The March

Written by E. L. Doctorow
Review by Audrey Braver

The March unfolds in sporadic episodes in the same manner as this historic military maneuver wended its way through Georgia and the Carolinas at the end of the War Between the States. As inhuman as the bare facts are when taken at face value, we learn enough about General William Tecumseh Sherman and his personal demons to understand, sympathize with, and admire him as both man and general. As the march progresses, we meet soldiers of both armies, including a pair of Confederate misfits who conveniently wear either uniform. Among the stragglers and followers are women who have lost husbands, sons, homes, their purpose in life. We meet Mattie Jameson, a widow, seeking her two sons taken as adolescents into the Confederate army; Emily Thompson, daughter of a Southern judge, who has a brief involvement with Colonel Sartorious, an outstanding Union Army surgeon; and Pearl, a beautiful half-white, freed slave on the brink of womanhood and searching for her destiny.

This is vintage Doctorow. His sympathetic portrayal of the havoc and destruction wreaked on a helpless civilian population is brilliant. His insight into the suffering, both civilian and military, is compassionate. The March is a forceful and mesmerizing literary novel.