James Murphy's Reviews > Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln

Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin
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's review
Mar 03, 2011

really liked it
Read from January 04 to March 03, 2011

My only other expereience with reading Doris Kearns Goodwin is the memoir of her Brooklyn childhood in which she writes about the enthusiasm she shared with her father for the Brooklyn Dodgers. I've been aware for some time of her books on FDR, the Kennedy family, and Lyndon Johnson. Team of Rivals, the only biographical and political material by her I've read, is more than just another book about Abraham Lincoln and his presidency; it's a study of Lincoln's cabinet and his relation to the men who served in it. I think it's probably essential reading for those interested in how the Civil War was prosecuted by the Uniion. In concerning itself with the relationship of Lincoln to his cabinet and how they served the government and the presidency, it also necessarily enlarges to become a political biography of each. Lincoln's presidential history is well known but the service of the others much less so, and Goodwin's focus on each individually helps to make them as three-dimensional as the president. Figures like William Seward and Gideon Welles and Edwin Stanton are familiar Civil War personalities. But lesser-known cabinet members such as Salmon Chase, Edward Bates and Montgomery Blair become just as fully vested in Goodwin's history. Her ability to bring these men and the women around them to life, her perceptive understanding of the men--military and civilian, heroes and failures alike--who served in key posts during the national crisis, and her skill in capturing the feel of the era they lived in all combine to make this an absorbing read. It's comprehensive and, I think, while written by someone whose caring for those people and their shared service to the nation can't be as intense as that for her father and probably doesn't equal their mutual interest in the Dodgers, is nevertheless the same sort of caring. And I like that.
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message 1: by Teresa (last edited Mar 03, 2011 04:47PM) (new)

Teresa My first experience of her was as one of the 'talking heads' in Ken Burns' baseball documentary. I thought she was wonderful talking about her father and baseball, perhaps because, like her father, my dad taught me how to keep score too. I have had her memoir in my possession for years now, and every spring since I've gotten it, I mean to read it, but every time I'm too (over)whelmed with whatever else I'm reading. When I saw her name come up on the update with this review, I went through the same thought process! Oh, well, maybe next year. ;)

James Murphy I remember the Burns documentary fondly. What I remember best is Dick Costas (I think it was him) saying the game was all about going home, then he said if you throw the ball out it will come back to you. I honestly don't remember Goodwin on the show. I remember her book, though, especially her writing about how her father taught her how to read box scores and to keep score so she could tell him about the game (many were in the afternoon in those days) when he got home from work. Wonderful relationship. I think she lives near Boston now--and wonder if she's a Red Sox fan.

message 3: by Teresa (new)

Teresa It was a wonderful series. I have a friend who watched it though she knew nothing nor cared nothing about baseball (she liked Burns though), and she loved the whole thing. She also fell in love with Costas while watching it :) and I do remember that quote. My favorite was Buck O'Neill. I have his book too, which I'd love to get to as well.

Yes, that's the one story I remember her telling, though she was on quite a bit, I think.

James Murphy Since you jogged my memory I think I can visualize Goodwin from the Burns series and now wonder if I remember her telling about following the Dodger games for her dad from the documentary. It would be the kind of think Burns would've latched onto and used in the final editing. His work has that wonderful quality of being American and nostalgic that way, which is part of the appeal. And of baseball, too, especially the old baseball. I also have his series on jazz but haven't watched it. Maybe one day.

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