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Lincoln in the Bardo: A Novel by George…

Lincoln in the Bardo: A Novel (original 2017; edition 2017)

by George Saunders (Author)

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2,2321654,115 (4.02)298
Title:Lincoln in the Bardo: A Novel
Authors:George Saunders (Author)
Info:Random House (2017), Edition: First Edition ~1st Printing, 368 pages
Collections:Kindle, Read
Tags:Read 2017

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Lincoln in the Bardo: A Novel by George Saunders (2017)


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English (163)  Spanish (1)  Catalan (1)  All languages (165)
Showing 1-5 of 163 (next | show all)
Really weird to read. The short story writer made me want to go back to the beginning and read it again, knowing what I know now ( )
  KymmAC | Aug 10, 2018 |
This is a book that almost defies description. All of the action takes place in the “bardo”, the space between life and death, between heaven and hell. Abraham Lincoln’s 11 year old son Willie has died, and the ghosts that live in the bardo want to make sure he moves on to heaven safely, while Willie just wants to go back to his father. In between scenes in the bardo, Saunders uses quotes from historical documents (real or imagined, I’m not sure) to set the scene of what’s happening in the “real” world.

The novel’s construction is unusual. The quotations can go on for quite a while, but I enjoyed and appreciated them and felt like they gave a real feeling of the political and familial atmosphere of the time. The scenes in the bardo can be difficult to follow at times — there are a lot of characters, and sometimes what’s happening is obvious, other times everything takes on a very surreal quality.

I had heard great things about the audiobook, so that’s how I tackled it. It took me some time to catch on to the structure and what was happening, but once I caught on to the rhythm I didn’t find it difficult to listen to.

This was a lovely yet heartbreaking novel, especially if you are a parent. ( )
  miyurose | Aug 3, 2018 |
This seems more like a stunt than a novel, from the structure of the book to the inclusion of Abraham Lincoln. Using a farrago of voices to tell his tale was for me only interesting when the author seemed to be using actual historical citations. I liked the parallels and contradictions in the various people's opinions even on something as simple as Lincoln's eye color. The purely fictionalized bits with the ghosts were lyrical at times, but mostly served to show the practicality of plays and screenplays in putting the name of the speaker before his or her lines.

Unfortunately, most of the speakers were people I didn't really care to know. The fact that they were dead and that characters would say other characters' lines for them served to create an air of aloofness that distanced me from the characters and story events. And frankly, some of the events were pretty darn corny, especially during the ending.

At least with all the white space on every page this is a quick read. I suppose there is something just in a story about ghosts being so airy and removed and insubstantial. ( )
  villemezbrown | Jul 28, 2018 |
‘’My mother, I said. My father. They will come shortly. To collect me’’

Death is a cruel, cynical visitor. Sometimes invited, others unexpected, many more anticipated. Death is blind to age, race, religion, kindness or evilness. He does not discriminate, he takes everyone. He is the one certain thing in the life of every living creature. An unavoidable, unquestionable snatcher. However, don’t we all desire to know what happens next? Perhaps, this is what makes us so afraid, the fear of being lost forever. Whatever it may await, I hope it will be better than the Bardo. A state where souls that haven’t been set free linger, awaiting the next spirit to join their nightmarish Chorus. The Limbo, devoid of everything. A place visited by no God, no Devil. A battlefield, a community whose agony and frustration mirrors the society of the living.

This is where Willie, Abraham Lincoln’s son, finds himself shortly after he dies of a visceral fever. It is said that the great President would visit his child for many days, holding him and thus chaining him to a state where Willie cannot move on, keeping his soul in captivity. Saunders creates this monumental, extraordinary work around this incident and through Lincoln’s devastation, Willie’s uncertainty and confusion and the despair of all the trapped souls that become our guides in this horrifying journey, he weaves a tale of death, love and remembrance. I won’t comment on this experimental style, the theatrical format and the extraordinary ability to create a unique language for each narrator. For me, these elements aren’t important. What is important is the wealth of themes and issues that make the novel one of the most bizarre and fascinating experiences in the life of the reader.

‘’Many guests especially recalled the beautiful moon that shone that evening.’’

