Kristen's Reviews > Killing Lincoln: The Shocking Assassination that Changed America Forever

Killing Lincoln by Bill O'Reilly
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Sep 27, 2011

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bookshelves: historical-fiction, history, biography, firstreads
Read on October 06, 2011

It's a page-turner. I have a deep-seated bias against O'Reilly, but I knew that he had the money to get this edited right and the sense to co-author it with someone.

It reads like a B+ historical thriller, weighed down now and then with annoyances like, "The man with fourteen days to live is himself witnessing death." (Why do some writers think it's so cool to leave protagonists nameless? That was chapter one's first sentence.) O'Reilly also has a penchant for ending chapters with reminders of the assassination to come, thus chapter two ends with "The man with thirteen days left on earth is pacing"; chapter three ends with "President Lincoln has just twelve days left to live"; and chapter eighteen ends with Booth thinking about Lincoln, "who now has only five days left to live." Got it. Lincoln is definitely going to die.

There are also unexplained asides that I could only assume were pandering to O'Reilly's right-wing fans. On page 119, for instance, Lincoln's secretary of war Edwin Stanton "did more than any other to treat the South like a bastard child." OK. That would be the South that was at war with the United States? That South? How was Stanton supposed to treat the Confederate Army? On the other hand, O'Reilly notes several occasions when Grant and other Union officers and soldiers were unreasonably compassionate to Confederate soldiers, who by the war's end were pitiful indeed.

The Civil War, and especially those days in April 1865, present an unusually powerful and clear allegory of good and evil - just as World War II did. So just because other authors have already covered this ground isn't much of a criticism. A boatload of authors should be writing about this. O'Reilly and his co-author do a fine job jumping back and forth between the last marches and battles of the war; Booth's egotistical and hate-filled scheme; and Lincoln's actions and words in his last days. The maps and photos and sketches are also marvelous; my favorite is the one of Custer. I also kept flipping back to the page with the photos of six of Booth's fellow conspirators, most of them fine-looking men.

I remember a PBS program on Lincoln's assassination, and this book reminded me of that. It's pop history, history without all the details that would slow it down. It evidently has a couple errors (Lincoln, for instance, meets Grant in an Oval Office that wouldn't be created for decades), so it probably won't please those many Americans who have read hundreds of books about the Civil War. But it pleased me. Enough details were there to give it color and form and no more, and it got the important details right. I finished it less than 24 hours after I'd received it (through a first reads giveaway). And I hand it to O'Reilly - although he was careful to offer up some tidbits of anti-American flimflam, it's obvious that he sees Lincoln as a hero, a man willing to die for the love of his country - as opposed to dying for the hatred of his enemies. Lincoln left the hating to others. That comes through loud and clear in these pages. That's not something that O'Reilly's most rabid followers are likely to forgive him for.

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Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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message 1: by Barbara (new)

Barbara I'm not sure whether I'm going to read this book or not, but I have a feeling your personal digs at O'Reilly are coming not from actually watching his Fox show, The Factor, but from MSNBC hysteria or

Luckngrace How can one be unreasonably compassionate? Your LIBERAL anger is showing through your farce of a review.

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