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Henry and Clara

3.49  ·  Rating Details  ·  522 Ratings  ·  77 Reviews
Blending fact with fiction, Mallon vividly re-creates the tragic story of Henry and Clara Rathbone--the young couple who sat in the President's box on the night of Lincoln's assassination. Witnessing the event that shook the entire nation changed their lives forever, leading to guilt, madness, and eventually murder. A moving and astonishing story based on a little known ta ...more
Hardcover, 358 pages
Published August 1st 1994 by Ticknor & Fields (Houghton Mifflin) (first published 1994)
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May 23, 2009 Susan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
On April 14, 1865, an engaged couple, Henry Rathbone and Clara Harris, accepted the Lincolns' last-minute invitation to join them in their box at Ford's Theatre. For the nation, the impact of that night's tragedy would be felt at once; for Henry and Clara, the denouement of their own private tragedy occurred years later.

"Henry and Clara" follows the titular couple from their childhood in Albany, New York, where Henry's widowed, ambitious mother sets her cap at Clara's widowed father, Ira Harris,
Feb 05, 2009 Jana rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm reading this because I just finished Assassination Vacation by Sarah Vowell and she recommended it. It's about Henry Rathbone, who was sitting next to Lincoln when he was shot. It didn't bode well for the rest of his life....

Finished the book. Learned a lot (fiction, but the historical is there).
James Cooper
Dec 23, 2011 James Cooper rated it did not like it
I did not cre for this book. At times it was a little difficult to get through and at others it was almost impossible. When I finished this afternoon, I was relieved to be done with it. The chapters that contain letters back and forth are all to common and nothing about them separate's them from other books with the same type of letters in them. A lesson learned: Poor Clara waited for her love, her step-brother who came home from the war, mentally damaged. The revelation that Henry made to Clara ...more
Becky Loader
Do you ever wonder what would have happened on April 15, 1865, if General Grant and his wife Julia had been in the box at Ford's Theatre with President and Mrs. Lincoln instead of Henry Rathbone and Clara Harris? Mallon has written a very feasible fictional account of Rathbone and Harris, who were last-minute stand-ins because Mrs. Grant was pretty strongly opposed to spending any time near Mrs. Lincoln. Interesting read.
Apr 26, 2015 Strawfoot rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is good historical fiction. It is very well-researched.
Apr 15, 2009 Sue rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: bookgroupreads
I like historical fiction, especially when it is done well. Sadly, this historical fiction wasn't done well at all. It could have been a really fascinating story about the couple who was with the Lincolns at Ford's Theater, but I never felt like I knew who the characters were. The author didn't go too deeply into them. It was a classic case of telling, not showing. The beginning of the book was interesting; the end was shocking; the middle was boring.
Oct 14, 2014 Kathy rated it liked it

The normal disappointments between man and wife were a sad part of our earthly existence, to be borne with charity and understanding... What if the woman had been the one to make the plan and serve the poison? Would she not then deserve to hang, just as the man, were he the chief evildoer, surely would?... Well, if men and women were to have equality in all things, should not hanging be one of them?

Trying to get him to talk about what happened leads only to his ugly censure of everyone'
Nov 29, 2007 Graceann rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: historical fiction fans
Henry Rathbone and Clara Harris were the ill-fated couple sharing the Lincolns' box at Ford Theatre on April 14, 1865. This awful event foreshadowed many terrible things in their lives, and haunted them forever after. Difficult but compelling reading.
Apr 28, 2015 Carolyn rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I've been holding onto this book for a few years, waiting patiently to be able to read it the week of the anniversary of the Lincoln assassination. So I had unrealistic expectations. But...
This story should have read like a soap opera. Their lives were simultaneously thrilling and tragic. Henry and Clara were step-siblings, raised in the same house, who fell in love, and eventually married against the better judgment of her father.
Henry served in the Union Army, seeing action at s
Sep 14, 2012 Mary rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone who likes historical fiction
Recommended to Mary by: Library Book Sale
Henry Rathbone and Clara Harris were recently engaged to be married, when they were invited to share the Presidential box with the Lincolns at Ford's Theater on the evening of Good Friday, 1865. Henry Rathbone - the son of the mayor of Albany, Jared L. Rathbone - had joined the Union Army in 1861 and fought in the Civil War, attaining the rank of Major very quickly.

Clara Harris - a wealthy socialite from Albany, New York - was a personal friend of Mary Todd Lincoln and the daughter of Senator Ir
Dec 11, 2013 Jim rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Henry and Clara are the couple who were sharing the Lincoln's box at Ford's Theater on the night Lincoln was assassinated. They were engaged but had actually been raised together when their parents married each other when Henry was 11 and Clara 13. Henry was severely effected by his experiences in the Civil War and then the rumors and accusations that he could of done more to stop Boothe from killing the president. He became mentally and emotionally unbalanced with a negative impact on his whole ...more
Nov 03, 2015 Lew rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A Civil War veteran (Maj. Henry Rathbone, who was in the Ford's theater box with his wife, Clara, and the Lincolns on the night of the assassination),cannot forget the horrors he's seen, in which he admits taking passionate part, and cannot forgive the "old men", including Lincoln, who brought the conflict about. Post-traumatic stress disorder has been around for a very long time, and as it does so often today, ends up destroying those whom the sufferer holds most dear.
Dave Lawlor
A well told, touching love story and the burdens of life in Victorian America.

The authors technique of using correspondence to help tell the story lends a flavor of nonfiction.

