The March

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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....
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Overview

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.

Winner of the 2005 National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction

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Editorial Reviews

Michiko Kakutani
It is Mr. Doctorow's achievement in these pages that in recounting Sherman's march, he manages to weld the personal and the mythic into a thrilling and poignant story. He not only conveys the consequences of that campaign for soldiers and civilians in harrowingly intimate detail, but also creates an Iliad-like portrait of war as a primeval human affliction - "not war as adventure, nor war for a solemn cause," but "war at its purest, a mindless mass rage severed from any cause, ideal, or moral principle," a "characterless entanglement of brainless forces" as God's answer "to the human presumption."
— The New York Times
John Wray
The March conjures up the War of Secession -- also known as the War Between the States and the War of Northern Aggression -- as vividly as any contemporary account I've read, and more plausibly than most. Devotees of our nation's darkest hour, as well as that subset of Confederacy buffs willing to entertain the possibility that all may not have been roses in the antebellum South, will find a great deal to admire in its pages.
— The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
America's greatest internal conflict is brought startlingly to life in this masterful fictional exploration of the slaves, soldiers and leaders who lived through it all. The action focuses on Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman's 1864 march through Georgia and the Carolinas-a march that led more than 60,000 Union troops across the land, leaving a swath of destruction and ruin in its wake. Morton handles the voices of the diverse cast with incredible variety and precision. He shifts seamlessly from the cold, proper dialect of the surgeon Colonel Sartorius, to the lowborn speech of Pearl, a light-skinned slave who is passing as a drummer boy in Sherman's army. Morton's narration, like Doctorow's prose, is quietly powerful, and propels the story forward as relentlessly as Sherman's advancing armies. Morton has always been a terrific character actor onscreen, and he brings those same outstanding qualities to this audiobook production. His performances does more than simply translate a book to audio; it truly enhances the reading experience. Simultaneous release with the Random House hardcover (Reviews, July 18). (Oct.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Doctorow portrays William Tecumseh Sherman's army, which devastated Georgia and the Carolinas during the Civil War, as a living organism, several miles long, moving forward, devouring everything in its path. He paradoxically achieves a panoramic view by focusing on the stories of a wide variety of individuals, from freed slaves and soldiers of both sides to physicians tending the wounded, displaced widows and orphans, and even Sherman himself. As in Ragtime, Doctorow cuts back and forth among these fascinating stories, achieving a rhythm that echoes the chaos of the historic events. The March educates as it entertains and finds laughter amidst tragedy. Such a wide spectrum of characters gives reader Joe Morton a nearly unique opportunity, and he excels, voicing characters of varying races, ages, genders, and regions with aplomb. Nominated for a National Book Award, this is clearly one of the best novels of 2005; every library will want it.-John Hiett, Iowa City P.L. Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
School Library Journal
Adult/High School-A Civil War tale with much to engage teens. The title refers to a climactic event, General William Tecumseh Sherman's March to the Sea. Using a nonlinear (but not especially challenging) structure that recalls his groundbreaking Ragtime, Doctorow narrates events through multiple Union and Confederate perspectives. A rich variety of individuals, both fictional and historical, populates a moving world of more than 60,000 troops accompanied by thousands of former slaves and assorted civilian refugees who follow Sherman on his ruthless progress through Georgia and the Carolinas. While many characters are essentially entertaining sketches, there are a few memorable standouts, particularly 15-year-old Pearl, a so-called "white Negro" fathered by her owner. Taking advantage of the chaos after war disrupts her tightly controlled existence, she flees her looted plantation home, disguises herself as a drummer boy, and joins the march, determined to reach freedom and create a life worth living. On the way, she experiences moments of violence, love, irony, and even humor in the midst of horror. Short cinematic episodes illuminate and interpret history with meticulous attention to period settings, from terrifying battlefields to desperate field hospitals to once-grand mansions, all described in lyrical language crafted by a skilled writer.-Starr E. Smith, Fairfax County Public Library, VA Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
William Tecumseh Sherman's legendary "march" (1864-65) through Georgia and the Carolinas-toward Appomattox, and victory-is the subject of Doctorow's panoramic tenth novel. As he did in his classic Ragtime (1991), Doctorow juxtaposes grand historical events with the lives of people caught up in them-here, nearly two dozen Union and Confederate soldiers and officers and support personnel; plantation owners and their families; and freed slaves unsure where their futures lie. The story begins in Georgia, where John Jameson's homestead "Fieldstone" becomes a casualty of Sherman's "scorched earth" tactics (earlier applied during the destruction of Atlanta). The narrative expands as Sherman moves north, adding characters and subtly entwining their destinies with that of the nation. Emily Thompson, daughter of a Georgia Chief Justice, finds her calling as a battlefield nurse working alongside Union Army surgeon Wrede Sartorius (who'll later be reassigned to Washington, where an incident at Ford's Theater demands his services). "Rebel" soldiers Will Kirkland and Arly Wilcox move duplicitously from one army to another, and the Falstaffian pragmatist Arly later courts survival by usurping the identity of a battlefield photographer. John Jameson's "white Negro" bastard daughter Pearl becomes her former mistress's keeper-and the last best hope for melancholy "replacement" northern soldier Stephen Walsh. Sherman's war-loving subordinate Justin "Kil" Kilpatrick blithely rapes and loots, finding a boy's excitement in bloody exigencies. There's even a brief appearance by indignantly independent black "Coalhouse" Walker (a graceful nod to the aforementioned Ragtime). Doctorow patiently weaves these andseveral other stories together, while presenting military strategies (e.g., the "vise" formed by Sherman's gradual meeting with Grant's Army) with exemplary clarity. Behind it all stalks the brilliant, conflicted, "volatile" Sherman, to whom Doctorow gives this stunning climactic statement: "our civil war . . . is but a war after a war, a war before a war."Doctorow's previous novels have earned multiple major literary awards. The March should do so as well.
From the Publisher
“E. L. Doctorow [is] always astonishing. . . . In The March, he dreams himself backward from The Book of Daniel to Ragtime to The Waterworks to the Civil War, into the creation myth of the Republic itself, as if to assume the prophetic role of such nineteenth-century writers as Emerson, Melville, Whitman, and Poe.”—Harper’s
 