If I had to choose the one thing that made this novel so powerful, it would have to be the crystal clear way in which Saunders depicts the human soul in its kindest and worst aspects. This was obvious in the various views on Abraham Lincoln expressed by the spirits and by the extracts of the press in the era of the Civil War. Demons who desired to keep people chained because they had a different skin colour regarded him as a murderer who dragged their precious sons to war. But they said nothing of the dead sons of their ‘’property’’, the raped women, the absolute loss of any trace of human dignity they inflicted on others in their bloody plantations. As we travel through the Bardo, in the chapters that describe the various stages of Willie’s wandering, we see a nation divided by conflicting aspirations and expectations. We see the souls of criminals, prostitutes, noble born people who have come to realize that Death isn’t particularly dazzled by wealth and status. Their pain, despair and struggle for acceptance echo the universe of the living. The two realms are hardly different and while the pitiful ghosts battle with themselves to retain some sort of human identity, they also battle with each other because old habits die hard, if at all. In most of the characters, the difference to their breathing counterparts is little, they hardly regret their faults, all too eager to put the blame on someone else and lure Willie into their cold company.

Saunders writes a sublime elegy of the tremendous, frightening impact of a child’s death on the surviving family. It is a tragedy beyond words, a catastrophe that we don’t even dare to picture in our minds. The grief of good President Abraham is devastating to read, the pain of Mrs Lincoln tears through the soul. Girls that didn’t have the chance to live their love, young men who died on the battlefield, a priest who tried to fulfill his mission as best as he could, a young woman who was raped repeatedly by her master. There is so much pain and yet, the message never becomes dark or pessimistic. Even in the most brutal moments, a glimpse of hope shines through to remind us that, perhaps, if we really try to come together, to respect each other, a better world might become possible. This was Lincoln’s vision, a vision that has been viciously massacred by the majority of the presidents who have occupied the White House in recent History….Not to mention the state the world has found itself today…

Many things have been said about Lincoln In The Bardo. Some may consider it verbose, pretentious, illogical. That is understandable. Not every book is for every reader. For me, this is one of the very finest moments in Literature. Not because it won the Man Booker Prize. Many winners have come and gone and I found them mediocre, forgettable. Not because of the experimental style. Many books have served this technique well, many more will do so in the future. Technicalities don’t matter. It is a masterpiece because it pays homage to the struggles and seemingly futile causes that helped made this Creation a more tolerable place to inhabit. It is a masterpiece because it is written by an author who dived deep into the human soul, found the finest and the worst in all of us and created a tale that is ferocious, sad, haunting, generous, hopeful, tender and fragile. It’s not an easy read but who wants an easy read, anyway?

‘’If I could confer with him, I know he would approve; would tell me it is right that I should go, and come back no more. He was such a noble spirit. His heart loved goodness most.’’

My reviews can also be found on https://theopinionatedreaderblog.wordpress.com ( )
  AmaliaGavea | Jul 15, 2018 |
Brilliant! Delightful! Reads like a theatrical script which brought the characters to life, both fictional and nonfictional. ( )
  pltgsage | Jul 14, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 163 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (5 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Saunders, Georgeprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Brownstein, CarrieNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Cheadle, DonNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dennings, KatNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dunham, LenaNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hader, BillNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
July, Miranda Narratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Karr, MaryNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Offerman, NickNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sedaris, DavidNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Stiller, BenNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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For Caitlin and Alena
First words
On our wedding day I was forty-six, she was eighteen.
I will never forget those solemn moments—genius and greatness weeping over the love's lost idol.
Having never loved or been loved in that previous place, they were frozen here in a youthful state of perpetual emotional vacuity; interested only in freedom, profligacy, and high-jinks, railing against any limitation or commitment whatsoever.
In truth, we were bored, so very bored, so continually bored.
Birds being distrustful of our ilk.
Any admiration we might once have felt for their endurance had long since devolved into revulsion.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Haiku summary
Unread I hold it,
a new Saunders book is come.
My evening expands.

No descriptions found.

From the seed of historical truth that is the death of President Lincoln's beloved eleven-year-old son Willie, George Saunders spins a "story of familial love and loss that breaks free of its realistic, historical framework into a supernatural realm ... Willie Lincoln finds himself in a strange purgatory where ghosts mingle, gripe, commiserate, quarrel, and enact bizarre acts of penance. Within this transitional state--called, in the Tibetan tradition, the bardo--a monumental struggle erupts over young Willie's soul"--Amazon.com.… (more)

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