Henry and Clara

Henry and Clara

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by Thomas Mallon
     
 

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On the evening of Good Friday, 1865, Henry Rathbone and Clara Harris joined the Lincolns in the Presidential box at Ford’s Theater, becoming eyewitnesses to one of the great tragedies of American history.
 
In this riveting novel, Thomas Mallon re-creates the unusual love story of this young engaged couple whose fateful encounter with history

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Overview

On the evening of Good Friday, 1865, Henry Rathbone and Clara Harris joined the Lincolns in the Presidential box at Ford’s Theater, becoming eyewitnesses to one of the great tragedies of American history.
 
In this riveting novel, Thomas Mallon re-creates the unusual love story of this young engaged couple whose fateful encounter with history profoundly affects the remainder of their lives. Lincoln’s assassination is only one part of the remarkable life they share, a dramatic tale of passion, scandal, heroism, murder, and madness, all based on Mallon’s deep research into the fascinating history of the Rathbone and Harris families. Henry and Clara not only tells the astonishing story of its title figures; it also illuminates the culture of nineteenth-century Victorian America: a rigid society barely concealing the suppressed impulses and undercurrents that only grew stronger as the century progressed.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Praise for Thomas Mallon's Henry and Clara:

“Amazing . . . one of the most interesting American novelists at work.”
—John Updike, The New Yorker
 
“The powerful story is superbly told. . . . You can’t ask for much more from historical fiction.”
The Washington Post Book World

“Ambitious in scope and depth . . . Mallon makes good use of sharp, disturbing twists on familiar themes.”
The New York Times Book Review
 
“A transporting, beautifully written novel as authentic in its period detail as it is in its rich characterizations.”
Entertainment Weekly

“Riveting . . . Mallon’s most polished gem to date.”
Chicago Tribune

“A pitch-perfect rendering . . . Mesmerizing and assiduously researched.”
The Philadelphia Inquirer

“A powerful reconstruction of actual events.”
New Orleans Times-Picayune

“From the footnotes of American history, Mallon has pulled authentic figures and embroidered a compelling novel.”
Booklist

“A masterly blend of fact and fiction.”
Albany Times Union

“Mallon . . . outdoes himself in this re-creation, which raises the private consequences of history to what seems their deserved status—legend.”
Publishers Weekly

“All written history is a work of imagination, but seldom is it rendered as skillfully as in Henry and Clara.”
Raleigh News and Observer

“Beautifully written, Henry and Clara is marked by tender passion, and its characters are, for all their faults, endearing.”
National Review

“A stately and elegant historical novel of classic proportions. . . . Mallon’s book is smart and engaging, and he manages to bring his characters fully alive while never allowing us to forget that they are truly creatures of another era.”
Los Angeles Times

“An imaginative alteration of events, a provocative might-have-been. . . . Some of Mallon’s finest writing goes into Henry’s letters home. . . . Triumphantly successful as a suspenseful and satisfying work of art.”
The New Criterion

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
It is a wonder that the story of Colonel and Mrs. Henry Rathbone is not etched like a fable into the American consciousness. Raised as step-siblings in the same household in the mid-19th century, weaned on American politics in Albany, N.Y., and in the nation's capital, Henry Rathbone and Clara Harris, even as teenagers, were in love. Both keen, irreverent and gifted, the fiery Clara and the brash, cynical Henry epitomized youthful passion. Henry served with distinction in the Civil War's most horrific battles, while Clara suffered in Washington, not far from the action. When peace came, the still unmarried couple availed themselves of the capital's social splendors, while Clara artfully nudged the reluctant Henry toward marriage. Befriended by the imperious Mary Lincoln, Henry and Clara were invited to accompany the President and Mrs. Lincoln to Ford's Theater on April 14, 1865. From the gun of John Wilkes Booth issued a great American tragedy--the death of a leader at the pinnacle of his career. But what attracts Mallon is the tragedy, begun simultaneously, that befell the young couple, and which took another 50 years to find closure. Henry was badly wounded by Booth's knife, and Clara, seemingly without calculation, ministered to the grieving Mary Lincoln through the next morning, leaving her fiance unattended. The guilt that each suffered--Henry, for not saving Lincoln; Clara, for abandoning Henry in order to be at the side of history--became something neither could escape, until Henry took matters into his own hands, giving peace to Clara and releasing himself into madness. Mallon, whose previous novel, Aurora 7 , dealt with conjunctions of historical moment and private consequence, outdoes himself in this re-creation, which raises the private consequences of history to what seems their deserved status--legend. Optioned to Scripps-Howard for TV miniseries. (Aug . )
Library Journal
Maj. Henry Rathbone and his fiance, Clara Harris, sat with President and Mrs. Lincoln in the box at Ford's Theater on the fateful evening of April 15, 1865. Rathbone, knifed by the escaping John Wilkes Booth, lay close to death himself for several days. Mallon's novel is based upon the couple's lives in the wake of this pivotal event. Well written and with a fine eye for the politics of Civil War times, this book will please the history buff. However, the story lacks a sense of adventure and romance, largely because of an imbalance in the portrayal of the main characters. Fully and believably depicted, Clara Harris becomes someone the reader can genuinely care about; Henry Rathbone isn't, and doesn't. In the first half he is physically distant from the action; later, he is physically present but emotionally withdrawn. For larger fiction collections only.-James F. DeRoche, Alexandria, Va.
School Library Journal
YA-This novel details the lives of the Rathbones, a young couple who were guests in the president's box at Ford's Theater the night of Abraham Lincoln's assassination. Although Henry and Clara, stepbrother and stepsister, overcame the objections of their socially and politically prominent family to marry, they could never escape the memories of that night at the theater; innuendo, rumor, and guilt dogged them until their lives ended by madness and murder. YAs will be fascinated by this story about ordinary people caught up in an overwhelming historical event. The author's finely drawn characters present insight into American social and family life from the mid 1800s to 1911, as well as a wonderful picture of Washington, D.C., during and after the Civil War. Also, readers will realize that our lives are driven by the sum of all the parts of our experience, including family, relationships, and the times in which we live.-Carol Clark, R.E. Lee High School, Springfield, VA
Valarie Sayers
Ambitious in scope and depth...Mallon makes good use of sharp, disturbing twists on familiar themes. -- The New York Times Book Review

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780345804761
Publisher:
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
04/23/2013
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
368
Sales rank:
330,951
Product dimensions:
5.20(w) x 8.10(h) x 1.00(d)

Meet the Author

Thomas Mallon is the author of eight novels, including Dewey Defeats Truman, Fellow Travelers, and Watergate. He is a frequent contributor to The New Yorker, The New York Times Book Review and other publications.

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