“An Iliad-like portrait of war as a primeval human affliction . . . [welds] the personal and the mythic into a thrilling and poignant story.”—New York Times
 
“Splendid . . . carries us through a multitude of moments of wonder and pity, terror and comedy . . . with an elegiac compassion and prose of a glittering, swift-moving economy.” —The New Yorker
 
“Spellbinding . . . a ferocious re-imagining of the past that returns it to us as something powerful and strange.”—Time
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780375506710
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 9/20/2005
  • Pages: 384
  • Product dimensions: 6.53 (w) x 9.50 (h) x 1.31 (d)

Meet the Author

E. L. Doctorow
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.

From the Hardcover edition.

Biography

E. L. Doctorow, one of America's preeminent authors, has received the National Book Critics Circle Award (twice), the National Book Award, the PEN/Faulkner Award, the Edith Wharton Citation For Fiction, and the William Dean Howells medal of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He has also published a volume of selected essays Jack London, Hemingway, and the Constitution, and a play, Drinks Before Dinner, which was produced by the New York Shakespeare Festival. He resides in New Rochelle, New York.

Author biography courtesy of Penguin Group (USA).

Good To Know

Doctorow began his career as a reader for Columbia Pictures. He went on to work as an editor for New American Library in the early 1960s, and then served as chief editor at Dial Press from 1964 to 1969.

Critics assailed Doctorow for delivering a commencement address critical of President George W. Bush at Hofstra University in May 2004.

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    1. Also Known As:
      Edgar Lawrence Doctorow (full name; named for Edgar Allan Poe)
      Edgar Laurence Doctorow
    2. Hometown:
      Sag Harbor, New York, and New York, New York
    1. Date of Birth:
      January 6, 1931
    2. Place of Birth:
      New York, New York
    1. Education:
      A.B., Kenyon College, 1952; postgraduate study, Columbia University, 1952-53
    2. Website:

Read an Excerpt

The March


By E. L. Doctorow

Random House

E. L. Doctorow
All right reserved.

ISBN: 1588365093


Chapter One

Chapter 1

I

At five in the morning someone banging on the door and shouting, her husband, John, leaping out of bed, grabbing his rifle, and Roscoe at the same time roused from the backhouse, his bare feet pounding: Mattie hurriedly pulled on her robe, her mind prepared for the alarm of war, but the heart stricken that it would finally have come, and down the stairs she flew to see through the open door in the lamplight, at the steps of the portico, the two horses, steam rising from their flanks, their heads lifting, their eyes wild, the driver a young darkie with rounded shoulders, showing stolid patience even in this, and the woman standing in her carriage no one but her aunt Letitia Pettibone of McDonough, her elderly face drawn in anguish, her hair a straggled mess, this woman of such fine grooming, this dowager who practically ruled the season in Atlanta standing up in the equipage like some hag of doom, which indeed she would prove to be. The carriage was piled with luggage and tied bundles, and as she stood some silver fell to the ground, knives and forks and a silver candelabra, catching in the clatter the few gleams of light from the torch that Roscoe held. Mattie, still tying her robe, ran down the steps thinking stupidly, as she later reflected, only of the embarrassment to this woman, whom to tell the truth she had respected more than loved, and picking up and pressing back upon her the heavy silver, as if this was not something Roscoe should be doing, nor her husband, John Jameson, neither.

Letitia would not come down from her carriage, there was no time, she said. She was a badly frightened woman with no concern for her horses, as John saw and quickly ordered buckets to be brought around, as the woman cried, Get out, get out, take what you can and leave, and seemed to be roused to anger as they only stood listening, with some of the field hands appearing now around the side of the house with the first light, as if drawn into existence by it. And I know him! she cried. He has dined in my home. He has lived among us. He burns where he has ridden to lunch, he fires the city in whose clubs he once gave toasts, oh yes, someone of the educated class, or so we thought, though I never was impressed! No, I was never impressed, he was too spidery, too weak in his conversation, and badly composed in his dress, careless of his appearance, but for all that I thought quite civilized in having so little gift to dissemble or pretend what he did not feel. And what a bitter gall is in my throat for what I believed was a domesticated man with a clear love for wife and children, who is no more than a savage with not a drop of mercy in his cold heart.

It was difficult to get the information from her, she ranted so. John did not try to, he began giving orders and ran back in the house. It was she, Mattie, who listened. Her aunt's hysteria, formulated oddly in terms of the drawing room, moved her to her own urgent attention. She had for the moment even forgotten her boys upstairs.

They are coming, Mattie, they are marching. It is an army of wild dogs led by this apostate, this hideous wretch, this devil who will drink your tea and bow before he takes everything from you.

And now, her message delivered, her aunt slumped back in her seat, and gave her order to be off. Where Letitia Pettibone was going Mattie could not get the answer. Nor how much time there was, in fact, before the scourge arrived at her own door. Not that she doubted the woman. She looked into the sky slowly lightening to its gray beginnings of the day. She heard nothing but the cock crowing and, as she turned, suddenly angry, the whisperings of the slaves gathered now at the corner of the house. And then with the team away, the carriage rolling down the gravel path, Mattie turned, lifting the hem of her robe, and mounted the steps only to see that horrible child Pearl, insolent as ever, standing, arms folded, against the pillar as if the plantation was her own.

john jameson was not unprepared. As far back as September, when the news had come that Hood had pulled out and the Union armies had Atlanta, he sat Mattie down and told her what had to be done. The rugs were rolled, the art was taken down from the walls, her needlepoint chairs--whatever she valued, he told her--her English fabrics, the china, even her family Bible: it was all to be packed up and carted to Milledgeville and thence put on the train to Savannah, where John's cotton broker had agreed to store their things in his warehouse. Not my piano, she'd said, that will stay. It would rot in the dampness of that place. As you wish, John had said, having no feeling for music in any case.

