Tuesday, October 10, 2006

The March

by E.L. Doctorow
In Doctorow's latest book, Sherman's March appears like a hurricane, inexorably twisting its way across the south, unimaginably vast and destructive. At the center, if not always in control, is Sherman himself, who is both weary and strangely at home. We follow several fictional characters at the edges of the storm, as well, people who are victims, opportunists, or a bit of each. Pearl is the daughter of a slave and a slaveowner. No longer a slave, she uses the march to find a new identity: could she pass for white? Could she pass for male? Is there any place for her in the new world? Arly and Will, two convicts, use the march as their escape from punishment; they quickly don whichever uniforms are most advantageous at the time and thrive on the chaos around them. Colonel Sartorius is a surgeon who dreams of an antiseptic world where he can achieve more than daily amputations. At times the great and terrible march seems like the only place to be; the world around it has fallen apart, and the world behind it is in smoking ruins.

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