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Mr. Lincoln's Wars: A Novel in Thirteen…

Mr. Lincoln's Wars: A Novel in Thirteen Stories (2003)

by Adam Braver

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[Mr. Lincoln's Wars] by Adam Braver I really enjoyed this novel in stories told from various perspectives, set at different times before, during and immediately after the Civil War. Braver is a fine story-teller, and despite what I consider a terrible lapse in judgment (I can't imagine it was just plain ignorance) with regard to some anachronistic language usage and a couple outright gaffs that defy historical fact, I wanted to keep reading, and am quite happy to recommend this book to others. The writing is excellent, the stories are strong enough to stand alone, yet work as a whole very well, Braver has imagined moments I've not seen dealt with in literature before, and made them quite vivid. But then there's this (which I will put under a cut, just in case anyone wants to avoid knowing what I found so wrong--it's just possible not everyone would notice or object, I suppose): With regard to the language issue, characters speak in a colloquial fashion that sometimes sounds distinctly out of time; for instance, the frequent use of "okay" in speech and thought was not, I'm fairly certain, common in the 19th century. And surely, surely, Mary Todd Lincoln did not use it. I'm willing to grant that there must have been intimate moments between Lincoln and his wife, and that they may have said things to each other in those moments that would not fit with our image of them as public figures a century and a half hence. Still, I cannot believe that Mr. Lincoln ever actually used the word "sexier" to describe his wife, when whispering in her ear, as Braver has him do. As for the historical gaffs, one story has a man carrying around a letter from Lincoln, purportedly one that notified him of his son's death in battle, and included a typewritten signature line. Typewriters did not go into commercial production for several years after the end of the Civil War, and were not in use by White House staff until about 1880. And there are two scenes, one early and one in the White House, where Lincoln is drinking whisky voluntarily and quite prodigiously. History is mighty clear that he did not like the effect alcohol had on him, and therefore was a tee-totaler. These things grate. And more so because in other instances (a description of part of the autopsy on Lincoln's body, for example) it is obvious that Braver must have done some detailed research. Still, as I said, I do recommend it, and gave it 4 stars. It could have had full five with a stout-hearted editor and a little fact-checking. ( )
  laytonwoman3rd | Sep 1, 2014 |
Very interesting book. I liked how it was told from different characters. It really let you imagine all the different sides of President Lincoln. Very enjoyable, I'd reccommend it to anyone! ( )
  carmarie | Mar 20, 2009 |
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for my grandfather
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Time moves on, and each day ends with a curtain slowly being dropped, and every day seems like the one before.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 006008118X, Hardcover)

Adam Braver's debut novel, Mr. Lincoln's Wars, is a faithful execution of a bright idea. Thirteen stories with various narrators give us perspectives on Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War. We learn Mary Todd Lincoln's exhaustion and grief: "You're a pox, Abraham Lincoln, you bring tragedy to everything you touch. Kill all of the boys in this country, as well as your own." We hear from Zack Hargrove, the meanest, toughest Union soldier there was. We read an imaginary letter from a war widow to Mr. Lincoln, gloating over the death of her abusive husband. To all of these stories, Braver brings a boldly anachronistic writing style. His people speak contemporary language, and what's more, they feel contemporary (or at least post-Freudian) feelings. As Braver has it, the death of Lincoln's son defined and drove the President as much as the fight for abolition. The wildly violent Zack Hargrove had a dad who beat him, and John Wilkes Booth had father issues, too. Braver is determined to illuminate Lincoln's story with a new, more psychologically astute light. The result is carefully done and occasionally compelling, but in his efforts to expand our idea of Lincoln, Braver ends up with a strangely protracted, short-sighted view. --Claire Dederer

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:09:56 -0400)

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