Lincoln in the Bardo Book Review

lincoln in the bardo book reviewBook Title: Lincoln in the Bardo

Author: George Saunders

Genres:  Adult Fiction, Literary Fiction

Pub Date: 2/14/17


The captivating first novel by the best-selling, National Book Award nominee George Saunders, about Abraham Lincoln and the death of his eleven year old son, Willie, at the dawn of the Civil War.

On February 22, 1862, two days after his death, Willie Lincoln was laid to rest in a marble crypt in a Georgetown cemetery. That very night, shattered by grief, Abraham Lincoln arrives at the cemetery under cover of darkness and visits the crypt, alone, to spend time with his son’s body. 

Set over the course of that one night and populated by ghosts of the recently passed and the long dead, Lincoln in the Bardo is a thrilling exploration of death, grief, the powers of good and evil, a novel – in its form and voice – completely unlike anything you have read before. It is also, in the end, an exploration of the deeper meaning and possibilities of life, written as only George Saunders can: with humor, pathos, and grace.

After hearing such praise for this novel along with other George Saunders selections from a number of sources, I was really looking forward to breaking the spine on this selection. I even went so far as to move books down to the bottom of my stack so I could get started.

Honestly, I was so very disappointed to the point where I truly contemplated abandoning this novel and calling it quits. On paper, I should have adored Lincoln in the Bardo, with its construct of telling the plot through the beings that lived in the Georgetown cemetery along with our 16th president’s son. After all, if I love Chuck Palahniuk who writes in a far-off-the-beaten path style, this work of literary fiction should have so been my cup of tea.

I did manage to plough through until the very last page. And don’t get me wrong, it is quite thought-provoking and the themes lead you toward some soul searching. But believe that for me, I might have benefited from ‘reading’ Lincoln in the Bardo by listening. I know that the audio book is voiced by several well-known actors so I will actually give it another whirl by listening as I really believe that hearing from the characters directly would elevate my feelings on this read.

Stay tuned as I have not given up just yet.

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