed to research such a book.
I initially did not recognize the name of the author as being the author of Nine Parts of Desire: The Hidden World of Islamic Women
, a book that I loved so much that I ... er ... bought it from the library pretending that I'd lost it (in the days before amazon.com made any book accessible for purchase). Nine Parts of Desire
is a work of non-fiction that she wrote as a journalist. So I'm thrilled to see that she has such a beautiful piece of fiction out there as well. Halfway through the book, I found myself saying to myself, "wow, this is a good book" and hoping to read something else by her soon. Years of Wonder
tells the story of the bubonic plague in a small English town and People of the Book
is freshly out in hardback.
Frankly, though, what I'm feeling the need to re-read immediately is Little Women
. I absolutely adored that book as a child. I always saw myself as Jo because I loved to write. And I always hated that the character with my name (Amy) was such a spoiled brat.