Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Lincoln” as Want to Read:
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Lincoln (Narratives of Empire #2)

4.18 of 5 stars 4.18  ·  rating details  ·  6,134 ratings  ·  363 reviews
Lincoln is the cornerstone of Gore Vidal's fictional American chronicle, which includes Burr, 1876, Washington, D.C., Empire, and Hollywood. It opens early on a frozen winter morning in 1861, when President-elect Abraham Lincoln slips into Washington, flanked by two bodyguards. The future president is in disguise, for there is talk of a plot to murder him. During the next ...more
Hardcover, 1038 pages
Published February 24th 1998 by Modern Library (first published 1984)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Lincoln, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Lincoln

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
Jeffrey Keeten
The 13th Amendment to the Constitution declared that "Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction." Formally abolishing slavery in the United States, the 13th Amendment was passed by the Congress on January 31, 1865, and ratified by the states on December 6, 1865.

In the immortal words of Joe Biden this was a “big f**king deal”.


If you
Arguably the best historical fiction book every written beating out even notables like Shaara's Killer Angels. Hell this is probably one of the top 5 books on the Civil War period. (Along with Shelby Foote's epic three volume opus, McPherson's Battle Cry of Freedom, and the aforementioned Killer Angels)

If you have the slightest interest in history, the Civil War, Lincoln or even just a beautifully constructed story of politics in a time of war read it. Meticulously researched and exquisitely put
Gore Vidal's enjoyable and masterly fictional biography of Abraham Lincoln is, according to the author, largely based on fact.

Until I read Lincoln I had a naive belief that he was a modern saint. That he was not. He is portrayed as being a brilliant politician: persistent, both ruthless as well as humane, and pragmatic.

We are introduced to him as the USA was in the process of becoming disunited and was plunging into a deadly civil war. Not only was his country disunited, but also was his Republi
I really like how Vidal writes. I read half of this novel before I watched the Lincoln movie (not the vampire hunter one :D) and I was really impressed by the amount of research that went into this book. As someone who knows very little American history, I definitely gained a lot more knowledge after reading this book.It was a long read but worth it.
This was rollicking good read, and may even contain some historical truths about Abraham Lincoln and his fellow politicos duing the turbulent era of the Civil War. Vidal draws a vivid picture of 19th century Washington - a city built on a swamp, with rudimentary facilities, but with grand aspirations. Lincoln is presented as a man of brilliant lawyerly talents, a pragmatic strategist rather than an idealistic opponent of slavery. Throughout the book, Vidal makes clear that Lincoln (alternately r ...more
As I write my review I am within the last hundred pages and last few months of Abraham Lincoln's life. In other words, Good Friday 1865 is on the horizon and both President and Mrs. Lincoln are set to go and see "Our American Cousin" at that now-fated Washingtonian landmark Ford's Theater. I have been immersing myself in all things Lincoln/Civil War in the last few months as a result of the new Spielberg film and my already having seen it twice. For as much as I cannot stop raving about the film ...more
Scott W.
Whatever hubris it takes to write a biography of Abraham Lincoln, it surely takes plenty to write a research-intensive 657-page novel that covers the entire presidency. Vidal accomplishes this compression by including a pile of exposition in dialogue without it ever quite seeming like he's doing so; perhaps famous national leaders are the only characters in fiction exempt from the rule.

Portraits of "minor" characters -- John Hay (one of Lincoln's personal secretaries) and Kate Chase (daughter o
Felisa Rosa
May 20, 2008 Felisa Rosa rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
Recommended to Felisa by: Tom Gannon
Shelves: literature, favorites

Once again, I am amazed by the breadth and depth of Vidal's knowledge. His seemingly encyclopedic grasp of the era is matched in equal parts by caustic wit and empathy. Vidal's Lincoln is at once human and monolithic, and the pages are imbued with his curious melancholy. (On a side note, one gets the feeling that Mark Ryden had read this book...)
The supporting characters are equally interesting. Mary Todd is nuanced and Vidal brilliantly tracks the evolution of Lincoln's relationship with his ci
This is not the easiest book to read. It is dense, large, and dense. But very much worth the read if you have any interest in the American Civil War or President Lincoln.

