Mary

( 40 )

Overview

A fascinating and intimate novel of the life of Mary Todd Lincoln, narrated by the First Lady herself

Mary Todd Lincoln is one of history’s most misunderstood and enigmatic women. She was a political strategist, a supporter of emancipation, and a mother who survived the loss of three children and the assassination of her beloved husband. She also ran her family into debt, held seances in the White House, and was committed to an insane asylum—which is where Janis Cooke Newman’s ...

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Mary

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Overview

A fascinating and intimate novel of the life of Mary Todd Lincoln, narrated by the First Lady herself

Mary Todd Lincoln is one of history’s most misunderstood and enigmatic women. She was a political strategist, a supporter of emancipation, and a mother who survived the loss of three children and the assassination of her beloved husband. She also ran her family into debt, held seances in the White House, and was committed to an insane asylum—which is where Janis Cooke Newman’s debut novel begins. From her room in Bellevue Place, Mary chronicles her tempestuous childhood in a slaveholding Southern family and takes readers through the years after her husband’s death, revealing the ebbs and flows of her passion and depression, her poverty and ridicule, and her ultimate redemption.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
PRAISE FOR MARY

"One of those rare books that turns the reader into an admiring fan of both the author and her subject. You feel a compulsion to urge others to read it."—USA Today

"Like its protagonist, Mary is bold, happy to trample upon convention. It is also an old-fashioned pleasure to read . . . Newman daubs period detail like an Impressionist, splashing in lines that intensify her color."—The Plain Dealer (Cleveland)

From the Publisher

PRAISE FOR MARY

"One of those rare books that turns the reader into an admiring fan of both the author and her subject. You feel a compulsion to urge others to read it."—USA Today

"Like its protagonist, Mary is bold, happy to trample upon convention. It is also an old-fashioned pleasure to read . . . Newman daubs period detail like an Impressionist, splashing in lines that intensify her color."—The Plain Dealer (Cleveland)

Publishers Weekly
Abraham Lincoln's widow was committed by her son in 1875; kept awake by the bedlam of her fellow inmates, she takes up a pen. Newman, author of the memoir The Russian Word for Snow, portrays Mary Todd Lincoln (1818- 1882) as a proto-feminist: she seduces poor Illinois lawyer Lincoln; kick-starts his career; draws his attention to the slavery issue; corrects his elocution before the Lincoln-Douglas debates; and lobbies behind the scenes (she also has an affair). After the 1860 election, the narrative returns to accepted history, dominated by Mary's crushing misery after a son's death in 1862, her husband's assassination and another son's death in 1872, punctuated by lavish shopping expeditions and an occasional psychotic break. Not introspective and demonstrative, Mary presents a challenge for any historical novelist. Newman makes a good choice in telling the story through Mary's eyes and drawing readers into her perspective. Lincoln buffs can give this a pass because he comes across as a shadowy figure, but readers looking for a vivid, mostly flattering (and rather massive) account of his once-notorious spouse, whose letters are becoming more read, will not be disappointed and those who simply come upon it will be happily surprised. (Sept. 8) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Newman's first novel presents a riveting portrait of Mary Todd Lincoln. Writing in her journal while confined to Bellvue asylum, Mary alternates between recalling her past life as First Lady and detailing her current experiences in that institution. The first-person narrative and liberal use of descriptive details, perfected perhaps by Newman's extensive experience writing nonfiction, enlist the reader's sympathy for the mentally unstable Mrs. Lincoln. At the same time, we can become dismayed at her seeming lack of common sense. Her obsessions are chronicled, from compulsive shopping and fears for the safety of her loved ones, to her sexual needs. Mary's hopes, dreams, feelings, and thoughts are conveyed with depth and subtlety, but the supporting characters seem superficial. Barbara Hambly's The Emancipator's Wife is similar in subject and style, yet the two novels complement rather than duplicate each other. Newman does not emphasize Mary's addiction to opium and patent medicines, while Hambly suggests this is at the root of much of Mary's irrational behavior. The authors present differing views on the relationship between Mr. and Mrs. Lincoln, and Newman offers fewer details of Mary's life, which helps her better maintain the pace and tension of the story. Newman's nuanced portrait of Mary Todd Lincoln's personal struggles belongs in all public libraries, even if they already own the Hambly book.-Ann Fleury, Tampa-Hills-borough Cty. P.L. Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780156033473
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 10/1/2007
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 636
  • Sales rank: 617,868
  • Product dimensions: 5.30 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 1.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Janis Cooke Newman is the author of the memoir The Russian Word for Snow. She lives in northern California, where she teaches writing classes at the renowned independent bookseller Book Passage.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 40 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(22)

4 Star

(9)

3 Star

(4)

2 Star

(2)

1 Star

(3)

Your Rating:

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 40 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 17, 2008

    Who Would Have Guessed?? Great!

    This came highly recommended to me by a bookstore employee and when I looked suprised and said it wasn't my thing, she promised me it would be great. It is!! This is my first historical novel and not only has it been a terrific read as a story, but it's an informative and fascinating historical perspective. The view the author has taken of Mary Todd Lincoln really makes her HUMAN instead of Lincoln's crazy wife. She is written with passion, human frailty, and perseverance. It's enjoyable all the way through.

