Read advance reader review of Courting Mr. Lincoln by Louis Bayard, page 2 of 3

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Courting Mr. Lincoln

by Louis Bayard

Courting Mr. Lincoln by Louis Bayard X
Courting Mr. Lincoln by Louis Bayard
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  • First Published:
    Apr 2019, 352 pages

    Feb 2020, 416 pages


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There are currently 21 member reviews
for Courting Mr. Lincoln
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  • Suzette P. (Chicago, IL)
    Young Lincoln in Love
    Louis Bayard's novels are wonderfully well-written and interesting and this latest, about the triangle between a young Abraham Lincoln and two of the most important people in his life - his wife, Mary, and his good friend, Joshua Speed - is no exception. While there are references to the childhoods of each of them, and a coda at the end covering their later years, the book focuses on the time period immediately prior to Lincoln's marriage, when he was a young practicing lawyer out of Springfield, Illinois, sleeping in the same bed as his roommate, Joshua. The book is a revelation - Mary Todd is not the crazy harridan political rivals and some historians painted her but a charming and thoughtful young woman interested in politics who falls in love with the somewhat uncouth Lincoln. And Bayard's rendition of the relationship between Speed and Lincoln is fascinating - an deep yet unspoken love exists that is emotionally resonate. As an Illinoisan, I grew up going on school field trips to Springfield and New Salem and was fed Lincoln lore from his time in the state and I loved this novel. I would consider Bayard's novel a lighter companion piece to George Saunders' masterpiece, "Lincoln in the Bardo" - both books cover periods in Lincoln's life when he was affected by deep emotions, grieving and loving the people in his life. As an aside, I recently read Michelle Obama's "Becoming" in which she discusses her life with an up and coming Illinois politician and I noted comparisons between the accomplishments of Michelle and the sorts of things Mary Todd could have accomplished if she had not been limited by the historical period in which she was born. Bayard's book is superb - highly recommended.
  • Diana C. (Delray Beach, FL)
    "The ballot is stronger than the bullet."
    I am so disappointed this book was not 779 pages instead of 379 pages. Having read this author before I knew the book would be riveting, but I did not have any idea to what extent. The author's skillful use of 19th century turn of phrase and nuance of speech is perfect. His descriptions of Lincoln's disquieting social awkwardness and the not so subtle suggestion of a deeper fondness between Lincoln and Speed is so deftly interwoven in the prose, exposing the complicated intricacies of such feelings between men of a certain social standing in the mid 19th century. I especially enjoyed the way in which the author described Mary unabashedly engaging men in discussions of the day, particularly focusing on subjects that were never discussed in mixed company such as politics and current events. The story is a Greek tragedy that played itself out for all the world to see. I highly recommend this exquisitely told story.
  • Joanne V. (Towanda, PA)
    Really Good Historical Fiction
    I really, really enjoyed this book! I have never read anything by Mr. Bayard, but I had read Irving Stone's "Love Is Eternal" many years ago - it reminded me of that book. This is a much smaller book in that it covers the early years of the Lincoln/Todd relationship, but it shed more light on their complicated personalities. She was a good match for Lincoln, although he really seemed conflicted about his own needs. The author does a great job in portraying both Mary Todd and Lincoln. While I was reading this I just couldn't get Daniel Day-Lewis and Sally Field out of my mind. Thanks for the opportunity to read an early copy - it would definitely be a good book club selection.
  • Julia E. (Atlanta, GA)
    Exquisitely Written Historical Fiction
    As a quick skim through American history could show, it's often tough being First Lady; your husband's opponents are vicious while you are alive, and historians even more damning once you are dead. This is certainly true of Abraham Lincoln's wife, Mary.
    The Mary Todd Lincoln of popular lore is unsympathetic; it's hard to grasp why Lincoln married her. In this exquisitely written slice of historical fiction, Louis Bayard brings to life the 1840's social milieu of Springfield, Illinois, where brilliant, ungainly Abraham Lincoln is getting his start in politics, and pretty, plump strong-willed Mary Todd is in town looking for a husband. Using historical details with light, accurate touch, Bayard serves up a Mary that Lincoln could find attractive: intelligent, politically engaged, and socially prominent. Among other winning personalities is Joshua Speed, Lincoln's friend and confident, who smooths Lincoln's rough edges.
    Perfect fodder for book clubs in search of brilliantly crafted historical fiction.
  • Donna N. (Sherwood, OR)
    Lincoln review
    This is a delightful book about the other side of Lincoln. Having grown up in Illinois Lincoln was an especially important character in our history. The relationship with Mary Todd was always portrayed less favorably and I really liked the detail the author went to to give us another side.
  • Jane S. (Waterford, MI)
    Courting Mr. Lincoln
    Being a Lincoln fan I was really excited to be selected to read this Historical Fiction novel about the relationships between Lincoln and Mary Todd and Lincoln and his best friend Joshua Speed.

    I found it a fascinating and thought provoking yet occasionally slow read that required persistence. But that persistence paid off with the well written descriptive narrative of Louis Bayard. This allowed me to picture the life of that era in Springfield Illinois, as if I were part of it.

    I liked the back and forth between characters alternating between Mary's interactions with Lincoln and those of Joshua Speed. It allowed better insight into how the characters dealt with their feelings and relationship with Lincoln.

    Overall, I would recommend this book, especially for those fans of Lincoln, and I think it would make a great Book Club Book.
  • Barb W. (Mechanicsburg, PA)
    Courting Mr. Lincoln
    Like many Americans, the story of Abraham Lincoln has always fascinated me, especially his story before he became 'famous.' I was excited to read a book focusing on his relationship with Joshua Speed and his developing relationship with Mary Todd, who would become his wife.

    I liked that it was told in alternating points of view, as it gave us a chance to understand more about each of the characters in turn. At times, I was so wrapped up in the book that I had to remind myself that this is a work of fiction!

    I've already recommended this book to several friends who enjoy historical fiction and will continue to do so when given the opportunity.
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