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Lincoln (Narratives of Empire #2)

4.18  ·  Rating Details ·  6,662 Ratings  ·  400 Reviews
Gore Vidal's Narratives of Empire series spans the history of the United States from the Revolution to the post-World War II years. With their broad canvas and large cast of fictional and historical characters, the novels in this series present a panorama of the American political and imperial experience as interpreted by one of its most worldly, knowing, and ironic observ ...more
Paperback, 672 pages
Published February 15th 2000 by Vintage (first published 1984)
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Best Historical Fiction
83rd out of 5,824 books — 22,288 voters
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Recommended Historical Fiction
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Community Reviews

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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
Feb 07, 2015 Reverenddave rated it it was amazing
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
Dec 25, 2014 Jason rated it really liked it
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
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
Dec 20, 2012 Rowena rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Mar 17, 2010 Andrewh rated it really liked 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
Scott W.
Jan 01, 2010 Scott W. rated it it was amazing
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 it was amazing
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
Jenny Karraker
Aug 22, 2015 Jenny Karraker rated it it was amazing
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
May 27, 2013 Louise rated it really liked it
I'd like to give this book 5 stars for the extraordinary undertaking of thought and research that it represents, but the book, while very good, is weakened by its ambition and its reliance on dialog.

I think Vidal developed insight into many of the players (Lincoln, Mary, Salmon Chase, Kate Chase, Sprague, Stanton, Seward, David, Hay...) and wanted to sketch a portrait of each one of them. This detracted from his most interesting portrait, that of Lincoln.

The characters are developed primarily th
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
Oct 06, 2015 Mitchell rated it it was amazing
Shelves: historical-fict
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.
Oct 08, 2008 Amy rated it it was amazing
I became obsessed with this book! Very rich. Wierd parallels with current happenings...
Everyday eBook
Sep 24, 2012 Everyday eBook rated it it was amazing  ·  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
Mar 30, 2009 Jude rated it it was amazing
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
Aug 20, 2012 Ashley rated it liked it
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
Feb 02, 2014 Julie rated it really liked it
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
Erik Graff
Aug 08, 2014 Erik Graff rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Vidal or Lincoln fans
Recommended to Erik by: Fin Einar Graff
Shelves: literature
I read my brother's copy of this book while visiting him, his wife and his daughter up at their home in Sawyer, Michigan during the Christmas holidays, reading it as a bedtime book. Vidal's Lincoln, like his Burr and some of his other novels is reminiscent of Bob Woodward's instant histories. Both appear to produce well-researched reconstructions of history. Both appear to invent plausible conversations.
Apr 12, 2015 Canavan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Skip Ferderber
Sep 05, 2016 Skip Ferderber rated it it was amazing
It took six weeks--six weeks!--to read Gore Vidal's masterly 700-page novel called "Lincoln" . . . and I wouldn't begrudge a moment of it.

To most Americans today, Lincoln is that graven image in the Lincoln Memorial, or "the man who freed the slaves." What a life you're missing if that's all you know of him. The late Gore Vidal didn't write a biography per se; instead he wrote a political biography of the crucial few years of his Presidency, and an in-depth analysis of his mastery of the politi
Nov 22, 2009 Samantha rated it it was amazing  ·  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
Lisa (Harmonybites)
Jun 08, 2011 Lisa (Harmonybites) rated it really liked it
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
David Mckinnon
Apr 02, 2013 David Mckinnon rated it it was amazing
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
Zev Friedman
Feb 28, 2012 Zev Friedman rated it liked it
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
Feb 18, 2013 Carla rated it it was amazing
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
Jul 26, 2012 Joyce Hughes rated it it was amazing
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
Jacob Hale
Aug 18, 2007 Jacob Hale rated it really liked it
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
Jul 21, 2009 Sariah rated it liked it
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
Dan Pecchenino
Feb 13, 2013 Dan Pecchenino rated it it was amazing
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
Feb 29, 2008 George rated it liked it
I would have liked to give this book a higher rating, but to me, Vidal seems to have greatly admired Lincoln, but he shows no real understanding of him as a human being. Lincoln was an enigma in many respects, and in a work of non-fiction that might be a more acceptible point of view. Here, in a substantial novel, it leaves the presentation with a hollow center. And it greatly subtracts from the drama of the events. I think George MacDonald Fraser managed to convey a more engaging character in h ...more
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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
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Other Books in the Series

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

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“I realize,” said Sumner, “that the press is hardly reliable.” Lincoln turned from the window; suddenly, he grinned. “Oh, yes, they are. They lie. And then they re-lie. So they are nothing if not re-lie-able.” 1 likes
“Seward appreciated the honest and open way that Stanton lied; it was the hallmark of the truly great lawyer, and demonstrated a professional mastery not unlike his own.” 0 likes
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