Magnificent! Moving! Mesmerising!
Sherman's march to the sea is well known and well documented, but here in this novel E.L. Doctorow brings together the suffering of the soldiers and the freed slaves as we move with the army on its epic march to defeat the remaining Confederate force
Sherman's march to the sea is well known and well documented, but here in this novel E.L. Doctorow brings together the suffering of the soldiers and the freed slaves as we move with the army on its epic march to defeat the remaining Confederate forces in the South. There is a multitude of small and large characters who appear on the stage of Doctorow's story: some stay the whole course, others fade away after a brief period. It is the small, minor, seemingly insignificant characters who captured my attention and interest as the story progressed. These are the ones I wanted to survive the ordeal that had been thrust upon them. There is Pearl, a 14 year old slave girl; Will, a soldier who just doesn't seem to fit in with army life, and Emily, the daughter of a Southern judge. Then there is doctor Sartorius: cold, calm, collected. Doing what he has to in order to save lives. He amputates limbs knowing there is nothing else he can do. He knows that most will dies through infection. He hopes some will survive, but he has no time to stop and worry about what he's done, as hosts of wounded Union and Confederate soldiers accumulate outside his operating tent. These are the lives of ordinary people caught up in a conflict of unimaginable horror. But then there are those others - the Generals - the leaders of the armies. Sherman doesn't like what he's doing but believes it is the only way to end the conflict. To put a stop to the slaughter. So he destroys everything in his path. Even so he is magnanimous when towns and cities surrender at his approach. So much so that the conditions he agrees with Joe Johnston at his surrender cause a stir in Washington and have to be changed. The feelings of anger between North and South over this war still reverberate today.