Mattie was dismayed to see her home so depleted. Through the bare windows the sun shone, lighting up the floors as if her life were going backward and she was again a young bride in a new-built unfurnished manse and with a somewhat frightening husband twice her age. She wondered how John knew the war would touch them directly. In fact he didn't, but he was a man whose success gave him reason to suppose he was smarter than most people. He had a presence, with his voluminous chest and large head of wild white hair. Don't argue with me, Mattie. They lost twenty or thirty thousand men taking that city. There's hell to pay. You're a general, with a President who's a madman. Would you just sit there? So where? To Augusta? To Macon? And how will he ride, if not through these hills? And don't expect that poor excuse for a Rebel army to do anything about it. But if I'm wrong, and I pray God I am, what will I have lost, tell me?

Mattie was not allowed to disagree in such matters. She felt even more dismayed and said not a thing when, with the crops in, John arranged to sell away his dozen prime field hands. They were bound, all of them, to a dealer in Columbia, South Carolina. When the day came and they were put in shackles into the wagon, she had to run upstairs and cover her ears so as not to hear the families wailing down in the shacks. All John had said was No buck nigger of mine will wear a Federal uniform, I'll promise you that.

But for all his warning and preparation she could not believe the moment had come to leave Fieldstone. The fear made her legs weak. She could not imagine how to live except in her own home, with her own things, and the Georgian world arranged to provide her and her family what their station demanded. And though Aunt Letitia was gone, she had infected them with her panic. For all his foresight, John was running around this way and that, red-faced, shouting and giving orders. The boys, roused out of bed and still only half dressed, came down the stairs with their rifles and ran out through the back.

Mattie went to her bedroom and stood not knowing where to start. She heard herself whimpering. Somehow she dressed and grabbed whatever she could from her armoire and bath and threw everything into two portmanteaus. She heard a gunshot and, looking out the back window, saw one of the mules go down on its knees. Roscoe was leading another from the stable, while her older boy, John Junior, primed his rifle. It seemed only minutes later, with the sun barely on the treetops, that the carriages were waiting out front. Where were they to seat themselves? Both carriages were loaded with luggage and food hampers and sacks of sugar and flour. And now the morning breeze brought the smoke around from the stacks where John had set the fodder alight. And Mattie felt it was her own sooty life drifting away in the sky.

when the jamesons were gone, Pearl stood in the gravel path still holding her satchel. The Massah had only glanced at her before laying his whip on the horses. Roscoe, driving the second carriage, had come past her and, without looking, dropped at her feet something knotted in a handkerchief. She made no move to retrieve it. She waited in the peace and silence of their having gone. She felt the cool breeze on her legs. Then the air grew still and warm and, after a moment in which the earth seemed to draw its breath, the morning sun spread in a rush over the plantation.

Only then did she pick up what Roscoe had dropped. She knew immediately what it was through the cloth: the same two gold coins he had showed her once when she was little. His life savings. Dey real, Miss Porhl, he had said. You putem 'tween yer teeth you taste how real dey is. You see dem eagles? You git a passel of dese an you c'n fly lak de eagles high, high ober de eart--das what de eagles mean on dese monies.

Pearl felt the hot tears in her throat. She went around the big house, past the outbuildings and the smoking fodder and the dead mules, and past the slave quarters where they were busy singing and putting their things together, and down along the trail through the woods to where the Massah had given leave to lay out a graveyard.

There were by now six graves in this damp clearing, each marked by a wood shingle with the person's name scratched in. The older grave mounds, like her mother's, were covered with moss. Pearl squatted and read the name aloud: Nancy Wilkins. Mama, she said. I free. You tole me, Mah chile, my darlin Porhl, you will be free. So dey gone and I is. I free, I free like no one else in de whole worl but me. Das how free. Did Massah have on his face any look for his true-made chile? Uh-uh. Lak I hant his marigol eyes an high cheeks an more his likeness dan de runts what his wife ma'm made with the brudders one and two. I, with skin white as a cahnation flow'r.

Pearl fell forward to her knees and clasped her hands. Dear God Jesus, she whispered, make a place fer dis good woman beside you. An me, yore Porhl, teach me to be free.

slowly, the slaves, with their belongings wrapped in bundles or carried in old carpetbags, walked up to the main house and distributed themselves out front under the cypresses. They looked into the sky as if whatever it was they were told was coming would be from that direction. They wore their Sunday clothes. There were seven adults--two men, the elder Jake Early and Jubal Samuels, who had but one eye, and five women, including the old granny who could not walk very well--and three small children. The children were unusually quiet. They stayed close by and made bouquets of weeds or pressed round stones and pebbles in the earth.

Jake Early did not have to counsel patience. The fear they had all seen in the eyes of the fleeing Massah and Mistress told them that deliverance had come. But the sky was cloudless, and as the sun rose everyone settled down and some even nodded off, which Jake Early regretted, feeling that when the Union soldiers came they should find black folk not at their ease but smartly arrayed as a welcoming company of free men and women.

He himself stood in the middle of the road with his staff and did not move. He listened. For the longest while there was nothing but the mild stirring of the air, like a whispering in his ear or the rustle of woodland. But then he did hear something. Or did he? It wasn't exactly a sound, it was more like a sense of something transformed in his own expectation. And then, almost as if what he held was a divining rod, the staff in his hand pointed to the sky westerly. At this, all the others stood up and came away from the trees: what they saw in the distance was smoke spouting from different points in the landscape, first here, then there. But in the middle of all this was a change in the sky color itself that gradually clarified as an upward-streaming brown cloud risen from the earth, as if the world was turned upside down.