Like any good Historical novel worth it's salt, it's brilliantly researched. A lot of the things said by Lincoln in the novel were in fact recorded speech from the great President. What I love about this novel though is that you never quite know what is going through Lincoln's head. All the point of views are from his wife, his
Jenny Karraker
I really enjoyed this book. It is listed as fiction, because it is written in novel form, with dialogue that isn't quoted from specific historical documents. However, the events and characters were all real. It was intriguing to read of how disrespected Lincoln was, especially by people in his own cabinet. They often thought him a naive, backwoods simpleton who knew nothing about politics and governing. But as Barbara Gannon often says in her Civil War class at University of Central Florida, you ...more
A masterful work, very entertaining and indepth. I particularly enjoyed how Mr. Vidal portrayed Mr. Lincoln's Cabinet and how the members clashed and developed as the war progressed. It is a political thriller, and overall a book that never dulls.
I became obsessed with this book! Very rich. Wierd parallels with current happenings...
Finished the Lincoln novel by Gore Vidal, and now I am reading "A Team of Rivals" by Goodwin. I don't think I have ever done back-to-back with the same subject matter, unless it was in a series. I am only in the first chapter of the Goodwin novel, though, so hard to say how it is yet. I am enjoying seeing a fuller portrait of the characters that I just read about in Gore Vidal's novel (and in American History).

I am used to historical fiction which tends to give you facts but then carries you awa
Everyday eBook
Sep 24, 2012 Everyday eBook rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Everyday by: John Abrahams
What is it about Abraham Lincoln that so attracts authors and readers? Why have there been 15,000 books written about him -- reportedly more than have been written about any other person in world history, with the exception of Jesus Christ? And what was it about Gore Vidal, the famously acerbic author who died on July 31, 2012, that brought out so much intensity in the obituary columns? Gore Vidal's Lincoln is a good place to start looking for answers.

While Vidal wrote mysteries, plays, and tele
Gore Vidal was a huge discovery for me. Until I'd read this book, I knew only that he was related to Jackie Kennedy Onassis and and Lee Radziwill and that he was a guest on many talk shows of the 70s & 80s where other well-known guests frequently found his opinions profoundly upsetting. But there was a lot of that going on at the time. I have always admired Abraham Lincoln as our most important president (except for brief periods when I was enamored of Thomas Jefferson, Harry Truman and John ...more
After reading Team of Rivals, I have become obsessed with all things Lincoln Administration, and I began reading Vidal's novel the day before the great literary icon passed away. I found this an engrossing read, despite the Vidal-isms and some forgivable tics that were admittedly annoying (the overuse of the word "mischieviously" and some of the more obvious add-ons to scenes where subtlety would have worked better for me). I loved his Chase murmuring hymns to himself, his slightly debauched Joh ...more
First, I just read through many reviews here on Goodreads where the comment was made (over and over again), what an amazing work of non-fiction this is. I don't want to burst anyone's bubble, but this book is entitled "Lincoln: A Novel" and advises the bookseller to shelve it as Fiction/Literature. This is a novel, y'all, and it's important to know the difference. The author himself, in an afterword, makes it known that, while he stayed true to historical pieces of information as much as possibl ...more
Zev Friedman
I was really getting into this book big time. I was lugging it around with me everywhere, and at several hundred pages it was like carrying around a baby. No kindle or nook for me! It sparks interesting conversations though. How does that happen if you have a kindle? People don't see what you're reading. Anyway, people would often take notice of the huge book and make good natured remarks. Well, I think it characterized me as an intellectual!

Regarding the book, I felt like I was there, in that p
Lisa (Harmonybites)
Jun 08, 2011 Lisa (Harmonybites) rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Those Interested in American Political History
Recommended to Lisa (Harmonybites) by: The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Ultimate Reading List
A flattering blurb on the cover from Harold Bloom and one inside from Joyce Carol Oates certainly underlines this is a serious book; it's also an engaging and entertaining one, one that portrays the personalities and political machinations during the Civil War. Lincoln isn't just a celebrated American president, one considered one of the greatest in our history, he's still polarizing and controversial on both sides of the political divide. He's accused of trampling on rights from that of states ...more
I loved this book SO MUCH, I am sure my review will not do it justice. It shows a complex, nuanced version of Lincoln. It is not a book you can skim through, even though it is historical fiction - all the events and as much of the dialog that can be reconstructed from letters and speeches is accurate. And the dialog is magnificent! Lincoln comes off as the most interesting person in history, it is fascinating to feel you are a witness to history as you see him converse with his "team of rivals" ...more
Joyce Hughes
I definitely saw a new side to the Civil War after reading this book. Being Southern, I assumed everyone up North hated slavery. No one more than Lincoln, or so I had always thought... How strange it now feels to realize that the slavery issue was not the real reason the Civil War occurred. Lincoln's sole purpose was to ensure the States remained together as one Union.

