Derek's Reviews > Mr. Lincoln's Wars: A Novel in Thirteen Stories

Mr. Lincoln's Wars by Adam Braver
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Sep 02, 2009

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While none of the stories collected in Mr. Lincoln's Wars quite live up to the phenomenal "The Sad and Familiar Ballad of Captain Carson West" (buried perplexingly in the book's latter half), Adam Braver does an admirable job of examining Abraham Lincoln's life in imaginative historical fiction. Braver approaches his subject with reverence but chooses to not paint Lincoln as the unflinchingly honest and decent man portrayed falsely in the American history books. The reactionary Goodreads reviews to this rather innocuous approach are kind of surprising and kind of sad, particularly from those dim readers offended by the swearing (!) in the book.

Lincoln is, instead, shown as a flawed and thoroughly human character, fraught with grief over a lost son and a destructive war. It's a great concept, but Braver's dialogue falls flat in some places and his description of setting leaves a little to be desired. The lack of verisimilitude in some of the scenes (Lincoln sitting by himself when a war was being fought? C'mon!) test the reader's patience, but the ambition of the work excuses some clunky phrasing and the author's apparently willful suspension of accuracy.

It's unfortunate, because Mr. Lincoln’s Wars could have been a great book. Braver's memorable descriptions of violence fit the times accordingly, and his commitment to his characters' flaws show him as an able writer of historical fiction. It's not a bad book, but I’d be surprised to hear anyone describe it as essential.

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