This monster of a book gives a fascinating insight into Abraham Lincoln and the men he surrounded himself with, to achieve his goals of emancipation and ending the civil war.
For me, the strength of the book rests in Goodwin’s ability to make each member of the cabinet real and recognisable. We enter into the minds and motivations of the Lincoln’s cabinet, especially Bates, Chase and Seward. We are persuaded to care for each of these men and we get a huge insight into the mind of Lincoln. Goodwin unfolds the story slowly and carefully, but it never feels laboured, due to her skill. She never loses sight of the bigger picture, but she knows we need the details of each life to make us care.
Mary Todd Lincoln is portrayed in a less than flattering or sympathetic light, but history does prove that she was a fragile character. Lincoln’s “team of rivals” are drawn as very distinct individuals who disliked each other intensely. Lincoln’s skill was in bringing them together and getting them to work together for the “Chief”.
This book has to deal with the fact that we know the tragic ending, but it is a book more wonderful for that. In spite of our knowledge of the dreadful ending, we can rejoice in the journey towards that ending and marvel at the achievement of the great president and his band of enemies, who left their enmity aside for the greater goal. In this, Goodwin has written a hugely inspiring, yet eminently readable book.
You can reserve a copy online at South Dublin Libraries’ catalogue here.