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Lincoln's Dreams by Connie Willis

Lincoln's Dreams (1987)

by Connie Willis

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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Showing 1-5 of 20 (next | show all)
I read this one on the heels of Willis' Bellwether, and once again, I enjoyed it more once it all came together in the end. ( )
  BrookeAshley | Sep 22, 2015 |
For a science fiction writer, Connie Willis does an amazing amount of historical research. So many sci-fi novels are set in the future, but hers seem to focus more on the past. And she goes to great pains to get the past right. "Black Out" and "All Clear," the first Willis novels I read, tell of historians of the future who go back to London in World War II to study the effects of the German bombings firsthand. In "Bellwether," a researcher attempts to discover how fads, like bobbed hair in the 1920s, get started.

I have just finished reading her first novel, "Lincoln's Dreams," published in 1987. Although set in the present, the story remains preoccupied with the Civil War. Jeff Johnston is a researcher for a historical novelist. For his next Civil War novel, The novelist wants answers to such questions as where Willie Lincoln was first buried, before his body was dug up and taken to Spingfield with that of his father, and what did Abraham Lincoln dream about before his assassination.

Yet Jeff gets distracted by Annie, a beautiful young woman who seems to be dreaming the dreams of Gen. Robert E. Lee. Are these dreams figments of her own vivid imagination. Are they perhaps the dreams a guilt-ridden general dreams in his grave? Or are they, like Lincoln's most famous dream of his own body lying in the White House, a warning of the future?

I can't say that I enjoyed "Lincoln's Dreams" as much as those other Willis novels. Still, more than ever, I am impressed with her research. ( )
  hardlyhardy | Jun 26, 2015 |
Some additional information for fans of this book (won't mean anything if you haven't read it): In the final chapter, Connie Willis reports how in 1906, Traveller's skeleton was put on public display by Washington & Lee University (at the instance of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, which was giving W&L a sizable donation and was thus in a position to call the tune). She doesn't mention that in 1959, when Lee Chapel was renovated, W&L seized the opportunity to take the bones and quietly stash them away. In 1971, the bones were buried outside the chapel, under a plaque.

All this is public and on Wikipedia. But I am in a position to tell you where the bones were during the 12-year gap: They were stashed away in boxes in the attic of Washington Hall, the administration building. I know because I had a friend who was both fascinated by history and very good at ingratiating himself with authority; he talked his way into the attic and took me with him. There can't be a whole lot of people alive who can say they handled Traveller's bones, but I am one of them.
  sonofcarc | Jan 31, 2015 |
This was very entertaining and easy to read. Jeff is a historical researcher for a writer of Civil War novels. One night he meets Annie at a party given by his boss. Jeff's college roommate, Richard, now works at The Sleep Institute and studies dreams. The author has begun to obsess over Lincoln's dreams and asks the roommate to come to the party so they can talk. Roommate brings Anie who is, ostensibly, under his care.

Annie's been having vivid dreams for over a year, and as she tells Jeff about them, he realizes that she's having Robert E. Lee's dreams. Richard is a stand in for the many theories (circa. 1987) about dreams; they're just the mind taking out the garbage every day, they reveal some deep, deep trauma that is too difficult to be faced while conscious. To Richard, they can never be prophetic or part of the Jungian collective subconscious.

When Annie leaves Richard's place and asks for shelter with Jeff, it's revealed that Richard has been trying to drug the dreams out of Amy, to no real great effect. Thinking Amy just needs a safe place away from the doctor and his drugs, Jeff takes her along on a research trip.

Of course, things get complicated. Richard leaves nasty phone messages on the answering machine threatening Jeff about Annie. The author, Broun, has become so obsessed with Lincoln's dreams that he very nearly goes off the deep end and chases dream "specialists" throughout California. Amy's dreams get more intense and Jeff, convinced she is actually having Robert E. Lee's dreams, loses sleep and nearly his sanity trying to keep her safe.

There's far too much reliance on the technology of a remote controlled answering machine (this is 1987, after all), not a good enough explanation for Richard's anger, or for the sudden obsession Broun has or why he keeps changing his current book even though the galleys have been sent to the printer.

There's no answer as to why Annie is actually having these dreams, although the theory is interesting and one I would have liked to have explored a bit more. Are dreams really just the mind taking out the daily garbage? Or do they mean something? Can they be prophetic? Or merely banal, filled with wishful-thinking?

Lincoln's Dreams was good, solid, weekend entertainment. ( )
1 vote AuntieClio | Aug 3, 2014 |
I love this book. Dreams. Lee. Lincoln. Modern day people obsessed (haunted. perhaps?) by the Civil War's "glorious dead". If you're into history or the Civil War, give this book a try. ( )
1 vote alsatia | May 11, 2013 |
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» Add other authors (2 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Connie Willisprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Batcheller, KeithCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Marín Trechera, RafaelTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mazzella, NicolaDesignersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Podevin, Jean-FrançoisCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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It may be that life is not man's most precious possession, after all. Certainly men can be induced to give it away very freely at times, and the terms hardly seem to make sense unless there is something about the whole business that we don't understand. Lives are spent for very insignificant things which benefit the dead not at all - a few rods of ground in a cornfield for instance, or temporary ownership of a little hill or a piece of windy pasture; and now and then they are simply wasted outright, with nobody gaining anything at all.

Bruce Catton
Mr Lincoln's Army
To Courtney and Cordelia
First words
Traveller died of lockjaw two years after Robert E. Lee died.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0553270257, Mass Market Paperback)

"A novel of classical proportions and virtues...humane and moving."–The Washington Post Book World

"A love story on more than one level, and Ms. Willis does justice to them all. It was only toward the end of the book that I realized how much tension had been generated, how engrossed I was in the characters, how much I cared about their fates."–The New York Times Book Review

For Jeff Johnston, a young historical reseacher for a Civil War novelist, reality is redefined on a bitter cold night near the close of a lingering winter. He meets Annie, an intense and lovely young woman suffering from vivid, intense nightmares. Haunted by the dreamer and her unrelenting dreams, Jeff leads Annie on an emotional odyssey through the heartland of the Civil War in search of a cure. On long-silenced battlefields their relationship blossoms–two obsessed lovers linked by unbreakable chains of history, torn by a duty that could destroy them both. Suspenseful, moving, and highly compelling, Lincoln’s Dreams is a novel of rare imaginative power.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 17:58:00 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Jeff Johnston, a young historical researcher, leads Annie through the old battlefields of the Civil War, hoping to help her find a cure for her haunting nightmares.

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