September 26, 2009

One historical event, several point of views

E. L. Doctorow: The March (2005)

One historical event, several point of views. The March by E. L. Doctorow remind me sometimes of Sandor Marai’s novel about the hours after Caesar’s assassination. We can learn during reading that book what kind of thoughts had the residents of a spa town after Caesar death. Everybody has his own opinion, the patricians, the innkeepers, the bakers, the eunuchs, even Caesar’s doctor, or the people who are left out of the conspiracy. So, we can read several little personal stories about the great man and the big historical event.

And that is, why I think, Doctorow’s book is something like Marai’s one. We can read in the book The March several little personal stories about the American Civil War. About Sherman’s infamous march in 1864. This is the central plot of the book, the central story actually told by other stories. Doctorow mingles fictional characters with real ones. We can learn Sherman’s point of view about this March. But also the fate of many soldiers and civilians.

Many people take part of this march for this or that reason. Dr. Wrede Sartorius is a European doctor, interested only in his profession, in the healing, I would say, he hates war and army. He aims to help not only the Northern but the Southern soldiers and civilians too. Emily Thomson, a well-born Southerners joins to this march after her father’s death. She became a nurse working with Sartorius.

Pearl is young girl, a “white Negro” an illegitimate daughter of a plantation owner became a drummer of the army first, later a nurse, also in the “hospital” of Wrede Sartorius. I like her character. She is much more smart than she looks at the first time. And I think, her life, her chances to live a happy live represents the humanity in the story mostly.

And there are another characters in the book like Archie and Will escaped from the prison by the start of the march. Some reviewers say they are comic figures, but I have another opinion. They are such annoying characters. Especially Will. He is not a good man. He harms innocent people’s life. Like the photographer and his assistant. Well, I know, this is the brutality of the war.

At the end from the personal stories we can get a compact story, which is fuller and much more to say, as the narrator trough an only one point of view (from an outsider’s perspective) would have told the event.

(This review was written for the challenge: Fall into Reading 09)
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