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November 27, 2005



I like your review and agree with it. I kept asking myself as I was reading the novel, why is Doctorow doing this? How does this book serve his deeper needs? The answer, I think, is that The March speaks to our condition right now (as all Doctorow's novels are about the time in which they were written, Ragtime about the '60s and early '70, Waterworks the early '90s, etc). What we are experiencing right now, more than any time that I can recall, is how we are all swept up in the march of history, our individual fates defined by forces bigger than ourselves. Admittedly, this feeling has abated in the last several months, as the Bush machine has begun to stumble and ordinary people are making their voices heard. But this sense of history going on with or without us is still more an unavoidable part of life than anytime since the McCarthy period and maybe before that. And like you, Miriam, I liked the characterizations in this novel, the two main women especially and also the way Lincoln was handled. I didn't like the introduction of Coalhouse Walker's father and thought that a cheap trick, but I felt everything else was very strong, including the prose and the insight into what Sherman's march meant to so many people, from the freed slaves to the generals and the accidental soldiers to the dispossessed planters. It was quite a book.

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