And, as they watched, the brown cloud took on a reddish cast. It moved forward, thin as a hatchet blade in front and then widening like the furrow from the plow. It was moving across the sky to the south of them. When the sound of this cloud reached them, it was like nothing they had ever heard in their lives. It was not fearsomely heaven-made, like thunder or lightning or howling wind, but something felt through their feet, a resonance, as if the earth was humming. Then, carried on a gust of wind, the sound became for moments a rhythmic tromp that relieved them as the human reason for the great cloud of dust. And then, at the edges of this sound of a trompled-upon earth, they heard the voices of living men shouting, finally. And the lowing of cattle. And the creaking of wheels. But they saw nothing. Involuntarily, they walked down toward the road but still saw nothing. The symphonious clamor was everywhere, filling the sky like the cloud of red dust that arrowed past them to the south and left the sky dim, it was the great processional of the Union armies, but of no more substance than an army of ghosts.

clarke had in his foraging party a two-wagon train, a string of three extra mules, and twenty men mounted. General orders specified no fewer than fifty men. He was several miles off the column, and so, coming upon the plantation, he resolved to make quick work of it.

As they rode onto the grounds he immediately saw, and ignored, the slaves standing there. He shook his head. They had their old cracked drummers' cases and cotton sacks tied up with their things on the ground beside them. He posted his pickets and set the men to work. In the yard behind the outbuildings, the fodder stack was a smoking pile, flakes of black ash blowing off in the breeze. There were three mules with their heads blown all to hell. His orders were to respond to acts of defiance commensurately. Nor was he less determined when the men marched out of the dairy with sacks of sugar, cornmeal, flour, and rice on their shoulders. In the smokehouse, the shelves sagged with crocks of honey and sorghum. Hanging from hooks were the sides of bacon and cured hams the Massah didn't have time for the taking. And one of the bins was filled with a good two hundred pounds of sweet potatoes.


From the Hardcover edition.


Excerpted from The March by E. L. Doctorow Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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First Chapter

Chapter 1

I

At five in the morning someone banging on the door and shouting, her husband, John, leaping out of bed, grabbing his rifle, and Roscoe at the same time roused from the backhouse, his bare feet pounding: Mattie hurriedly pulled on her robe, her mind prepared for the alarm of war, but the heart stricken that it would finally have come, and down the stairs she flew to see through the open door in the lamplight, at the steps of the portico, the two horses, steam rising from their flanks, their heads lifting, their eyes wild, the driver a young darkie with rounded shoulders, showing stolid patience even in this, and the woman standing in her carriage no one but her aunt Letitia Pettibone of McDonough, her elderly face drawn in anguish, her hair a straggled mess, this woman of such fine grooming, this dowager who practically ruled the season in Atlanta standing up in the equipage like some hag of doom, which indeed she would prove to be. The carriage was piled with luggage and tied bundles, and as she stood some silver fell to the ground, knives and forks and a silver candelabra, catching in the clatter the few gleams of light from the torch that Roscoe held. Mattie, still tying her robe, ran down the steps thinking stupidly, as she later reflected, only of the embarrassment to this woman, whom to tell the truth she had respected more than loved, and picking up and pressing back upon her the heavy silver, as if this was not something Roscoe should be doing, nor her husband, John Jameson, neither.

Letitia would not come down from her carriage, there was no time, she said. She was a badly frightened woman with no concern for her horses, as John saw and quickly ordered buckets to be brought around, as the woman cried, Get out, get out, take what you can and leave, and seemed to be roused to anger as they only stood listening, with some of the field hands appearing now around the side of the house with the first light, as if drawn into existence by it. And I know him! she cried. He has dined in my home. He has lived among us. He burns where he has ridden to lunch, he fires the city in whose clubs he once gave toasts, oh yes, someone of the educated class, or so we thought, though I never was impressed! No, I was never impressed, he was too spidery, too weak in his conversation, and badly composed in his dress, careless of his appearance, but for all that I thought quite civilized in having so little gift to dissemble or pretend what he did not feel. And what a bitter gall is in my throat for what I believed was a domesticated man with a clear love for wife and children, who is no more than a savage with not a drop of mercy in his cold heart.

It was difficult to get the information from her, she ranted so. John did not try to, he began giving orders and ran back in the house. It was she, Mattie, who listened. Her aunt’s hysteria, formulated oddly in terms of the drawing room, moved her to her own urgent attention. She had for the moment even forgotten her boys upstairs.

They are coming, Mattie, they are marching. It is an army of wild dogs led by this apostate, this hideous wretch, this devil who will drink your tea and bow before he takes everything from you.

And now, her message delivered, her aunt slumped back in her seat, and gave her order to be off. Where Letitia Pettibone was going Mattie could not get the answer. Nor how much time there was, in fact, before the scourge arrived at her own door. Not that she doubted the woman. She looked into the sky slowly lightening to its gray beginnings of the day. She heard nothing but the cock crowing and, as she turned, suddenly angry, the whisperings of the slaves gathered now at the corner of the house. And then with the team away, the carriage rolling down the gravel path, Mattie turned, lifting the hem of her robe, and mounted the steps only to see that horrible child Pearl, insolent as ever, standing, arms folded, against the pillar as if the plantation was her own.

john jameson was not unprepared. As far back as September, when the news had come that Hood had pulled out and the Union armies had Atlanta, he sat Mattie down and told her what had to be done. The rugs were rolled, the art was taken down from the walls, her needlepoint chairs—whatever she valued, he told her—her English fabrics, the china, even her family Bible: it was all to be packed up and carted to Milledgeville and thence put on the train to Savannah, where John’s cotton broker had agreed to store their things in his warehouse. Not my piano, she’d said, that will stay. It would rot in the dampness of that place. As you wish, John had said, having no feeling for music in any case.

