Elena Bowes

New York-London design & culture writer of a certain vintage looking for meaning and wholeness in life

Little Women and a Man- Author Geraldine Brooks Talks about Pulitzer-winning March

September 11th, 2019
Books & Authors

Actors Saoirse Ronan, Laura Dern, Meryl Streep, Emma Watson, Timothée Chalamet (Call Me by Your Name) are all gracing our screens this Christmas in the film adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women. Here’s the trailer to what looks like another fabulous film from director Greta Gerwig (Ladybird).

                     To whet your appetite for the film, why not read, or -re-read, March by Geraldine Brooks,
a page-turning piece of historical fiction that won a Pulitzer prize in 2006.  March was the talented Brook’s second work of fiction. I couldn’t put it down. It’s a love story with a gripping plot, passion, bloodshed and flawed, believable characters
March follows the missing father in Little Women – the idealistic Mr March – who is away, serving in the Civil War for most of Little Women. Brooks based Mr March’s character in part on the real-life idealistic, modern-thinking father of Alcott, Amos Bronson Alcott, a teacher and abolitionist.
I interviewed the empathetic author about her novel, March. Here’s our Q&A:

The Economist praises your book, saying Louisa May Alcott would be well pleased. When you were a young girl, your mother gave you Little Women to read and suggested you take it with a grain of salt. “Nobody in real life is such a goody-goody as that Marmee,“ she said. Your Marmee is much more human in March. If Alcott could time travel to present day, what do you think she would say about March?

Alcott had a certain disdain for Little Women.  She felt it was a book she had written to satisfy her publisher rather than her own taste.  My publisher wants a book for girls,” she wrote.  “I’ve never liked girls much.” I hope she wouldn’t mind that I’ve used my own liberty as a writer to add some darker adult resonance to her bright and optimistic story.

For those of you unfamiliar with Brooks’ work, she is a terrific writer who has penned 3 nonfiction and 5 fiction books, most of which were bestsellers. Brooks was born in Sydney, Australia. A shy timid child, Brooks was apparently given some invaluable advice from her strong mother: “Find the thing you’re most afraid of and go and do it. Once you’ve done it, you can tick it off.”

Brooks  took this advice to heart; She started out as a reporter for the Sydney Morning Herald and rose to become  the Middle East bureau chief for the Wall Street Journal covering 22 countries. In 1990, with her late husband Tony Horwitz, she won the Overseas Press Club Award for best coverage of the Gulf War. The following year they received a citation for excellence for their series, “War and Peace.” Brooks covered famine in Somalia, crossed the Tigris on a raft with Kurdish refugees and spent three nights in a Nigerian jail. It was in jail that Brooks decided she wanted to have children and become a writer with a more settled lifestyle.

Brooks’ twitter feed reads:

Novelist. Mum. Dog person. Horse rider when I can stay on.

Brooks lost her husband of over 30 years Tony Horwitz, the Pulitzer prize winning journalist and best-selling author,  in May. She lives by an old mill pond in Martha’s Vineyard. And fortunately for us, she’s working on another book:

What are you working on now?

Another historical novel, titled Horse.

Can you tell us a little about that?

I’m going to keep Horse in the stable for now.

If you couldn’t be a writer, what would you like to be?

A dog walker

 Grace Clement is a very admirable character in March with a name that suits her graceful, compassionate demeanor. How did you come up with the names of some of your main characters- those not taken from Little Women?

 I’m like a pack rat, I grab them from everywhere: Gravestones, old documents, even occasionally from people on book signing lines. If they have an unusual or cool name, I’ll squirrel it away for future use.

The rest of my Q&A with Brooks can be found here in 26, a site for writers who share a love of words, in business and everyday life.

September, 2019