He does point out 'nouns supercede adjectives and remember this is historical fiction.

Three Stars is the highest I can see myself rating historical fiction. If I change my view in the future this rating will increase.
good read...biggest problem with historical fiction is knowing which parts are true history and which are fiction....

Henry Rathbone and Clara Harris were engaged to be married, when they were invited to share the Presidential box with the Lincolns at Ford's Theater on the evening of Good Friday, 1865. When John Wilkes Booth crept into the box, the young couple became witnesses to a central tragedy in American history.

But Lincoln's assassination is only one part of this novel—for in researching
Mar 15, 2014 Valerie rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: historical
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jun 03, 2015 Neena rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
B - Step brother and step sister fall in love during the civil war. He becomes deranged and eventually kills her and tries to kill himself, leaving three children. They were in the theater box with the Lincoln's at the asassination.
I've read this before and remember enjoying it and so I picked it up again. It's the story, based on true events, of Henry Rathborn & Clara Harris, the engaged couple who were the other two people in Abraham Lincoln's box. The book begins with John Wilks Booth making his escape from Ford's Theater and then flashes back to Henry & Clara's first meeting, when Clara was ten and Henry seven. Clara's father married Henry's mother three years later and the children were raised as step-siblings ...more
Jun 10, 2015 OMalleycat marked it as did-not-finish
I wanted to read this book enough to go to some trouble to acquire a copy of it. But the standard problem with historical fiction is wondering which parts of the narrative are based on evidence and which are invented. That problem seemed particularly acute in Henry and Clara. If the author is admitting to invention, why not invent interesting main characters? Instead Henry and Clara seem one dimensional romance paper dolls being put through their paces. And if including historical fact, why not ...more
Jan 13, 2015 Sharyl rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read this some years back, but this true story has stuck with me, the way the author makes the Civil War's impact on people's lives so tragically real, even one hundred and fifty years later.
Very, very interesting book - and it's all based on the real thing. Henry and Clara were the engaged couple in the box at Ford Theater with Lincoln the night he was assassinated. While Mallon focuses his book around that incident (and rightly so), I was more interested in the fact that that one night wasn't even really the most interesting part of their lives. Whether it's their initial meeting as stepsiblings or their eventual disgrace and tragic demises, well... There was no lack of drama in t ...more
Feb 28, 2012 Tom rated it it was ok
Henry Rathbone and Clara Harris were the understudies, if you will, for Ulysses S. Grant and his wife on the night that Abraham Lincoln was assassinated at Ford's Theater. They were step-brother and step-sister. And, after that night at Ford's Theater, they became husband and wife. From this fabric is spun a surprisingly by-the-numbers piece of historical fiction. The story is well-told, but doesn't really provide any new insight into the historical figures who dot the book. And the fulcrum of t ...more
Stephanie Dahlberg
This book was was a struggle for me to complete. I thought that the information before, during and after the LIncoln assination, while fascinating, was poorly presented. Sentences chock-full of some great historical information were often convoluted and went on forever so it was hard to follow, at times. The story was mostly good so I continued. It was like some medicine I felt like I needed but it wasn't very pleasant going down. In reading some of the "professional" reviews, I was surprised th ...more
Mallen does a good job giving insight into American social and family life from the mid 1800s to 1911, as well as Washington, D. C., during and after the Civil war. The book starts out slowly, but picks up speed when the main characters, Henry and Clara Rathbone have the unfortunate luck to be guests in President Abraham Lincoln’s box at the Ford Theatre the night he’s assassinated. Because Henry was blamed for not preventing the murder, he descended into madness and violence. Despite these even ...more
Sep 12, 2015 Hpla25 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
So many emotions, very well written. I couldn't put it down!
Stacy Sigler
May 01, 2016 Stacy Sigler rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Joni Daniels
If you've read other books about the Civil War period, you will feel the familiar formal (and sometimes plodding) style of the narrative. Lots of details in this story of the couple who shared th box with Lincoln the night he was shot. The books starts with their histroy and explains how they came to be step-siblings. The middle is about the war and the Lincoln presidency. The rest of the book deal with te aftermath of the tragdy, and ends with a tragedy that, while alluded to, still comes as a ...more
Jun 29, 2010 Amy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
SUCH a good read! Lots of history surrounding this novel. It's the story of the couple who were with the Lincoln's the night Abe was killed. I couldn't stop reading this. I had never never heard anything about the other couple with them. It's a sad book, too. The tragedy of Lincoln's death was more far reaching than people probably thought. I wonder how much is "fiction", though, and how much is real. I tried to do a little research on the couple after I finished, and there isn't much on the int ...more
Connie D
I read this several years ago, and I still find myself thinking about it from time to time. An intimate view of the life of the Lincolns while in the White House from the perspective of friends/neighbors.
Dec 10, 2008 Lenoir rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this book but I found that I needed to look up some of the events/people who were mentioned because the author assumes you to already know some of his references and doesn't explain them. My favorite part of history is learning about people and how they lived so I really enjoyed learning/relearning some new things. Clara and Henry were friends of the Lincolns and were with them at Ford's theater when Abraham Lincoln was killed. They were world travelers and led a pretty interest ...more
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Thomas Mallon is a novelist, critic and director of the creative writing program at The George Washington University.

He attended Brown University as an undergraduate and earned a Master of Arts and a Ph.D. from Harvard. He received the Ingram Merrill Foundation Award in 1994 and won a Rockefeller Fellowship in 1987. Mallon taught English at Vassar College from 1979-1991.

Mallon is the author of the
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