Mattie was dismayed to see her home so depleted. Through the bare windows the sun shone, lighting up the floors as if her life were going backward and she was again a young bride in a new-built unfurnished manse and with a somewhat frightening husband twice her age. She wondered how John knew the war would touch them directly. In fact he didn’t, but he was a man whose success gave him reason to suppose he was smarter than most people. He had a presence, with his voluminous chest and large head of wild white hair. Don’t argue with me, Mattie. They lost twenty or thirty thousand men taking that city. There’s hell to pay. You’re a general, with a President who’s a madman. Would you just sit there? So where? To Augusta? To Macon? And how will he ride, if not through these hills? And don’t expect that poor excuse for a Rebel army to do anything about it. But if I’m wrong, and I pray God I am, what will I have lost, tell me?

Mattie was not allowed to disagree in such matters. She felt even more dismayed and said not a thing when, with the crops in, John arranged to sell away his dozen prime field hands. They were bound, all of them, to a dealer in Columbia, South Carolina. When the day came and they were put in shackles into the wagon, she had to run upstairs and cover her ears so as not to hear the families wailing down in the shacks. All John had said was No buck nigger of mine will wear a Federal uniform, I’ll promise you that.

But for all his warning and preparation she could not believe the moment had come to leave Fieldstone. The fear made her legs weak. She could not imagine how to live except in her own home, with her own things, and the Georgian world arranged to provide her and her family what their station demanded. And though Aunt Letitia was gone, she had infected them with her panic. For all his foresight, John was running around this way and that, red-faced, shouting and giving orders. The boys, roused out of bed and still only half dressed, came down the stairs with their rifles and ran out through the back.

Mattie went to her bedroom and stood not knowing where to start. She heard herself whimpering. Somehow she dressed and grabbed whatever she could from her armoire and bath and threw everything into two portmanteaus. She heard a gunshot and, looking out the back window, saw one of the mules go down on its knees. Roscoe was leading another from the stable, while her older boy, John Junior, primed his rifle. It seemed only minutes later, with the sun barely on the treetops, that the carriages were waiting out front. Where were they to seat themselves? Both carriages were loaded with luggage and food hampers and sacks of sugar and flour. And now the morning breeze brought the smoke around from the stacks where John had set the fodder alight. And Mattie felt it was her own sooty life drifting away in the sky.

when the jamesons were gone, Pearl stood in the gravel path still holding her satchel. The Massah had only glanced at her before laying his whip on the horses. Roscoe, driving the second carriage, had come past her and, without looking, dropped at her feet something knotted in a handkerchief. She made no move to retrieve it. She waited in the peace and silence of their having gone. She felt the cool breeze on her legs. Then the air grew still and warm and, after a moment in which the earth seemed to draw its breath, the morning sun spread in a rush over the plantation.

Only then did she pick up what Roscoe had dropped. She knew immediately what it was through the cloth: the same two gold coins he had showed her once when she was little. His life savings. Dey real, Miss Porhl, he had said. You putem ’tween yer teeth you taste how real dey is. You see dem eagles? You git a passel of dese an you c’n fly lak de eagles high, high ober de eart—das what de eagles mean on dese monies.

Pearl felt the hot tears in her throat. She went around the big house, past the outbuildings and the smoking fodder and the dead mules, and past the slave quarters where they were busy singing and putting their things together, and down along the trail through the woods to where the Massah had given leave to lay out a graveyard.

There were by now six graves in this damp clearing, each marked by a wood shingle with the person’s name scratched in. The older grave mounds, like her mother’s, were covered with moss. Pearl squatted and read the name aloud: Nancy Wilkins. Mama, she said. I free. You tole me, Mah chile, my darlin Porhl, you will be free. So dey gone and I is. I free, I free like no one else in de whole worl but me. Das how free. Did Massah have on his face any look for his true-made chile? Uh-uh. Lak I hant his marigol eyes an high cheeks an more his likeness dan de runts what his wife ma’m made with the brudders one and two. I, with skin white as a cahnation flow’r.

Pearl fell forward to her knees and clasped her hands. Dear God Jesus, she whispered, make a place fer dis good woman beside you. An me, yore Porhl, teach me to be free.

slowly, the slaves, with their belongings wrapped in bundles or carried in old carpetbags, walked up to the main house and distributed themselves out front under the cypresses. They looked into the sky as if whatever it was they were told was coming would be from that direction. They wore their Sunday clothes. There were seven adults—two men, the elder Jake Early and Jubal Samuels, who had but one eye, and five women, including the old granny who could not walk very well—and three small children. The children were unusually quiet. They stayed close by and made bouquets of weeds or pressed round stones and pebbles in the earth.

Jake Early did not have to counsel patience. The fear they had all seen in the eyes of the fleeing Massah and Mistress told them that deliverance had come. But the sky was cloudless, and as the sun rose everyone settled down and some even nodded off, which Jake Early regretted, feeling that when the Union soldiers came they should find black folk not at their ease but smartly arrayed as a welcoming company of free men and women.

He himself stood in the middle of the road with his staff and did not move. He listened. For the longest while there was nothing but the mild stirring of the air, like a whispering in his ear or the rustle of woodland. But then he did hear something. Or did he? It wasn’t exactly a sound, it was more like a sense of something transformed in his own expectation. And then, almost as if what he held was a divining rod, the staff in his hand pointed to the sky westerly. At this, all the others stood up and came away from the trees: what they saw in the distance was smoke spouting from different points in the landscape, first here, then there. But in the middle of all this was a change in the sky color itself that gradually clarified as an upward-streaming brown cloud risen from the earth, as if the world was turned upside down.

