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Lincoln by Gore Vidal
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Showing 1-5 of 33 (next | show all)
This novel did not jive for me. It felt technical, forced, and dull. The characters seemed to lose their importance the more they populated the book and the entire feel, flow, and importance of the book felt diluted the longer that it went on. Not a good book-- do not recommend. ( )
  DanielSTJ | May 5, 2019 |
This book started slow, but ended up being quite a lot of fun. Vidal brings the characters, and the time period, to life. Much of it is superficial, because there is so much going on. And one might quibble about just which events Vidal chose to directly describe and which to skip over. The perspective of Lincoln, so often from another character looking in, gives the novel a "West Wing" feeling. ( )
  breic | Apr 14, 2019 |
Lincoln is the cornerstone of Gore Vidal's fictional American chronicle, which includes Burr, 1876, Washington, D.C., Empire, and Hollywood. It opens early on a frozen winter morning in 1861, when President-elect Abraham Lincoln slips into Washington, flanked by two bodyguards. The future president is in disguise, for there is talk of a plot to murder him. During the next four years there will be numerous plots to murder this man who has sworn to unite a disintegrating nation. Isolated in a ramshackle White House in the center of a proslavery city, Lincoln presides over a fragmenting government as Lee's armies beat at the gates. In this profoundly moving novel, a work of epic proportions and intense human sympathy, Lincoln is observed by his loved ones and his rivals. The cast of characters is almost Dickensian: politicians, generals, White House aides, newspapermen, Northern and Southern conspirators, amiably evil bankers, and a wife slowly going mad. Vidal's portrait of the president is at once intimate and monumental, stark and complex, drawn with the wit, grace, and authority of one of the great historical novelists. With a new Introduction by the author.
  MLJLibrary | May 1, 2018 |
(20) I am not sure why I haven't read Vidal before given my predilection for realistic historic fiction. This was a nice follow-up to 'Lincoln in the Bardo' and all my Civil War reading from years past. This was Lincoln's presidency from his inauguration on the eve of the Civil War until his assassination. It is predominantly narrated by John Hay who was his personal secretary. There were also parts narrated by David Herndon who is a young DC resident with Confederate sympathies who ultimately takes part in the assassination.

This novel is meaty and narrates the underbelly of Lincoln's decision-making and the political machinations he had to go through to avoid usurpation of his power. There were many plots to make him a puppet - of his ambitious Cabinet members, of Congress, even at times of his wife's shopoholic tendency. He is definitely NOT white-washed in this. Some blurbs suggested this book rattled and divided historians - I guess far from the image we have of him as a great emancipator - he was more about expediency and keeping the Union together and was decidedly not an abolitionist. Despite his mild manners, he usually got his way by being a brilliant politician and expert in human nature. His plan was to colonize Central America with the freed slaves and to reimburse Southern slave owners for the tribulations caused by the Emancipation Proclamation. And his suspension of habeas corpus is surely not expected work of the 'Honest Abe' the high school history books present. Nevertheless, his humanity and generosity of spirit shines through. He was indeed a fascinating man and to me the closest thing to a legend in our young country.

In terms of the writing - it was pretty dense but fairly engaging. There was a bit of an annoying habit of switching POV's without much warning - practically in the same paragraph and this was disarming and made me put the book down at times. Occasionally the details and names got a bit too much and I would lose track go who was who. But overall - a great historical fiction read and I will seek out more in this author's American Chronicle Series in the future. ( )
  jhowell | Apr 15, 2018 |
Very good historical fiction, but it took me a while to finish this one about Lincoln. When I read historical fiction, the less I know about events, the more intriguing the novel tends to be. We all pretty much know the basics about Lincoln, so this was not really a page-turner for me.

Next up in historical order of Vidal's Narrative of Empire series is 1876, which I'm actually currently reading and enjoying far more -- it seems better written overall, too. ( )
  ValerieAndBooks | Oct 17, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 33 (next | show all)
As Vidal intended it to be, the work is literal, solid, and reverent. It is somber, for its subject is somber. Like Vidal himself, observers at the time saw Lincoln's obsession with funny stories as a homely screen behind which the sphinx sheltered his true face from the savageries of the time, savageries which were strangely organic to him and which grew as it were from his person. But the assiduity of Lincoln has a stodginess to it as well, as if the awesome subject has defeated all whimsy. Again, if Burr and 1876 had not prepared the reader, it would be hard to associate this novel with the dancing boy of American letters.
added by SnootyBaronet | editThe New Republic, Thomas Keneally
 
'Rebirth to his nation' is probably, knowing Mr Vidal's cinematic background, a deliberate device to evoke the 14th Amendment, the carpetbaggers and the Klu Klux Klan. The interesting, or Vidalian, things are often on the margin in this novel, and all the rest is history sedulously followed and minimally dramatized. It is a novel not of great battles but of telegrams about them arriving at the White House...

Lincoln belongs to that popular and very American pseudo-fictional genre which Mr Vidal, concentrating particularly on Mr Wouk, condescendingly accepts as wholesome if simplistic teaching but condemns for pretending to be a kind of literature. Irving Stone has written on Michelangelo, Freud and Darwin in much the same way ('Sighing, he lighted a fresh cigar, and wrote his title: The Interpretation of Dreams'). James A. Michener has made a vast fortune out of blockbusting history tomes, well researched and indifferently written, which are presented as novels. There is something in the puritanical American mind which is scared of the imaginative writer but not of the pedantic one who seems to humanize facts without committing himself to the inventions which are really lies.
added by SnootyBaronet | editThe Observer, Anthony Burgess
 
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Elihu B. Washburne opened his gold watch.
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In politics, as in love, opposites attract, and the misunderstandings that ensue tend to be as bitter and, as in love, as equally terminal.
It is my task always to know, particularly when I don’t.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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A historical novel recounts the events of Lincoln's presidency after his arrival in Washington, D.C. in 1861.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0375708766, Paperback)

Lincoln is a masterwork of historical fiction, in which Gore Vidal combines a comprehensive knowledge of Civil War America with 20th-century literary technique, probing the minds and motives of the men surrounding Abraham Lincoln, including personal secretary John Hay and scheming cabinet members William Seward and Salmon P. Chase, as well as his wife, Mary Todd. It is a book monumental in scope that never loses sight of the intimate and personal in its depiction of the power struggles that accompanied Lincoln's efforts to preserve the Union at all costs--efforts in which the eradication of slavery was far from the president's main objective. As usual, there's plenty of room for Vidal's wickedly humorous deflation of American icons, including a comic interlude in a Washington bordello in which Lincoln's former law partner informs Hay that Lincoln had contracted syphilis as a young man and had, just before marrying Mary Todd, suffered what can only be described as a nervous breakdown. (Protestors should note that Vidal is only passing along what that former partner had written in his own biography of Lincoln.) Don't be intimidated by the size of Lincoln; if you like historical fiction, you should read this book at the first opportunity. --Ron Hogan

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:18:51 -0400)

(see all 7 descriptions)

The character of President Lincoln, unremittingly tested by the trials of the war years, is reflected through the eyes of the diverse and colorful denizens of Washington, including his wife Mary and his political rivals and disciples.

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