The House of Lincoln: Book summary and reviews of The House of Lincoln by Nancy Horan

The House of Lincoln

A Novel

by Nancy Horan

The House of Lincoln by Nancy Horan X
The House of Lincoln by Nancy Horan
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Book Summary

An unprecedented view of Lincoln's Springfield from the acclaimed and bestselling author of Loving Frank.

Nancy Horan, author of the million-copy New York Times bestseller Loving Frank, returns with a sweeping historical novel, which tells the story of Abraham Lincoln's ascendance from rumpled lawyer to U.S. president to the Great Emancipator through the eyes of a young asylum-seeker who arrives in Lincoln's home of Springfield from Madeira, Portugal.

Showing intelligence beyond society's expectations, fourteen-year-old Ana Ferreira lands a job in the Lincoln household assisting Mary Lincoln with their boys and with the hostess duties borne by the wife of a rising political star. Ana bears witness to the evolution of Lincoln's views on equality and the Union and observes in full complexity the psyche and pain of his bold, polarizing wife, Mary.

Along with her African American friend Cal, Ana encounters the presence of the underground railroad in town and experiences personally how slavery is tearing apart her adopted country. Culminating in an eyewitness account of the little-known Springfield race riot of 1908, The House of Lincoln takes readers on a journey through the historic changes that reshaped America and that continue to reverberate today.

Please be aware that this discussion guide will contain spoilers!
  1. Ana and her family immigrated from Portugal. Once in Illinois, her father seems determined to assimilate while her mother clings to her Portuguese roots (p. 7-8). Do you think Genoveva would have been happier if she'd tried to adapt to her new circumstances, as her husband insists? Do you have first-hand experience with people who've permanently moved to a new country, and if so, how did they adjust?
  2. Spencer and his brother William consider moving to Chicago (p.52), where Blacks have greater freedom, but ultimately, they decide to return to Springfield. What would you have done in their place, and why?
  3. Ana thinks to herself "That was what you did in America. You started at low wages toiling for somebody else, but with hard work, in ...

You can see the full discussion here. This discussion will contain spoilers!

Some of the recent comments posted about The House of Lincoln:

"If A can prove…that he may of right enslave B, why may not B snatch the same argument and prove equally that he may enslave A?" Why do you think Lincoln's logic failed to sway more of the population?
I think it was a combination of factors. I feel like there is always a group of people who need to feel better than someone else, and it was easy/socially acceptable to look down on Blacks at the time. I also think that those who should have ... - kimk

"That was what you did in America. You started at low wages toiling for somebody else, but with hard work, in a year or two, you could have employees working for you." How possible was this then? What about now?
Not quite as easy as it sounds! Not then probably and not now. But generation after generation of folks from around the world have come here and started as low-income workers. For some, it has been a stepping stone to a much better life. It ... - edforall

"The future depended on marriage. Marriage meant you had a plan." What do you think of this statement? Do you agree it was true at the time? How much has this changed in today’s United States?
The future depended on marriage. Marriage meant you had a plan. I do believe it was what women thought at the time. That idea certainly has changed. Women are more independent and have been for many years. I married at 21, divorced at 32. I raised my... - Maggie

Ana thinks that Lincoln "was born in a time and place where race prejudice was learned early on" yet he overcame his biases. How do you think we can identify our own prejudices, and how do we become more tolerant?
One is born without prejudice and biases but almost immediately it is learned from the home environment/ We as humans must overcome these and see the positive in other people and try to get more tolerant of others, - carriem

Ana worries that the race riot of 1908 will become a "condemned memory that will be unknown in fifty years" Do you believe shameful historical incidents do get permanently forgotten, or are they only suppressed temporarily?
I do believe shameful historical events do get forgotten. In schools the history books our children read do not tell all. The history books I read did not tell all. I had never heard of the race riots of 1908. - Maggie

