The Lincolns by Daniel Mark Epstein

May 27, 2008
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The Lincolns
Portrait of a Marriage
Daniel Mark Epstein

Ballantine
5/27/2008
Hardcover/559 pages
ISBN: 978-0-345-47799-6
  The Lincolns: An intimate look at Mary Todd and Abraham Lincoln.

 

 

A great deal is known and has been written about Abraham Lincoln’s humble beginnings, his business failures, his presidency and his death. Until now, no one has put together the history of Lincoln and Mary Todd’s courtship and marriage or peered behind the historical mystique into the heart of this famous couple’s devotion. Author Daniel Mark Epstein bares the hearts and minds of the Lincolns.

Using a novelist’s sensibilities and tools, Epstein gives color and life to the spaces between the diaries, letters and historical records. Mary Todd becomes a charming and strong-willed young woman, willing to flaunt social convention and her family’s wishes to marry Lincoln, certain she has hitched her heart to a rising star who will become president. Mary Todd is ambitious, brought up on the sidelines of the political arena where history and men were being made. Epstein brings out the depth of her ambition and her desires, pointing up the character flaws that led to her descent into theft and madness.

Lincoln’s insecurities and fears and strong desire to be worthy—not only of the woman he loved and desired, but also for the country and people he served—are carefully and amply documented. What Epstein adds to the record are the tiny details and emotional colors that give flesh to the bones of history, showing insight and understanding. The Lincolns is a marvelous model of the marriage of meticulous historical detail and a compassionate sensibility that elevates Epstein’s thorough and well researched portrait far above common historical fare.

Reviewer: J. M. Cornwell

 

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