Being a history major in college, I’ve always been intrigued with our 16th President, Abraham Lincoln, and when the film LINCOLN came out recently, I rushed to the theater to see it and was enthralled and moved by this emotional drama and the insightful portrayal of not only the man but his relationships with those around him.

After seeing the movie I learned from interviews with the cast that the film was based on a small part of a novel (written by Doris Kearns Goodwin.  Having read another biography written by Ms. Goodwin years before “THE FITZGERALDS AND THE KENNEDYS: AN AMERICAN SAGA, I ran—not walked—to my local Barnes & Noble to purchase this insightful book…”

Acclaimed historian Doris Kearns Goodwin illuminates Lincoln’s political genius in this highly original work, as the one-term congressman and prairie lawyer rises from obscurity to prevail over three gifted rivals of national reputation to become president.

On May 18, 1860, William H. Seward, Salmon P. Chase, Edward Bates, and Abraham Lincoln waited in their hometowns for the results from the Republican National Convention in Chicago. When Lincoln emerged as the victor, his rivals were dismayed and angry.

Throughout the turbulent 1850s, each had energetically sought the presidency as the conflict over slavery was leading inexorably to secession and civil war. That Lincoln succeeded, Goodwin demonstrates, was the result of a character that had been forged by experiences that raised him above his more privileged and accomplished rivals. He won because he possessed an extraordinary ability to put himself in the place of other men, to experience what they were feeling, to understand their motives and desires.

It was this capacity that enabled Lincoln as president to bring his disgruntled opponents together, create the most unusual cabinet in history, and marshal their talents to the task of preserving the Union and winning the war.

We view the long, horrifying struggle from the vantage of the White House as Lincoln copes with incompetent generals, hostile congressmen, and his raucous cabinet. He overcomes these obstacles by winning the respect of his former competitors, and in the case of Seward, finds a loyal and crucial friend to see him through.

This brilliant multiple biography is centered on Lincoln’s mastery of men and how it shaped the most significant presidency in the nation’s history.

No wonder Ms. Goodwin is a Pulitzer Prize winner! I’ve never read a biographical/historical novel that has so mesmerized me.  

No wonder Ms. Goodwin is a Pulitzer Prize winner! I’ve never read a biographical/historical novel that has so mesmerized me.  Not only does she bring such depth to one’s understanding of the life and times of President Lincoln and the brilliant cast of individuals he chose for his cabinet; but she does it in such a way that one can’t help but desperately long for a man …. for a group of men like this to rise up once again in the United States of America.  Even though I knew how the story would end, I still couldn’t help but sob like a baby at the great loss this country sustained when his life was cut short by an assassin.


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About the Reviewer

Sue Dever
Susan, a History major, minoring in English in school, has always found reading to be one of her most favorite things to do. Curling up on the couch with her two labradoodles on either side of her with a good book is her ideal day. That is when she is not being a mother, grandmother, Vice President of the Board of Directors for her local Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Center. She is a retired Administrator with the Department of the Navy. Her administrative skills have been put to the test these past few years as she has juggled some very personnel issues, the death of her beloved husband and best friend; the cold case investigation and subsequent murder trial of her step daughter who went missing in 1996, all the while playing a major role in helping a struggling organization get back on the right track so that it can assist victims of rape and domestic violence in her community. Through the dark days her faith sustains her and left her stronger, knowing God is not finished with her yet.