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May 2018: Family Drama > Decathlon: Lincoln in the Bardo - George Saunders - 3 stars

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message 1: by Jenny (new)

Jenny (jennywilliams88) | 733 comments Blurb: The extraordinary first novel by the bestselling, Folio Prize-winning, National Book Award-shortlisted George Saunders, about Abraham Lincoln and the death of his eleven year old son, Willie, at the dawn of the Civil War

The American Civil War rages while President Lincoln's beloved eleven-year-old son lies gravely ill. In a matter of days, Willie dies and is laid to rest in a Georgetown cemetery. Newspapers report that a grief-stricken Lincoln returns to the crypt several times alone to hold his boy's body.

From this seed of historical truth, George Saunders spins an unforgettable story of familial love and loss that breaks free of realism, entering a thrilling, supernatural domain both hilarious and terrifying. Willie Lincoln finds himself trapped in a transitional realm – called, in Tibetan tradition, the bardo – and as ghosts mingle, squabble, gripe and commiserate, and stony tendrils creep towards the boy, a monumental struggle erupts over young Willie's soul.

Unfolding over a single night, Lincoln in the Bardo is written with George Saunders' inimitable humour, pathos and grace. Here he invents an exhilarating new form, and is confirmed as one of the most important and influential writers of his generation. Deploying a theatrical, kaleidoscopic panoply of voices – living and dead, historical and fictional – Lincoln in the Bardo poses a timeless question: How do we live and love when we know that everything we hold dear must end?

Review: I am glad I only bought this for 99p on Kindle. I knew coming in to the book that it was full of characters, however I am completely lost when it comes to which are fictional and real (although I suspect the ones that have sources next to them are the real ones!)

I definitely enjoyed the bits with the ghost of Willie interacting with his father and other ghosts (ie the family drama!) more than the bits detailing the start of the war.

I'm glad I've read the book but in my opinion it hasn't lived up to the hype I've seen on Goodreads and Litsy, but I think part of this is because I am a UK citizen and so the American Civil War is not such a major part of my country's history.

Cross-posted to May's Decathlon folder.


message 2: by Jgrace (new)

Jgrace | 3099 comments I can definitely see this book being less relevant for someone who is not from the US. I had enough problems with it and I've taught civil war history to middle grade kids. Also, as I understand it, some of the exerpts are fictional, although many of them are real.
It was very theatrical, especially the audiobook, an amazing production.
I'm really hoping that the book will be adapted into a stage play. Or a serious opera.


message 3: by Anita (new)

Anita Pomerantz | 6733 comments I am so impressed that anyone outside the U.S. even reads this book; it is sooooo American and provides nearly no context. I loved it, but completely see how it wouldnt be broadly appealing.


message 4: by Susie (new)

Susie | 4488 comments This Aussie loved it!


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