Thursday, January 1, 2009

Book Review: The Emancipator's Wife

TitleThe Emancipator's Wife (A Novel of Mary Todd Lincoln)
AuthorBarbara Hambly
Tagsmary todd lincoln, abraham lincoln, historical fiction

Barbara Hambly won me over years ago with her Star Trek novel Ishmael, and since with her marvelous historical mystery series about Benjamin January, a free man of color in 1830s New Orleans. And the story of Mary Todd Lincoln would be interesting enough in the hands of a bad writer, which Hambly is not. So how could this book fail? Good news... it didn't. It centers around Mary Todd Lincoln's commitment as insane in 1875, and builds up the story of her life around that. What a story! Born a Southern belle in a slave-owning family, Mary long had an interest in politics that was not encouraged. Her mother died when she was young, and she did not get along well with her stepmother. She fell in love with Abraham Lincoln while staying with her sister in Springfield, Illinois, but it was a couple of years before they married. She had both physical and mental problems from youth, including migraine headaches, and was possibly bipolar. They made her life difficult, reinforced by the tragic circumstances of her life... the loss of three of her four sons, her husband's assassination while by her side. plus the horrors of the Civil War. She was even in Chicago during the Great Fire.

Hambly tells the story well, and does her best to stick to the record, but uses her imagination to fill in where the record doesn't exist. Fascinating story told by an excellent writer.
PublicationBantam (2008), Mass Market Paperback, 816 pages
Publication date2008
ISBN0553585657 / 9780553585650

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