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

Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin
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Feb 04, 09

bookshelves: lincoln
Read in January, 2009

This book doesn't need another rave review; it's been #1 on the bestseller list, and Lincoln's bicentennial has made it even more popular. It deserves the attention. It is a gigantic book, but absolutely worth reading. It's not a bio of Lincoln, it's a bio of his Cabinet, the motley crew that he cobbled together to advise him during the most turbulent time in America.

The more I read about Lincoln, the more human he seems, and yet all the more admirable for trying to overcome his faults. As stated in the title, Lincoln put together a team of rivals, people who had insulted him (Stanton called him a "damned long armed Ape" and snubbed his legal services), people who thought him stupid and undeserving (Chase), and people who got behind him simply because they thought he would be malleable (Seward). He did it because he was a man who could admit his shortcomings, who didn't mind being wrong if he could learn from it, and because he wanted the best for the nation. He knew he needed people with experience. He also knew that he needed to bring together the warring political factions of the North, if the Union was to have any chance of surviving.

For all their infighting and pettiness, the Cabinet worked well together, under the superb management of Lincoln. By the end, they all recognized that the homely railsplitter was a great man, probably the only one who could have steered the country so well during the Civil War.

Goodwin's thesis is very clear from the beginning, but somehow she manages not to be repetitive. Her writing is fluid and lively, and she is fair to even the most difficult characters. I learned an amazing amount of American history from reading this book, and the great thing about it was that it never felt like a chore.

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