And, as they watched, the brown cloud took on a reddish cast. It moved forward, thin as a hatchet blade in front and then widening like the furrow from the plow. It was moving across the sky to the south of them. When the sound of this cloud reached them, it was like nothing they had ever heard in their lives. It was not fearsomely heaven-made, like thunder or lightning or howling wind, but something felt through their feet, a resonance, as if the earth was humming. Then, carried on a gust of wind, the sound became for moments a rhythmic tromp that relieved them as the human reason for the great cloud of dust. And then, at the edges of this sound of a trompled-upon earth, they heard the voices of living men shouting, finally. And the lowing of cattle. And the creaking of wheels. But they saw nothing. Involuntarily, they walked down toward the road but still saw nothing. The symphonious clamor was everywhere, filling the sky like the cloud of red dust that arrowed past them to the south and left the sky dim, it was the great processional of the Union armies, but of no more substance than an army of ghosts.

clarke had in his foraging party a two-wagon train, a string of three extra mules, and twenty men mounted. General orders specified no fewer than fifty men. He was several miles off the column, and so, coming upon the plantation, he resolved to make quick work of it.

As they rode onto the grounds he immediately saw, and ignored, the slaves standing there. He shook his head. They had their old cracked drummers’ cases and cotton sacks tied up with their things on the ground beside them. He posted his pickets and set the men to work. In the yard behind the outbuildings, the fodder stack was a smoking pile, flakes of black ash blowing off in the breeze. There were three mules with their heads blown all to hell. His orders were to respond to acts of defiance commensurately. Nor was he less determined when the men marched out of the dairy with sacks of sugar, cornmeal, flour, and rice on their shoulders. In the smokehouse, the shelves sagged with crocks of honey and sorghum. Hanging from hooks were the sides of bacon and cured hams the Massah didn’t have time for the taking. And one of the bins was filled with a good two hundred pounds of sweet potatoes.

Excerpted from The March by E. L. Doctorow Copyright © 2005 by E.L. Doctorow. Excerpted by permission of Random House, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Read More Show Less

Introduction

The discussion questions were developed by book clubs across the country who read The March and collectively drafted questions for us.

Read More Show Less

Foreword

1. Karen Woods and the Third Monday Book Discussion Group, Twinsburg Public Library

One of the most interesting subplots in The March is the relationship between Pearl and the Yankee soldiers who take her under their wings. Do you find these relationships believable? In particular, would a soldier such as Stephen Walsh really consider marrying Pearl, and possibly having a clearly mixed-race child, at this time in history?

The Yankee generals are beautifully drawn characters. Is General Kilpatrick a mostly an admirable or dishonorable man, given his role in history? Why did Sherman say he wouldn't trade him for anyone else?

2. Sally LeSage and The High Point Mom's Book Club, from Atlanta, Georgia

Sherman believed that his every move being reported gave him a disadvantage in the war. Many military leaders still feel that way today. Discuss the push and pull between the military and the "press," then and now.

Although the Civil War was fought over state's rights as much as slavery, Doctorow primarily addressed the effects of slavery and its abolishment on his characters during the march. Why do you think he chose this way of telling the story?

From the shrewd analytical mind of General Sherman, the stoicism of
Wrede Sartorius, the compassion of Emily Thompson, the feistiness of Pearl
and the comic relief of Arly, Doctorow show us the minds of his characters
as they struggle to survive the cruelty of war. Which of these or other
characters in the book do you think you would be most like in a time of
crisis and why?

Throughout "The March," Wrede Sartorius was portrayed as havingno
compassion for his patients; rather he treated each of them as a research
subject. Discuss his importance/significance in the book.

3. Cindy Wiser and the As the Page Turns book club
Arly and Will change from Confederate to Union soldiers (and back) and
Pearl changes from black to white (and back) by changing the clothes they
wear and the people with whom they associate. Is it true, as Calvin says,
that "the costume you wear is the person you are"?

At the end of the novel, Pearl and David are no longer slaves, but are
they free? Has Calvin, who has never lived as a slave, ever lived free?
Are any characters free during the war? Colonel Sartorius, Stephen,
Sherman, even Lincoln, live under constraints caused by their situations,
commitments, and responsibilities. What is freedom? What makes us free?

4. Micheller McCaffrey and The Beachbums Bookclub from Sarasota,FL

Historians have debated whether Sherman's march to the sea was simply a particularly brutal act of war or whether it was a war crime. Do you think Sherman's march was justified? Why or Why not?

How would his was campaign compare with current law of war standards?

The emancipated slaves played many roles in The March. Did Pearl understand her new status? How did she come to realize the difference between freedom and independence?

5. Louise Smith and her book club from Mitchell, SD

Survival is one of the main themes of the novel.  For each character it has a different meaning.  Which have adopted survival mechanisms used to cope?  Describe some of these mechanisms each employs and how these skills help them to survive.

In the opening chapter Pearl prays, "Dear God Jesus...teach me to be free."  To what extent is her prayer granted?
 
Is Arly, the Southern rebel, simply a wily individual who takes advantage of any opportunity that presents itself or is there more to him than that?  What impact does he have on others and on events?

Read More Show Less

Reading Group Guide

1. Karen Woods and the Third Monday Book Discussion Group, Twinsburg Public Library

One of the most interesting subplots in The March is the relationship between Pearl and the Yankee soldiers who take her under their wings. Do you find these relationships believable? In particular, would a soldier such as Stephen Walsh really consider marrying Pearl, and possibly having a clearly mixed-race child, at this time in history?

The Yankee generals are beautifully drawn characters. Is General Kilpatrick a mostly an admirable or dishonorable man, given his role in history? Why did Sherman say he wouldn't trade him for anyone else?

2. Sally LeSage and The High Point Mom's Book Club, from Atlanta, Georgia

Sherman believed that his every move being reported gave him a disadvantage in the war. Many military leaders still feel that way today. Discuss the push and pull between the military and the "press," then and now.

