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Lincoln in the Bardo (2017)

by George Saunders

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
4,8832961,805 (3.97)468
February 1862. The Civil War is less than one year old. The fighting has begun in earnest, and the nation has begun to realize it is in for a long, bloody struggle. Meanwhile, President Lincoln's beloved eleven-year-old son, Willie, lies upstairs in the White House, gravely ill. In a matter of days, despite predictions of a recovery, Willie dies and is laid to rest in a Georgetown cemetery. Newspapers report that a grief-stricken Lincoln returned to the crypt several times alone to hold his boy's body. 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.… (more)
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» See also 468 mentions

English (289)  Dutch (3)  Spanish (2)  Catalan (1)  All languages (295)
Showing 1-5 of 289 (next | show all)
This is a book that really challenged the way I read and interpret fiction. Written in verse, this book made me slow down, soak up each sentence and take my time. There is a lot to savor in Lincoln in the Bardo – passages that were funny, disturbing, deeply poignant; all begging to be re-read again and again. Take this passage, for example, when a spirit is contemplating what his death meant to those left behind:

"What I mean to say is, we had been considerable. Had been loved. Not lonely, not lost, not freakish, but wise, each in his or her own way. Our departures caused pain. Those who had loved us sat upon their beds, heads in hand; lowered their faces to tabletops, making animal noises. We had been loved, I say, and remembering us, even many years later, people would smile, briefly gladdened at the memory."

That’s just one of many passages I marked and dog-eared to return to and contemplate. Easily my favorite read of the month! ( )
  MC_Rolon | Jun 15, 2022 |
The audiobook is wonderful. ( )
  Carmentalie | Jun 4, 2022 |
Shouldn’t have been surprised. It’s not common that award winning books are to my taste.
Literary critics enthusiastically praising the book should have been the red flag!
Not a whole lot of story when it comes down to it.
It was an interesting read overall, if only for the strange format.
Constructed from quotes and formatted like a play rather than a novel.
Quite a few characters wandering in and out with little back stories, but no real plot.
An interesting diversion, but I don’t think I am likely to read another by this author. ( )
  Sandman-1961 | Apr 26, 2022 |
A disarming surprise of a novel; never read anything like it. A simple story told in an unusual way that nonetheless swept me along with beautiful prose and rhythm. A sort of poem and play at the same time and somehow also a meditation on history with existentialist themes. Will read again. ( )
  invisiblecityzen | Mar 13, 2022 |
This is, on the one hand, a very simple story. It's about the death of Abraham Lincoln's son, Willie, in 1862, and the profound effect it had on Lincoln. But it's so much deeper than it would initially seem. Most of the story takes place in the bardo, or transitional state, after Willie's death. Willie is, in a way, not even the central focus of the story: though the action revolves around him, we rarely hear from him directly, and often don't even see him for several chapters at a time. Most of the action centers around 3 older men also in the bardo, trying to help Willie. The dialogue, and even the narration, are all laid out almost like an oral history, attributed to one of the characters (and at times, not even the character who was acting). I've never seen anything like it before, and it was a little disorienting at times, but it strangely works really well.

The other parts, not taking place in the bardo, are told as quotes from witnesses, books, and newspaper clippings, sometimes arranged to tell a cohesive story, and other times directly contradicting each other. I haven't checked all of them, but some are definitely real; my assumption, though, is that some of these sources are fictional. The way the story is told, though, it doesn't feel like it matters one way or the other.

Lincoln in the Bardo is a strange, unique story, and I don't think I'm being hyperbolic if I say it's one of Saunders' best. ( )
  briggio | Mar 1, 2022 |
Showing 1-5 of 289 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Saunders, Georgeprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Offerman, NickNarratormain authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sedaris, DavidNarratormain authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bachman, Barbara MDesignersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Brownstein, CarrieNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Cardinal, ChelseaCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Cheadle, DonNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dennings, KatNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dughet, HaspardCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dunham, LenaNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hader, BillNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
July, Miranda Narratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Karr, MaryNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pye, JohnCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Stiller, BenNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Webb, E.Cover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
Dedication
For Caitlin and Alena
First words
On our wedding day I was forty-six, she was eighteen.
Quotations
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.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
Blurbers
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February 1862. The Civil War is less than one year old. The fighting has begun in earnest, and the nation has begun to realize it is in for a long, bloody struggle. Meanwhile, President Lincoln's beloved eleven-year-old son, Willie, lies upstairs in the White House, gravely ill. In a matter of days, despite predictions of a recovery, Willie dies and is laid to rest in a Georgetown cemetery. Newspapers report that a grief-stricken Lincoln returned to the crypt several times alone to hold his boy's body. 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.

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Haiku summary
Unread I hold it,
a new Saunders book is come.
My evening expands.
(SomeGuyInVirginia)

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