Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Geraldine Brooks


I've just seen the brilliant and elegant Geraldine Brooks charming the socks off Tony Jones on Lateline as they chatted about her Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, awarded last weekend for her 2005 novel March.

For those who haven't caught up with this book yet, it's an imaginative re-creation of the absent father from Little Women, telling the story of his life during the year that the children's classic covers during the American Civil War. It covers a great deal of historical and philosophical ground and transforms Little Women into a dark and adult tale.

One reason I was particularly happy about this win for Brooks was that, along with Delia Falconer's The Lost Thoughts of Soldiers, also set in 19thC America, March is one of the most poetic, intellectually complex and coherently imagined Australian novels of 2005 but is nonetheless ineligible for the country's best-known and most prestigious fiction prize, the Miles Franklin Literary Award, whose rules as laid down in Franklin's will include the stipulation that the winning novel 'must deal with Australian life'. I expect to see Falconer's book get some international recognition as well before this year is out.

10 comments:

Fyodor said...

Do you recommend the book, Ms Pavlova?

Pavlov's Cat said...

Oh dear, didn't I say? Tch -- too much bending over backwards trying not to give things points out of ten, an activity I dislike. Yes, terrific book. Hard for me to say what someone who hasn't read Little Women 1,000 times might make of it, but I think it would work as a stand-alone. The Lost Thoughts of Soldiers is also wonderful. The Miles F judges must be spitting chips about both novels being disallowed by the rules -- I don't think there's any question but that they would both have made the shortlist.

Lucy Tartan said...

Hey, Little Women is adult! And if baby sister dying of consumption isn't dark, I'm frightened to think of what is...

Pavlov's Cat said...

Oh God don't remind me. And then there's the impoverished German baby in the hovel, dead of scarlet fever ... and the woman left alone with four teenage daughters while the hubby's 'far away, where the fighting was' ... and the youngest sister falling through the ice ... the burning of the manuscript ... the savaging of the hair. You're right, it's a total nightmare.

Fyodor said...

Phew, that's a relief, 'cos I just bought it. Thanks for the tip.

Lucy Tartan said...

total nightmare, yes... you left out Meg and the jam, in fact everything about Meg's marriage...

Pavlov's Cat said...

Oh but that's in Good Wives, which I knew as a child (and therefore inescapably think of as an adult) as a completely separate book, rather than the two published together under the one title -- as I know has also happened a lot. Yes, there is a lot more black nightmare again in Good Wives -- the kitchen dripping with unset jam, the horror of Jo's entire love life, Amy's strawberries with salt and sour cream ... And the title itself, of course.

But if what you want is children's nightmare classics, I still think nothing, but nothing, can beat the death of Judy in Seven Little Australians.

Lucy Tartan said...

Before your last line I was about to apologise for veering wildly off topic. But I do need to ask -- does Geraldine Brooks' novel mesh with Little Women / Good Wives? Does Papa March get letters about Amy's preserved limes, and is he accompanied to the battlefield by Laurie's handsome tutor?

Pavlov's Cat said...

I recall no mention of the preserved limes, but all the girls are talked about, and Laurie's tutor and grandfather are certainly both in it. The last scene is the same last scene as that of Little Women (the first part, I mean -- his return home, broken up, from the war), as told from his POV.

And Marmee gets some first-person narration all to herself, as when she gets to the field hospital and has to look after March herself: 'I had not seen my husband's body in more than a year, and even then, never in so unprivate a manner, in the harsh light of day.'

Mary Bennet said...

Amy stealing the limes? As children I was horrified that limes were a treat. Horrified.