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"The book's greatest strength is its unexpected examination of racism in central Illinois...[T]he shifts in focus between the two threads don't always work. But nonetheless, Horan has succeeded in illuminating an underconsidered segment of American history. By adding nuance to the history of Illinois in the years surrounding the Civil War, Horan foregrounds the era's complexity." —Kirkus Reviews

"Brimming with a rich and unforgettable array of imagined and real historical figures who helped to shape Springfield, Illinois and the nation beyond during the turbulent time of slavery and the Civil War, The House of Lincoln is storytelling at its best." ―Gail Tsukiyama, author of The Color of Air, The Samurai's Garden, and Women of the Silk

"Here, happily, is Nancy Horan doing once again what Nancy Horan does best – telling us the part of the story we don't yet know. Strong on fine detail yet cognizant of the expansive historical context, Horan's newest is wonderfully immersive, memorable, important, and pertinent. An ambitious and accomplished work." ―Karen Joy Fowler, New York Times bestselling author of We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves

"Nancy Horan's nuanced portrait of Abraham Lincoln as his thoughts on emancipation evolve and her deft, revelatory use of narrators from marginalized communities enhance this compelling, beautifully crafted novel. The House of Lincoln evokes the past to illuminate the present as only the very best historical fiction can." ―Jennifer Chiaverini, New York Times bestselling author of Mrs. Lincoln's Sisters

"What a gift Nancy Horan has for conjuring the past and bringing it vividly to life! Here, she turns her considerable talents to Lincoln's strange road to the White House and the turbulence of his presidency, illuminating lesser-known perspectives and details that resonate eerily with our contemporary times. This is top-quality literary time-travel, and the trip is well worth taking." ―Therese Fowler, New York Times bestselling author of A Well-Behaved Woman

"The gifted Nancy Horan once again brings readers into a story -- inspired by real events -- that will forever change the way they perceive famous historical figures and their times. In the captivating and important The House of Lincoln, the young Portuguese immigrant Ana is hired to help in the Springfield, Illinois home of Abraham Lincoln as the Great Emancipator is on the rise. Through Ana's relationship with Lincoln's wife Mary and her close friendship with Cal, a free Black girl, the novel explores a lesser-known aspect of a crucial historical period." ―Marie Benedict, New York Times bestselling author of The Only Woman in the Room

This information about The House of Lincoln was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. Publication information is for the USA, and (unless stated otherwise) represents the first print edition. The reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that they do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, send us a message with the mainstream reviews that you would like to see added.

Any "Author Information" displayed below reflects the author's biography at the time this particular book was published.

Reader Reviews

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Sandi

Abraham Lincoln from a new persapective...
A different take on the life of Abraham Lincoln. This story is told from the point of view of a young Portuguese refugee, Ana, who went to work for the Lincoln's as a Saturday girl. She not only looked after the children, but did some housework. As she aged she become more indispensable to Mary Todd Lincoln.

The book moves through the well known life of Lincoln, almost as an after thought. It concentrates more on his private life and how that affected Ana, his home town of Springfield and his family life in the White House. Once assassinated the story moves more to Mary, but still remains on Ana and her adult life.

Taking place in the 1840's to the 1890's the story depicts the Underground Railroad, the Springfield race riots, and the Civil War. With Illinois being my home state, I have studied a lot about Abraham Lincoln and believe that this historical fiction book was well researched. The slant of bringing in a house girl to tell the story was ingenious and made the reading from her point of view interesting.

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Author Information

Nancy Horan Author Biography

Photo: Kevin Horan

Nancy Horan is the New York Times bestselling author of Loving Frank and Under the Wide and Starry Sky. Loving Frank remained on the NYT list for over a year, has been translated into sixteen languages and received the 2009 Prize for Historical Fiction. A native Midwesterner, Horan was a teacher and journalist before turning to fiction. She lived for 25 years in Oak Park, Illinois, where she raised her two sons, and she now lives with her husband on an island in Puget Sound.

Author Interview
Link to Nancy Horan's Website

Other books by Nancy Horan at BookBrowse
  • Under the Wide and Starry Sky jacket
  • Loving Frank jacket
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