Review by Choice Review
Noted historian Goodwin attempts the ambitious task of capturing in a single volume the complex relationship between President Abraham Lincoln and his cabinet. Her thesis, as indicated in the subtitle, is that Lincoln possessed the political genius to harness the best effort from erstwhile rivals for the presidency, cabinet members with personal animosities toward each other, and secretaries with different goals and political agendas. By succeeding in welding querulous advisers into a winning team, Lincoln demonstrated an unusual level of political acumen. Lincoln certainly possessed rare political skills, but earlier works have already discussed that fact, revealing the weakness of Goodwin's book. While this work is elegantly written and certainly readable, there is little new information in the text. Instead, Goodwin centers the book on well-known political debates (e.g., concerning the Emancipation Proclamation) and anecdotal accounts of Lincoln and the cabinet, concentrating more on personality clashes than on achieved outcomes. The result is a mass of information that fulfills the book's thesis, but neither appreciably adds to the knowledge of Lincoln's administration nor adds or detracts from Lincoln's legacy. ^BSumming Up: Optional. Undergraduate collections. S. J. Ramold Eastern Michigan University
Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.
Review by Booklist Review
Lincoln redux. Nevertheless, popular historian Goodwin offers fresh ground by which to judge the almost overdone sixteenth president. She is fascinated by the growth of Lincoln's political genius, which resulted in two rather startling situations having to do with his career. First, that despite coming from nowhere, he won the 1860 Republican nomination, snatching it from the anticipating hands of three chief contenders, all of whom were not only well known but also known to be presidential material: William Seward, senator from New York; Salmon Chase, governor of Ohio; and Edwin Bates, distinguished politician from Missouri. Second, that once Lincoln achieved the nomination and won the election, he brought his rivals into his cabinet and built them into a remarkable team to lead the Union during the Civil War, none of whom overshadowed the prairie lawyer turned president. Goodwin finds meaningful comparisons and differences in not only the four men's careers but also their personal lives and character traits. She extends her purview to the women occupying important space next to them (the wives of Lincoln, Seward, and Bates and the daughter of the widower Chase). The knowledge gained here about these three significant figures who well attended Lincoln gain for the reader an even keener appreciation of the rare individual that he was. --Brad Hooper Copyright 2005 Booklist
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review
While Goodwin's introduction is a helpful summary and explanation for why another book about Lincoln, her reading abilities are limited: Her tone is flat and dry, and her articulation is overly precise. But the introduction isn't long and we soon arrive at Richard Thomas's lovely and lively reading of an excellent book. The abridgment (from 944 pages) makes it easy to follow the narrative and the underlying theme. Pauses are often used to imply ellipses, and one is never lost. But the audio version might have been longer, for there is often a wish to know a little more about some event or personality or relationship. Goodwin's writing is always sharp and clear, and she uses quotes to great effect. The book's originality lies in the focus on relationships among the men Lincoln chose for his cabinet and highest offices: three were his rivals for the Republican presidential nomination in 1860, and each considered himself the only worthy candidate. One is left with a concrete picture of Lincoln's political genius-derived from a character without malice or jealousy-which shaped the history of our nation. One is also left with the painful sense of how our history might have differed had Lincoln lived to guide the Reconstruction. Simultaneous release with the Simon & Schuster hardcover (Reviews, Sept. 26). (Nov.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Library Journal Review
In an 1876 eulogy, Frederick Douglass famously-and foolishly-asserted that "no man can say anything that is new of Abraham Lincoln." Thirteen decades and hundreds of books later, that statement appears no closer to the truth than when Douglass uttered it. Although Lincoln may be the most studied figure in American history, there is no end to new interpretations of the man. Shenk's and Goodwin's engaging new books are impressive demonstrations of that truth. Looking closely at Lincoln's entire life, essayist Shenk examines every scrap of evidence that Lincoln suffered from chronic depression so severe that he twice came close to suicide. He argues that Lincoln not only never conquered his depression but used it to channel his energy into his political work. Shenk's thesis may not convince everyone-including Goodwin, who takes a different view-but both arguments and his evidence are compelling. His is a fascinating story and one enhanced by Richard M. Davidson's forceful reading. Highly recommended. Nearly three times longer than Shenk's book, Goodwin's study covers much of the same ground but concentrates more on Lincoln's presidency. She argues that Lincoln's success in winning the election and in building an exceptionally effective administration lay in his extraordinary ability to empathize with his rivals. Much more than a biography of Lincoln, historian Goodwin's book also closely examines the lives of Lincoln's chief opponents for the Republican nomination-Edward Bates, Salmon P. Chase, and William H. Seward-all of whom appeared better qualified to be President than he. After Lincoln persuaded the three men-as well as other strong figures-to join his cabinet, it was expected that his former rivals would dominate him. Instead, the exact opposite occurred. Suzanne Toren's narration of the unabridged version is fine, but the book's sheer length may demand a greater commitment than many listeners are willing to make. As such, the abridged edition, read by Richard Thomas, may be a better choice for most libraries.-R. Kent Rasmussen, Thousand Oaks, CA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.