The March is stylishly written—his model, here as elsewhere, is F. Scott Fitzgerald—but it seems, despite its considerable length, a smaller, less ambitious book than one might have expected in view of his subject.
The novel shares with Ragtime a texture of terse episodes and dialogue shorn, in avant-garde fashion, of quotation marks, but has little of the older book’s distancing jazz, its impudent, mocking shuffle of facts; it celebrates its epic war with the stirring music of a brass marching band heard from afar, then loud and up close, and finally receding over the horizon. […] Doctorow here appears not so much a reconstructor of history as a visionary who seeks in time past occasions for poetry.
The March is constructed from brief episodes, each narrated from the perspective of a single character. […] Any attempt to achieve a more comprehensive view fails. When a British reporter climbs a tree to watch a battle from above, all he can see is a ‘terrifying vision of antediluvian breakout’. Then the tree is struck by a cannonball, and the fall from it kills him.
Doctorow’s clever historical fiction is well represented here. Perhaps to a fault. It is, at times, more impressive than enjoyable.— Brian Flanagan