The author of Ragtime offers a new view of war and its affects on everyday living.
One finishes E.L. Doctorow's 'œbrilliant' and 'œaddictive' Civil War novel hating not war itself but 'œthe secret complicity between war and everyday life,' said Lee Siegel in The New York Observer. The author of Ragtime has turned Gen. William Sherman's brutal, mythic march through Georgia into a metaphor for the way any war 'œimposes a new normalcy' on all who happen into its path.
In Doctorow's sure hands, Sherman's march is a human weather front, 'œa revolution in motion,' said John Updike in The New Yorker. But whereas Ragtime toyed cruelly with its individual characters, one measure of this book's 'œlargeness of sympathy' is that, as unsparingly as it details war's horrors, it affords 'œrespect and even admiration' for the architects of the carnage, including Sherman, Abraham Lincoln, and Ulysses S. Grant. The novel's most sympathetic character, though, is a beautiful, illegitimate daughter of a female slave, and Doctorow opens himself to charges of sentimentality by rendering her as almost 'œsuperhuman' in her goodness. Maybe so, said Vincent D. Balitas in The Washington Times. But she's the character readers will remember when they close this 'œpowerful,' thought-provoking book.