Although the Civil War was fought over state's rights as much as slavery, Doctorow primarily addressed the effects of slavery and its abolishment on his characters during the march. Why do you think he chose this way of telling the story?

From the shrewd analytical mind of General Sherman, the stoicism of
Wrede Sartorius, the compassion of Emily Thompson, the feistiness of Pearl and the comic relief of Arly, Doctorow show us the minds of his characters as they struggle to survive the cruelty of war. Which of these or other characters in the book do you think you would be most like in a time of crisis and why?

Throughout "The March," Wrede Sartorius was portrayed as having no compassion for his patients; rather he treated each of them as a research subject. Discuss his importance/significance in the book.

3. Cindy Wiser and the As the Page Turns book club
Arly and Will change from Confederate to Union soldiers (and back) and
Pearl changes from black to white (and back) by changing the clothes they wear and the people with whom they associate. Is it true, as Calvin says,
that "the costume you wear is the person you are"?

At the end of the novel, Pearl and David are no longer slaves, but are they free? Has Calvin, who has never lived as a slave, ever lived free?
Are any characters free during the war? Colonel Sartorius, Stephen,
Sherman, even Lincoln, live under constraints caused by their situations,
commitments, and responsibilities. What is freedom? What makes us free?

4. Micheller McCaffrey and The Beachbums Bookclub from Sarasota,FL

Historians have debated whether Sherman's march to the sea was simply a particularly brutal act of war or whether it was a war crime. Do you think Sherman's march was justified? Why or Why not?

How would his was campaign compare with current law of war standards?

The emancipated slaves played many roles in The March. Did Pearl understand her new status? How did she come to realize the difference between freedom and independence?

5. Louise Smith and her book club from Mitchell, SD

Survival is one of the main themes of the novel.  For each character it has a different meaning.  Which have adopted survival mechanisms used to cope?  Describe some of these mechanisms each employs and how these skills help them to survive.

In the opening chapter Pearl prays, "Dear God Jesus...teach me to be free."  To what extent is her prayer granted?
 
Is Arly, the Southern rebel, simply a wily individual who takes advantage of any opportunity that presents itself or is there more to him than that?  What impact does he have on others and on events?

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 44 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(14)

4 Star

(14)

3 Star

(8)

2 Star

(8)

1 Star

(0)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 44 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 25, 2012

    This is a top notch read!

    Following the Sherman's March through Georgia with a cast of characters, this book offers some insight as to how it affected individuals caught up in war. Excellent character creation and plot lines. I hated for the ending to come up so quickly. It could have been twice as long and I still would have enjoyed every page!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 7, 2012

    Highly Recommended and engrossing read

    By J.J. Collins


    “The March,” - by E.L. Doctorow; places the reader at the heart and center of General William Tecumseh Sherman's famous march of 1864-65 through Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina, It is an engrossing book, enabling the reader to transport themselves into the very heart of the massive force of over 60,000 men, and grasp the destructive power of this massive all consuming entity. By using a wide variety of characters, be they white or black, men, women, and children, unionist or rebel, rich and poor, generals and privates, freed slaves and slave owners, Doctorow provides the reader with an insight into the destructive power of war, but yet, manages to convey on us all the unique qualities of the human spirit, resourcefulness and determination in tough and desperate times.
    Sherman’s March - was focussed on the destruction of the Confederate South's physical and psychological capacity to wage war. Sherman like his superior’s believed that the Civil War would end, only if the Confederacy’s strategic, economic, and psychological capacity for warfare was decisively broken. Sherman therefore applied the principles of scorched earth, he ordered his troops to burn crops, kill livestock and consume supplies. Finally, he destroyed civilian infrastructure along his path of advance to be ripped up and destroyed before accepting the surrender of General Joseph E. Johnston and his forces in North Carolina on April 26, 1865. This “Scorched Earth Policy”, is often considered a component strategy of total war.
    Doctorow manages to paint descript pictures throughout his novel through an effective interchange of characters. He brings the reader on a journey of human compassion while on the other hand, deftly highlighting the very worst of human nature too. In a war that was destined for an inevitable outcome from the inception of Sherman’s march through to its very conclusion. Doctorow manages to provide the reader with an understanding and insight into the deceptive forces of war, from numbness to complete heartbreak, from hero status to suspicious traitor, from shocking experiences to complete indifference to suffering. Doctorow masterfully leaves us in no doubt about this massive force’s sheer destructive power on every level, removing once and for all, any notion or romantic belief of war.
    “The March” – provides us with an insider’s experience of this slow moving, all powerful living breathing entity grinding and scorching its way across three southern states, the significance of which would prove to be profound. It would change southern culture, tradition and life forever, ultimately resulting in the freeing of slaves and providing them with 40 acres and a mule. Above all, the most realisation for black people

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 27, 2005

    Not the type book I generally read yet I liked it very much!

    My husband was reading this book on a trip we recently went on and I'd finished all my reading material so I started reading his: this book. And I haven't liked a character named Pearl so much since Nathanial Hawthorne's Pearl in The Scarlet Letter, though she, of course, played a much smaller role. And I liked the fact that although this book is technically fiction, there are both fictional and real figures from history in it. Normally books like this bore me because I'm more in the sci-fi/fantasy/horror realm, but this was a great change.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 5, 2012

    Slow and confusing

    There are too many characters to keep track of. I spent most of the book waiting for the climax.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 8, 2010

    To Live Through Interesting People

    Doctorow's typically fine prose, this is more character study than an adventure of Sherman's march to the sea and the subsequent Carolina campaigns. A thoroughly enjoyable read if not a compelling one.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 5, 2008

