Review – Mrs Lincoln by Janis Cooke Newman

 I have fond memories, as a child, of our primary school teacher reading aloud to us from a biographical novel about Abraham Lincoln but his wife, Mary, has remained a mystery for me until now.  What a fascinating woman!  Newman portrays her as a strong, independent thinking woman who loves her husband deeply yet feels frustrated at the limitations placed upon women by society.

Marrying Abraham Lincoln against the wishes of her family, Mary is much more than a pretty face, she sees past the shabby clothes and awkward manner of Abe and with her help as stylist and voice coach, he gains the confidence of more of the electorate.  Unfortunately, Lincoln’s colleagues are less tolerant of feminine influence and interference and the First Lady is frequently pushed into the wings.

As a family, the Lincolns have more than their fair share of emotional heartbreak with the deaths of 3 of their four sons.  Ironically, it is the surviving son, Robert, who has Mary committed to a lunatic asylum following her erratic behaviour and extravagant spending habits after the assasination of her husband.  By writing her story, she hopes to prove her sanity and gain her freedoom but this is no easy task in a society where women who indulge in too much reading are deemed hysterical and deranged.

This is a beautifully written account of the life of an oft  misunderstood lady – it’s an extremely readable and unputdownable novel which draws you into Mary’s eventful life including seances, civil war, slavery, political intrigue, love, family, ambition.   Some say that the term “first lady” was originally ascribed to Mary Lincoln and I like the idea of this title being bestowed on her for the first time rather than some shrinking violet.

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  1. Melody says:

    One of the things I loved about Irving Stone’s biographical novel about the Lincolns (Love is Eternal) was the chance to get to know Mary Todd a bit more. Mrs. Lincoln sounds like an interesting book as well. Thanks for the review!

  2. admin says:

    Hi Melody, thank you for visiting and thank you for mentioning the Irving Stone novel. I’ve never actually read any of his novels but this one is going straight onto my wishlist. :-)

  3. Iris says:

    I think I HAVE to read this! I love history books and especially about women.

  4. admin says:

    Iris, I think we need to do a speed reading course to get through all these fabulous books! ;-)

  5. Stephanie says:

    This sounds right up my alley!

  6. admin says:

    It’s a fabulous read, Stephanie, and deserving of a much wider readership/promotion.

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