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The Impeachment of Abraham Lincoln (original 2012; edition 2012)

by Stephen L. Carter

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156876,544 (3.44)12
Member:chgstrom
Title:The Impeachment of Abraham Lincoln
Authors:Stephen L. Carter
Info:Knopf (2012), Hardcover, 528 pages
Collections:Your library, Read but unowned
Rating:*****
Tags:None

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The Impeachment of Abraham Lincoln by Stephen L. Carter (2012)

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Showing 1-5 of 8 (next | show all)
Enjoyed this book. Part alternate history, part mystery. Great book if you like those genres. ( )
  autumnturner76 | Sep 22, 2014 |
a tad tedious. I wouldn't have missed not reading it. ( )
  bke | Mar 30, 2014 |
Enjoyed this book. Part alternate history, part mystery. Great book if you like those genres. ( )
  AutumnTurner | Dec 29, 2013 |
Another of those novels where the idea sounds wonderful but the execution doesn't quite work as well as it might. In Carter's tale, Lincoln survives Booth's bullet only to face impeachment and and trial two years later at the hands of the Radical Republicans.

The main characters in the novel are two young law clerks in the firm responsible for defending Lincoln in his Senate trial: one the scion of a northern industrialist family, the other Abigail Canner, a black Oberlin graduate who wants to read for the law. As they work on Lincoln's case, they also seek to unravel the threads of what seems to be a far-reaching conspiracy ... and of course also develop something resembling romantic feelings for each other (cue the eye-roll).

While the political minutiae and machinations make for fascinating reading, and Carter manages to put together a reasonably complex mystery, the story is a bit over-written and might have been edited down markedly to a more tight narrative. Recommended, but with slight reservations. ( )
1 vote JBD1 | Sep 15, 2013 |
At its heart, The Impeachment of A.L. is a courtroom drama. But it is also a character study not only of the individuals in the story, but of the nation itself. Nearly everyone, it seems, was trying to do the right thing. Of course politicians will be politicians and none of them do anything without an angle, but it is interesting to watch them try to apply the rule of law to politics. Washington of 1866 isn’t really that different from 1966 or 2006 and he gets his point across well -

“Like so many people of liberal persuasion, they value their own progressive opinions more than they value the people they hold those opinions about.” p 148 (written as dialogue of Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts)

“Odd how none of the money ever seemed to be spent here in Washington City - unless, of course, one counted the fabulous marble palace the Congress had built for itself, as though the first duty of the legislature was to the comfort of its own members.” p 199

It’s a good thing though that the story wasn’t confined to politics or the courtroom. While those pieces were interesting and the reason for a lot of the other action and drama, my own ignorance of not only President Lincoln, but the political situation of his time hampered my ability to separate fact from fiction or see where things might head.

While Carter says he committed more mayhem than usual by shoving around historical events, he also based a lot of the book on fact. Many of the speeches were taken from various trials and other events. Letters and court transcripts were consulted as were other documents. A lot of it is pure fiction though and overall it works. Who doesn’t love a good conspiracy? There’s plenty of it here. The time comes through as does the tension of the events surrounding the trial and the murders.

Unfortunately where it falters is in Abigail’s character. Sure, I liked her and was sympathetic to her situation, but it was a lot of tell and very little show. For example, on page 83 Jonathan muses about Abigail’s constant argumentative chatter. What argumentative chatter? All we’ve seen her do is dust and tidy, bite her tongue and swallow down retorts she might have said if she were a man or if she were white (or, better yet, both). She doesn’t though, knowing prudence is sometimes the better part of valor. She picks her battles judiciously and knows exactly how to work the system when she has to. Like going to Kate there at the end when she most needed her. I wish Carter had shown more of that rather than just continually describing her as smart or determined or whatever. Everyone was fascinated by her though, I just wish I saw more of exactly why.

As always, Carter weaves a complex tale that leaves a lot of the work up to the reader. I like that. I don’t need a writer to lead me to every clue, explain every nuance or give me every bit of historical of context. There are a lot of characters to track, relationships to parse and history to grasp. Strong writing as usual and the pacing is good. Tugged me right along and I finished this rather dense novel in just a week. No skimming...you can’t afford to with Carter’s novels and really, why would you? The prose is good. Not brilliant, but there’s a lot there to appreciate. ( )
1 vote Bookmarque | Aug 27, 2013 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 030727263X, Hardcover)

From the best-selling author of The Emperor of Ocean Park and New England White, a daring reimagining of one of the most tumultuous moments in our nation’s past
 
Stephen L. Carter’s thrilling new novel takes as its starting point an alternate history: President Abraham Lincoln survives the assassination attempt at Ford’s Theatre on April 14, 1865. Two years later he is charged with overstepping his constitutional authority, both during and after the Civil War, and faces an impeachment trial . . .

Twenty-one-year-old Abigail Canner is a young black woman with a degree from Oberlin, a letter of employment from the law firm that has undertaken Lincoln’s defense, and the iron-strong conviction, learned from her late mother, that “whatever limitations society might place on ordinary negroes, they would never apply to her.” And so Abigail embarks on a life that defies the norms of every stratum of Washington society: working side by side with a white clerk, meeting the great and powerful of the nation, including the president himself.  But when Lincoln’s lead counsel is found brutally murdered on the eve of the trial, Abigail is plunged into a treacherous web of intrigue and conspiracy reaching the highest levels of the divided government.

Here is a vividly imagined work of historical fiction that captures the emotional tenor of post–Civil War America, a brilliantly realized courtroom drama that explores the always contentious question of the nature of presidential authority, and a galvanizing story of political suspense.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:49:20 -0400)

In an alternate history novel, Lincoln escapes assassination by John Wilkes Booth only to face impeachment, and Abigail Canner, a young black woman involved in his defense, helps investigate the murder of the president's counsel.

(summary from another edition)

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