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

Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin
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's review
Sep 08, 2007

it was amazing
Recommended for: Everyone
Read in May, 2007

This is one of the best historical non-fiction books I've ever read. Doris Kearns Goodwin, who won the Pulitzer, tells the story of perhaps the most unlikely Presidential cabinet ever assembled: that of Abraham Lincoln. He not only brought his own political rivals into the Cabinet, he brought men who would never have willingly worked together (or even been on the same planet) under any other conditions but for the national emergency of the Civil War. I think the best thing for me in this work is the portrait Goodwin provides of Abraham Lincoln. He's such a mythical figure that it's easy to lose sight of the man behind the tales. Goodwin, however, knows him well and presents him in all his flawed glory: intelligent, canny, a born politcian in that he could read people like a Druid over ancient runes, yet uncertain of himself, dark, and often weighted down by a presidential responsibility he wasn't sure he wanted. We also see how he could get caught up in the same thirst for glory that we all occasionally fall victim to (that surprised me -- he's always so "aw shucks" in other authors' portraits). We get a lot of background on his work as an Illinois lawyer, his failures in his initial political campaigns, his instinctive sense that it was better to keep those who won over him as friends...that was why he had so many of these men in his Cabinet, because he knew that, just as they had in their victorious campaigns, they could see things that he would not. (Why isn't the current president capable of that?)Above all we come to know Lincoln's marvelous, self-effacing humor so we can understand why these very different men stayed with him through all the turmoil that swirled around them. This is a terrific book and if you read it you will be so glad you did.
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