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Lincoln at Home: Two Glimpses of Abraham Lincoln's Family Life Paperback – November 10, 2003

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Harvard's Donald, two-time Pulitzer winner and author of the standard biography Lincoln, delivers a frustratingly brief discussion of a complex subject. The mere 32 pages of large-type prose that Donald dedicates to his theme are nowhere near adequate to the task of portraying the bittersweet intensities, banal intrigues and madness that so often defined life within the Lincoln family circle. Donald's essay (previously published in The White House: The First Two Hundred Years) is based on his inaugural lecture in the Presidential Lecture Series at the White House. As such it focuses on the well-known and not always interesting details of the Lincolns' domestic life in the executive mansion: Mary overspending, young Willie and Tad cavorting and Lincoln always tolerating. The second part of this volume is a scant collection of all known letters exchanged between members of the immediate Lincoln family, written by Abraham, Mary and eldest son, Robert. The letters between Abraham and Mary have all been previously published. Like those written by Robert, they do not tell us much. They tend to be brief and are invariably businesslike, and deal with mundane matters (the purchase of clothing, schedules for arrivals and departures, etc.). The price is steep for such slim content; readers seeking more than a glimpse of the Lincoln family should consult the excellent books dedicated more fully to this theme, the most conspicuous being Jean Baker's Mary Todd Lincoln. Agent, Ike Williams, Palmer and Dodge. 4-city author tour. (Nov.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Another Lincoln book? Hold your horses. Professor Donald is the author of the well-received Lincoln, which was named Booklist's 1995 Top of the List for Nonfiction. He now follows that magisterial work with a slimmer but still important book offering more--but not redundant--information about Lincoln. In the first section, which is derived from a talk the author prepared for President George Bush for the 1990 Presidential Lecture series, Donald ushers readers on a visit to the Lincoln family during their residency at the White House. Lincoln came to the White House with scant preparatory experience to be chief executive, Mary Todd Lincoln was "unprepared to be mistress of the White House," and the White House itself, when they moved in, "had the air of a run-down, unsuccessful, third-rate hotel." How the Lincolns fared living there makes fascinating reading. The book's second section is a collection of all the known letters exchanged between Lincoln and his wife and their sons, giving the reader even more of a sense of Lincoln as family man. Brad Hooper
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; Reprint edition (November 10, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743211421
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743211420
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.3 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,437,274 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Alan Rockman on December 30, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Noted Historian Donald, the author of the classic "Lincoln" biography, has adequately captured the kindness and inner beauty of our 16th President and his love of family in this slim, but well-written volume.
The book is divided into two parts, an essay written originally as a speech before former President Bush on Lincoln's domestic life in the White House - how he and the First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln coped with the agony of war and the tragic loss of their son Willie.
The second part of the book comprises all of the known letter correspondence between President Lincoln, and his wife and sons - and vice versa. Here we find that Robert Lincoln clearly was not too thrilled about his father becoming the Republican Presidential nominee in 1860, how Abraham Lincoln clearly fussed and agonized over son's Tad's missing (but eventually found) goat, all the more poignant because of Willie's death, and the tragic fire that claimed Willie's pony (not mentioned in this book). Or how Lincoln seemingly dispassionately mentioned in his correspondence to his wife the loss of Mary Todd Lincoln's Brother-In-Law, the Confederate General Ben Hardin Helm at the battle of Chickamauga.
Donald has given us a beautifully presented and written book, a worthy gift to the Lincoln and Civil War reader - the only reason why I gave it four stars instead of five was that it is too pricey for a non fleshed-out biography, but would definitely be worth the fifth star at a bargain-based price.
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17 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Wildness VINE VOICE on November 19, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Though the book is well designed and printed on high-quality paper, it is ultimately rather thin on content.

The first half of the book, "'This Damned Old House' - the Lincolns in the White House" is a written version of a lecture Mr. Donald gave in the White House during the Bush Administration. It is an interesting glimpse into the lives of the Lincolns during the Abraham Lincoln's presidency; but, that is all it is - a glimpse. For this book version, I would like to have seen Mr. Donald flesh it out a bit and give the reader a more in depth view of the Lincolns during the presidency and the Civil War.

Once I got to the letters section of the book, I couldn't help but feel that the letters were included in total in their own section as essentially filler at the end the printed version of the lecture. Mr. Donald represents these as the total sum of correspondence between Mr. and Mrs. Lincoln and their eldest son, Robert (The included letters of Abraham Lincoln and Mary Todd Lincoln are included in their respective collected letters elsewhere - and the few to and from Robert and quick dispatches about travel arrangements, etc.) and they would have been better served if they had been intersperced in the lecture (especially an expanded version of the lecture). Many of the letters are one and two line dispatches sent via military telegraph.

Overall, I was disappointed with this well designed but rather thin offering.

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A Guide to my Rating System:

1 star = The wood pulp would have been better utilized as toilet paper.
2 stars = Don't bother, clean your bathroom instead.
3 stars = Wasn't a waste of time, but it was time wasted.
4 stars = Good book, but not life altering.
5 stars = This book changed my world in at least some small way.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Hedley Lamarr on January 4, 2005
Format: Paperback
I'm not sure what T. Rogers who gave two reviews is talking about. Is he even reviewing THIS book? Anyway, I'll have to agree with one reviewer. No matter how you look at it, this book had $$$$$$ on it. David Donald wrote probably the greatest biography of LINCOLN in the last 40 years. Why something so shallow and pricey as this? As ABBA would say "money, money, money" - David Donald has not only sold the reader short, he has sold his own ability short. Anyone that can produce some of the prior works he has on Lincoln, and then this. Hey, this book isn't that bad as a gift (which it was for me), or something in the $1.00 bargain bin, not a bad deal at all. However, don't spend your hard earned money paying $30 (insane), $10 or even $5 on this book. Its ok, but not over $1 ok. Listen, for five dollars, I'd rather be looking over my five Dollar Lincoln instead of the five dollar Lincoln book. If your ever at a $1 book sale, I recommend! If you get it as a gift read it.
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