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Abraham Lincoln by Thomas Keneally
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Abraham Lincoln (original 2003; edition 2002)

by Thomas Keneally

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181265,444 (3.4)4
Member:Luciana43
Title:Abraham Lincoln
Authors:Thomas Keneally
Info:Viking Adult (2002), Hardcover, 192 pages
Collections:Your library
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Tags:Biography

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Abraham Lincoln by Thomas Keneally (2003)

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The idea behind the “Penguin Lives” series was to select a varied collection of ~30 historical figures (from Mao Zedong to Elvis Presley) and assign them to writers with little or no experience writing biographies. The results are badly mixed: the 15 “Penguin Lives” books that I've read range from reasonably good to downright terrible.

True to form, in lieu of the numerous academic scholars and other well- qualified writers of history, to author this work the editors chose Thomas Keneally-- an Australian novelist who is mainly known for a book on which the film "Schindler's List" was based. His account of Abraham Lincoln's life is brief, conventional, and somewhat pedestrian. The facts are laid out in a straightforward fashion, in pleasant mellifluous prose that reflects the author’s talents as a writer. The biography offers no new insights (to no great surprise) but at least has the merit of not having been written from an ideological viewpoint. (Thus, in contrast to other recent works, we get no speculations about Lincoln's sexuality, no false claims of his supposed Christian beliefs, and no disreputable silliness about an assassination plot involving his own Secretary of War).

At least a few mistakes mar this work. Contrary to Keneally's account, assassin John Wilkes Booth did not climb down from the theatre balcony – he leapt over the rail, a fall of 12 feet, breaking his leg in the process. Likewise, the fatal bullet did not exit the right side of Lincoln’s head, it lodged in his brain. These are peculiar mistakes and lead the reader to wonder what other misconceptions might have crept through. Further, the work ends abruptly with Lincoln’s death, without mention of the aftermath of his death, the capture of his assassins, the fate of his plans for post- war reconstruction, or the historical legacy of his life. It’s as if the author ran out of space and chose to end the book with Stanton’s alleged words: “Now he belongs to the ages.”

Nonetheless, this work offers a serviceable if brief account of Lincoln’s life, an introduction that may well stimulate some readers to delve deeper. ( )
2 vote danielx | Sep 29, 2013 |
I agree with Tucker. The book is quick read, and puts Lincoln's person into perspective. As a high school history teacher, it helps build my appreciation of the characters and important people of American History. ( )
  lorespar | Aug 10, 2009 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0670031755, Hardcover)

This self-made man from a log cabin-the great orator, the Emancipator, the savior of the Union, the martyr-was arguably our greatest president; but it takes a master storyteller like Thomas Keneally, author of the award-winning novel that inspired the film Schindler's List, to bring alive the history behind the myth. Acclaimed for his recent Civil War biography, American Scoundrel, Keneally delves with relish-and a keen, fresh eye-into Lincoln's complicated persona.

Abraham Lincoln depicts all the amazing man's triumphs, insecurities, and crushing defeats with uncanny insight: his early poverty and the ambition that propelled him out of it; the shaping of the man and his political philosophy by youthful exposure to Christianity, slavery, and business; his tempestuous marriage and his fatherly love. We see him, elected to the presidency by a twist of fate, unswerving in the grim day-to-day conduct of the war as his vision and acumen led the country forward. Abraham Lincoln is an incisive study of a turning point in our history and a revealing portrait of its pivotal figure, his greatness etched even more clearly in this very touching human story.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:25:02 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

Abraham Lincoln--the great orator, the Emancipator, the savior of the Union, the martyr--rose from obscurity to lead the nation through its most tumultuous time. This book depicts all this amazing man's triumphs, insecurities, and crushing defeats; his early poverty and the ambition that propelled him out of it; the shaping of the man and his political philosophy by his youthful exposure to Christianity, slavery, and business; his tempestuous marriage and his fatherly love. We see him, elected to the presidency by a twist of fate, unswerving in the grim day-to-day conduct of the war as his vision and acumen led the country forward. Abraham Lincoln is an incisive study of a turning point in our history and a revealing portrait of its pivotal figure, his greatness etched more clearly in this touching human story.… (more)

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