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Lincoln: A Novel (Vintage International) Kindle Edition

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Length: 673 pages Word Wise: Enabled

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

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

Review

"Superb . . . a grand entertainment. . . . A plausible and human Lincoln, of us and yet beyond us." --Harold Bloom

"A portrait of America's great president that is at once intimate and public, stark and complex, and that will become for future generations the living Lincoln, the definitive Lincoln. . . . Richly entertaining . . . history lessons with the blood still hot." --The Washington Post

"[Lincoln] is in Vidal's version at once more complex, mysterious and enigmatic, more implacably courageous and, finally, more tragic than the conventional images, the marble man of the memorial. He is honored in the book." --Chicago Tribune


From the Trade Paperback edition.

Product Details

  • File Size: 1490 KB
  • Print Length: 673 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (April 13, 2011)
  • Publication Date: April 13, 2011
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B004G8P2L4
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #84,929 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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More About the Author

Gore Vidal has received the National Book Award, written numerous novels, short stories, plays and essays. He has been a political activist and as Democratic candidate for Congress from upstate New York, he received the most votes of any Democrat in a half-century.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

118 of 125 people found the following review helpful By Robert Moore HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on September 25, 2005
Format: Paperback
In the nineteenth century the historical novel enjoyed the highest possible esteem. William Thackery's historical fiction HENRY ESMOND and not VANITY FAIR was regarded by his contemporaries as his finest work, and it was routine for writers like Dickens in A TALE OF TWO CITIES and Tolstoy in WAR AND PEACE to write novels set in a different historical period. In the twentieth century, however, as novelists began more often to fictionalize their own experiences and focus on the psychological make up of their characters and historian forged a more rigorously scientific form of historical research, historical fiction suffered a sharp decrease in critical respect. To be sure, there were exceptions, whether Robert Graves writing about the Roman emperors in I, CLAUDIUS and CLAUDIUS THE GOD or in Patrick O'Brian's superb series of novels about the Royal Navy at the time of the Napoleonic Wars. But these were exceptions and not the rule and even O'Brian garnered less respect than he would have in the 19th century. All of this is to explain why Gore Vidal's superb series of novels that he calls Narratives of Empire have failed to achieve as much acclaim, as they deserve.

LINCOLN is in essence exceptionally accurate history encapsulated in the form of a novel. I have read a spate of books on Lincoln and the Civil War and I was almost never able to fault his scholarship. In a note following the conclusion of the novel he indicates that the manuscript was seen--and corrected--by no less an authority on Lincoln than David Herbert Donald, who is arguably the supreme authority on Lincoln of this age. But accuracy would be an empty thing if the narrative were not enlivened by Vidal's remarkable skills as a writer.
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37 of 43 people found the following review helpful By C. Collins on April 3, 2005
Format: Paperback
If I could give this book 15 stars, I certainly would. It is the finest political novel by an American writer. It has few rivals, maybe "I, Claudius" and "Claudius the God", both by Robert Graves, are as good, but students of history, political science or leadership will find "Lincoln" to be an exception work of literary art.

There are several reasons why I so strongly recommend this book.

First, this novel demonstrates exceptionally well the balance between self interests and loyalty, as exemplified in the Lincoln cabinet. Salmon Chase, the Secretary of the Treasury, and William Seward, the Secretary of State are finely portrayed characters. They both were positioning themselves in the Lincoln presidency to succeed him. This required careful political skills to appear supportive but make every move in regard to self interests. The passages where Lincoln wins over William Seward into a real honest partnership are masterful and my admiration for Seward soared. Salmon Chase on the other hand continues to play a careful game of undermining the President behind his back while playing the loyal servant to his face. The passage where Chase is eventually confronted by Lincoln, who was never fooled in the first place, is a wonderful example of the careful interpersonal chess moves required in political life.

Second, the novel does a wonderful job of demonstrating how difficult it is get someone to follow orders and do the job right. Lincoln remains totally frustrated with his generals, especially the handsome, charming General McClellan, with his own political ambitions. The man refused to engage the enemy. Lincoln eventually fires him and promotes General Grant. Mrs.
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25 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Robin Friedman HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 8, 2007
Format: Paperback
In his 1984 historical novel "Lincoln", Gore Vidal has written with great insight about our sixteenth president, his cabinet, his family, his enemies, and the Civil War Era. Lengthy though the book is, the writing is crisp and eloquent. It held my attention throughout. The book is part of a series of novels by Vidal exploring the history of the United States.

In writing historical novels, it is difficult to tell where fact ends and fiction begins. This is particularly the case in dealing with a complex figure such as Lincoln whose life and political legacy remain controversial and subject to many interpretations. Controversial matters that Vidal addresses in his novel include Lincoln's attitude towards African-Americans and the Reconstruction policy that Lincoln might have pursued if he had lived. Vidal's book shows careful study of Lincoln's life and the Civil War era. He uses the resources uniquely available to the novelist to good advantage by probing the thought processes and feelings of his characters where historical evidence is lacking. I found the portrait of Lincoln compelling, but it is important to remember that Vidal is writing a novel.

Vidal's book begins as the President-elect arrives secretly in Washington, D.C. a few days before his inaugaration to thwart a feared assassination attempt in Baltimore. In the course of the novel, passages of recollection by various characters, reliable and unreliable, cast some light on Lincoln's earlier life. The book moves carefully and slowly, with a great deal of attention given, and properly so, to the earlier period of Lincoln's presidency. Much attention is given to Washington, D.C.
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