Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Pacific Northwest Signs and Sights

August 13, 2008 Posted by | Arts & Handicrafts, Communication, Community, Cultural, ExPat Life, Living Conditions, Photos, Travel | 6 Comments

Ivar’s Favorites

Just a little light supper – Ivar’s crab bisque and their wonderful sourdough rolls. A soft rain and just a brief flash of sunset as accompaniment.

August 13, 2008 Posted by | Eating Out, ExPat Life, Food, Living Conditions, Seattle | 7 Comments

Geraldine Brooks: March

Geraldine Brooks knocks my socks off. If she writes a book, fiction or non-fiction, I will buy it and read it. The first one I read by her was Nine Parts Desire: The Hidden World of Islamic Women, and the second most memorable book was her Year of Wonders, a book about how the plague comes to a 17th century English village and how the villagers cope with it – how some survive. She has a knack for keen observations, and for writing so as to place you squarely in the scene she is describing.

So when she came out with a new book extrapolating from the experiences protrayed in Louisa May Alcott’s classic favorite Little Women, why didn’t I rush to buy it? March is described by Publisher’s Weekly as “the Civil War experiences of Mr. March, the absent father in Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women.”

Didn’t you love Little Women when you read it? What’s not to love? Those wonderful sisters, their saintly mother, working together, suffering together, prevailing through sheer grit and determination – we can read that book over and over again, loving it every time.

Geraldine Brooks takes us with Mr. March into the grim realities of the American Civil War, the “war to free the slaves,” the war to keep the United States united, or the war between the states. This is not the idealized world of Little Women, this is not the memory we have of the nice letters he writes home from the field, this is the reality of war and all it’s ugliness. As the book opens, Mr. March is fleeing a massacre, struggling to survive, he is surrounded by the dead and seriously wounded, bullets are flying past him and he has to cross a deep, rushing river. A man grabs him who can’t swim, and he has to push him away to gasp for air. The man drowns, March survives, feeling deep guilt. When he finally finds a group of his men, drying out by the side of the river, he sits down and writes to his girls about the sweet breeze in the air. Not a word about the horrors he has witnessed, not his personal despair about having failed a wounded comrade.

As we experience the horrors of this war with Mr. March, we experience with him the brutality, cruelty, and crudity of all conflict. There are no good guys. There is no “just cause,” just winners and losers, and it’s very hard to tell what they are fighting for. Seeing this war from the point of view of the combatants, we realize that no-one will remain untouched; that this experience will resonate through the rest of their lives.

Geraldine Brooks knows how to grab us and keep us gripped. Every chapter reveals a new facet – how March and Marnee met and married, how they built a life together, how, in their idealism, they lost everything. Most discouraging of all is how, below the surface, they understand themselves and one another and their relationship so little.

I dare you to read this book. It isn’t an easy book, and at the same time, it is a book with timeless qualities, and a book that will get you thinking and keep you thinking for a long time. Isn’t that the definition of a good book?

August 13, 2008 Posted by | Books, Bureaucracy, Character, Community, Family Issues, Fiction, Living Conditions, Marriage, Mating Behavior, Political Issues, Relationships, Social Issues | , | 4 Comments