The 2005 novel that looked like it was going to sweep the Pulitzer and National Book Awards, and then didn’t. It lost the National Book Award to William Vollmann’s truly amazing novel Europe Central and the Pulitzer to Geraldine Brooks’s March (which is diary novel written by Mr March, from Little Women, during his time in war — a book that is so much better than that description lets on). This book is fine. It’s biggest issue through is that it wants to tell small stories (like it should!) but it keeps linking them to the large story of the Civil War (which fails throughout because the scope of the novel is narrow). So the book takes place along Sherman’s march starting in Atlanta as it burns, moving north to South Carolina, North Carolina, and finally Virginia. We focus on the stories of a handful of players within this large scope: Pearl, a freed Black girl who passes as a white drummer boy, Miss Thompson, the daughter of a now dead Southern judge, Jim, a prisoner conscripted into the Northern army, and Sartorius, a Northern doctor of European descent working in the field hospital. So the issue throughout is that while these small stories are interesting, they keep getting short shrift to the larger narrative. There’s this feeling that happens in a lot of novels that if a large event happens in the timeframe of the period, they must be discussed in the novel or worse, incorporated. This provides a weird artificial feel to it.