I now have a lot to think about which makes this one of my better reads. I like a book that leaves me with things to think about
David Mckinnon
I am, admittedly in awe of Gore Vidal and his talent for making history come alive, and allowing one to walk with those who were formerly simply dusty characters from our past. "Lincoln" brings the horror of the Civil War to the fore and presents the problems generated as they were seen by the President and his less than stellar cabinet. Those who surrounded the President, with few exceptions, are seen to have been less than loyal and often conniving. The Generals are here as are the frustration ...more
Nov 22, 2009 Samantha rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Hisorical fiction fans
As a fan of historical fiction and an admirer of Abraham Lincoln, finding this book at my local used bookstore was a real windfall. And after reading it, I was not disappointed.

This book is fantastic. Having never read a Gore Vidal novel, I had no idea what to expect in terms of thoroughness or writing style. I found both to be very satisfying. (However, Gore's habit of switching POV from one paragraph to the next took a little getting used to.) The book begins right before Lincoln is inaugurate
I read this for book club. It's kind of long, and it's not the easiest read, but it was still interesting. The author took great care to make it authentic and true. Vidal really did his homework! There are only a couple of fictional characters in the novel, and they play a very minor role in the epilogue only. If you are into Civil War era history or historical fiction, I'm sure you'd like this book a lot. What I didn't like about the book was that there was SO MUCH war talk, political talk, and ...more
Jacob Hale
Gore Vidal prefers his "inventions" to his historical novels, and I do too -- especially Myron, Myra Breckenridge, and Kalki. But I enjoy the Narratives of Empire series for the sheer villainy of the political intrigue, the characterizations, and the breadth of research that obviously underlies the series. Vidal's cynicism seems even more pronounced in Lincoln, although I'm not sure why I have this reaction. I didn't find the characterizations as compelling in Lincoln. In particular, Vidal excel ...more
Dan Pecchenino
In lieu of a review, I will simply quote an anecdotal footnote from Christopher Hitchens' memoir, HITCH 22.

"I was once seated in a television studio with Newt Gingrich, waiting for the debate between us to get going, when the presenter made an off-air remark that was high disobliging to Gore [Vidal]. The former Republican Speaker abruptly became very prim and disapproving, and said that he would prefer not to listen to any abuse of the author of LINCOLN: a novel that he regarded as being above r
Kevin Cole
With this book, Vidal starts the flowery language phase of his historical novels. Not that that's bad, but it is a shift from how he wrote the earlier volumes.
Long before it was normal to question Lincoln as anything but a saint, Vidal was showing him as more human than not, from the points of view of different kinds of men.
The impression I got of Lincoln was that he was, like many other famous politicians, flawed and fascinating--the latter thanks to the safety of history.
The last few lines of
I bought this for it's literary merits not realizing this is the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War. This is an utterly fascinating read with sterling research to put you there in a pivotal part of American and North American history. The interspersing of fictional characters with the real life ones via cracker jack research that puts you in the muddy streets of Washington DC when the Capital building had no dome and Lincoln was sneaking into town as President elect because of death thr ...more
David Beeson
What a joy it was to re-read this novel twenty years after my first time.

Gore Vidal’s a fine writer, and he could hardly have chosen a better subject. Lincoln appears near the top of most people’s lists of best-ever US presidents, and absolutely at the top of mine. Among his many admirable features, one that strikes me most is that, as the Union was beginning to fall apart, with the South quickly towards war, he travelled into hostile territory: he went to Washington DC, sandwiched between Maryl
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Freedom
  • Love is Eternal
  • Portrait of a Novel: Henry James and the Making of an American Masterpiece
  • Lincoln: The Biography of a Writer
  • Honor's Voice: The Transformation of Abraham Lincoln
  • Abraham Lincoln
  • Rabbit is Rich; Rabbit Redux; Rabbit, Run
  • Lincoln  President-Elect: Abraham Lincoln and the Great Secession Winter, 1860-1861
  • Abraham Lincoln and the Second American Revolution
  • Mary Todd Lincoln: A Biography
  • Shrouds of Glory: From Atlanta to Nashville: The Last Great Campaign of the Civil War
  • Abraham Lincoln: A Life
  • Cain at Gettysburg
  • Shiloh
  • Mary Chesnut's Civil War
  • The Lincolns: Portrait of a Marriage
  • Count Belisarius
  • Patriotic Gore: Studies in the Literature of the American Civil War
Eugene Luther Gore Vidal was an American writer known for his essays, novels, screenplays, and Broadway plays. He was also known for his patrician manner, Transatlantic accent, and witty aphorisms. Vidal came from a distinguished political lineage; his grandfather was the senator Thomas Gore, and he later became a relation (through marriage) to Jacqueline Kennedy.

Vidal ran for political office twi
More about Gore Vidal...

Other Books in the Series

Narratives of Empire (7 books)
  • Burr
  • 1876
  • Empire
  • Hollywood
  • Washington, D.C.
  • The Golden Age

Share This Book

No trivia or quizzes yet. Add some now »