    Should be read

    I found E. L. Doctrow's book The March entertaining, but a little hard to follow with all the characters and disjointed time sequencing. I would have preferred to get to know Sherman a little better, rather than all the subcharacters. However, Mr. Doctorow did an excellent job in his development of one charactger, Dr. Sartorius. The book also gave a great depiction of the devastation to the South cased by Sherman's march. Although I felt the introduction of Grant and Lincoln at the very end was a little contrived, the book wet my appetite to go on Wikipedia and read about the actual history.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 29, 2008

    Doctorow's 'The March' Staggers

    Without a controlling central or sympathetic consciousness, the 'intentionally' fragmented narrative of this epic tour of the Civil-Wartime South offers stirring parts without achieving fictive depth or an integral whole. Like much of Doctorow's work, this book is historically illuminating & well crafted. However, it is only occasionally compelling, adding up to less than the sum of its parts, and thus, better to browse in than read through. Fans of some of Doctorow's previous narrative patchworks, like 'Ragtime' & 'Loon Lake' might demur, but those, like me, who prefer either distinct short pieces like the author's, 'Sweet Land Stories' or sustained narratives like 'Billy Bathgate' & 'The Book of Daniel' may want to skip this one.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 25, 2006

    Excellent literary historical fiction

    I am a big fan of historical fiction and I have to say that this book is first rate. The writing is excellent, the story completely fascinating -- the perfect blend of historical fact and fiction. The characters are well-developed, the pacing brilliant and the backdrop of the Civil War very authentic. All in all, an exceptional novel.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 10, 2006

    Sorry, but it wasn't like that.

    Mr. Doctorow did a superb job of researching his subject. His command of historical detail and descriptions of Sherman's March were first rate, but still he got it wrong. It's too bad that he felt compelled to apply the belief system and biases of 21st-century Manhattan literary society to the events of 1864/65 in Georgia and the Carolinas. In this mindset, white Southern men are inevitably venal, white Southern women are kind of clueless, and all freed slaves are noble, or at least dignified. I'm sure there's a Greek word for this. In any case, I lost interest about half way through when I realized I was merely reading the Civil War as Mr. Doctorow thinks it should have been conducted.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 29, 2006

    It could have been a powerful novel

    Doctorow missed the chance to write a fabulous novel. Considering the impact Sherman's march had on the south, it seemed somewhat minimized in this book. The characters were interesting and well-defined. Because of the title I was expecting a powerful depiction of this defining period during the Civil War. Unfortunately I found it was quite a disappointment. Instead, it was just another book about scoundrels and theives.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 28, 2006

    Yankees in Georgia?!!

    Novels based on historical events can be somewhat contrived and melodramatic. This book is neither. While Sherman's march through Georgia and the Carolinas is the vehicle that carries the story forward, the real drama is played out in the quiet introspective thoughts of the various characters as each experiences different aspects of the war. This book reminded me of The Thin Red Line, a novel about the conquest of Guadalcanal in 1943. Military action scenes seemed factual and believable.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 20, 2006

    worth reading

    An excellent story that holds ones interest from start to finish. Contains a host of colorful characters. The story shares the divergent impact Sherman's march had on newly freed slaves, displaced refugees, soldiers in the field, and the generals who decided their fates.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 31, 2005

    Entertaining account of a momentous event

    E.L. Doctrow's 'The March' manages to be entertaining and interesting while also giving a fairly even-handed fictionalized account of the four-month period during which William Tecumseh Sherman cut loose from his supply lines to make his famous (or infamous?) march from Atlanta to Savannah and subsequently through South Carolina on his way ultimately to join forces with Grant. As a white southerner whose ancestors lived and died in low-state South Carolina, I could easily take exception to the author's casual characterization of southern males as at best shiftless and opportunistic to at worst cruel and racist. But then, almost no one involved in this tale comes off favorably. Neither those who lead nor those who follow. Ultimately, 'The March' is the sad story of the conclusion to our greatest national tragedy and the characters are merely a reflection.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 26, 2005

    well written. powerful.

    To this day, the south is affected by the horrible devastation wrought by Sherman and co. Sherman was just doing what he had to do-- moving into a new paradigm of warfare. This book explores those connected to that march-- their individual lives, the effects, etc.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 26, 2005

    March

    I was expecting a far greater historical impact of the actual March on the South. The story was a bit like a circus train weaving through the South with more humor and laxity than the violence and devestation that I expected. Gone with the Wind was more horrific.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 10, 2005

    Not his best

    Having just finished, The March, I find myself feeling empty. In the past I have loved Doctorow's novels because I cared about the characters. I particularly enjoyed World's Fair. I had trouble connecting with the characters in this book. While I usually like it when authors jump around to different vignettes, I had trouble remembering what had happened to the characters in between my chances to read the book. I like Doctorow's other titles but I don't think, The March, is his best.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 16, 2005

    Great History But Lacking In Story

    The historical part of this book was excellent. I could really get a feel for the era as well as the events of the war. Where I thought the book lacked was in characters. I had trouble connecting with them throughout the book which made me less excited as I turned each page.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 13, 2005

    March

    A good book but not a great book. I was expecting more after I read the initial reviews. Sherman was depicted as a bit laid back and not the aggressive leader I expected him to be.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 16, 2005

    Life Happens, and What Do WE Do!.

    I was reminded of Virgnia Wofe, 'The Lighthouse', when reading 'The March.' The subtle stream of consciousness, mix of characters, and historicty of the novel gave me a sense of the march through life. This is not a fast read. It is, in my view, a very engaging and rewarding read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 10, 2005

    Disappointedly disjointed

    I respect the author for the research that he did. There are numerous interesting historical facts about the people and era he wove into his novel. However, as a historical writer, the author does not successfully spin a coherent tale from his findings. I found myself numerous times trying to connect with the different characters, wondering which side I was viewing...where, and how the characters at present related to the others. Also, importantly, I found the author's writing style confusing. Not following regular English convections, like not using quotations for spoken words in the context of a descriptive paragraph, only added to my confusion of the plot.

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