    11 out of 11 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 21, 2008

    Surprising, Engaging, Very Interesting

    I picked this book up on a whim, and I am so glad I did! Having never read anything about Mary Lincoln, I was fascinated by this book!. The two perspectives in the book, retrospective of her early years and life with Abraham Lincoln, and her experience in the asylum were a fascinating contrast, and a great way to tell the story. There is much controversy surrounding Mary Todd Lincoln, and by reading the many reviews, there is much controversey over this book. It is fiction, but perhaps gives a glimps of what may have gone on in her mind. I couldn't put it down!

    10 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 17, 2010

    A look into the private life of President and Mrs. Lincoln. Be prepared to be surprised when you learn of Mary's passionate personality and President Lincoln's bouts with severe depression.

    I was surprised by Mary Lincoln's passionate nature as well as her idiosyncracies and indulgences. It's as if the author was present during President and Mrs. Lincoln's lifetime and witnessed their relationship, marriage and presidency personally. Mary and President Lincoln endured a great deal of misfortune and personal loss in a time of great upheaval in this country. President Lincoln suffered from severe depression throughout his life and the weight of the war ate at him causing him to lose his health. After reading this book, it gave me a three imensional view of what the North and South suffered during the Civil War. This is a book I highly recommend. I couldn't put it down and didn't want it to end. Very well written!

    6 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 4, 2010

    Mary, Mrs. A. Lincoln

    I've read a bio of Mary Todd before, and thought she was interesting, unusual and tragic. This book of historical fiction encompases all these attributes she possessed. A good deal of her unusualness (lunacy) is based on the fact that she did not behave with a conduct befitting of a woman at that time in history. Mary was a well educated, opinionated, hands on woman, who possessed a strong passion for life. This passion, according to this book, was the cause of most of her downfall. I absolutely enjoy this book. I am 3/4 through it, and can't wait to finish it. It is well written, and a very fast and enjoyable read.

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 9, 2009

    Great read!!!!

    I absolutely adored this book! Could not put it down! I lent it out to everyone I know. I never really knew too much about Mary Todd Lincoln and although this is fiction a lot of the info about her is pretty accurate.

    5 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 9, 2009

    20th century theories applied to 19th century woman

    I enjoyed this novel, but I had to make myself finish it. The sadness, loneliness and pain in Mary Todd Lincoln's life--when I already knew what would happen at Ford's Theater later in the book---made it hard to persevere. In many ways it seemed that modern theories of the "withholding mother," sexual repression, even retail therapy were being applied to explain her actions.<BR/>This novel reminded me of Megan Chance's novel, An Inconvenient Wife in which a woman is threatened with committal to an insane asylum if she won't behave properly. It can also be compared to O'Farrell's British novel, The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox. These upper class women did not fit the mold and suffered for it.

    4 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 6, 2008

    Very Well Written

    This is the first book I've read on Mary Lincoln. Although I don't know how much of the information is factual, yet... I had a hard time putting this book down. I wasn't aware that in addition to losing her husband she also lost three sons. Who wouldn't be a little crazy. I think she did amazingly well considering her grief. The book really humanized a woman who shared her life with one of America's greatest hero's.

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 30, 2010

    Awesome

    Could not put down. The author has fantastic writing abilities to hold the readers attention. If you like the Lincoln stories this is a must read! Enjoy!

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 31, 2008

    Fun Slightly Brainly Historical Chick Lit

    My headline says it all. If you love Phillipa Gregory, check this out.

    2 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 16, 2013

    A real disservice to the Lincolns.

    I bought this book after seeing the movie "Lincoln" because, even though the book is fiction, I thought it would be based on historical facts, and I wanted to learn more about Mary. I have tossed it aside only part way through because it is worse than a Harlequin romance. The descriptions of Mary as a sex-crazed woman who seduced Abe shortly after they met because a voodoo slave predicted they would marry were too degrading to the subjects. I call this book trash.

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 15, 2013

    Well written, but hard to believe Mary seduced her husband in or

    Well written, but hard to believe Mary seduced her husband in order to force a marriage.      Also she must have been the original shopacholic  and this was also hard to believe that anyone could be so materialistic  and irresponsible in spending  so extravagantly in a time of war.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 20, 2008

    I thought this book was OUTSTANDING!

    I Loved the was the Author wrote. captivating! I don't remember ever reading a book that kept me interested all the way through. The subject was good but what a woman went through in that time period was unreal! They had know voice. I loved this book and very sad Ms.Newman has know other fiction out.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 14, 2008

    Loved It!

    It was a great read. I knew little of Mary or Abe. The book made me a huge fan of Honest Abe, what a great guy. I also went in knowing that it was a novel...not always a true story.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 5, 2008

    Hated the portrayal of Mary Lincoln

    I had to stop reading this book about 1/4 of the way through. I just could not stomach Newman's Mary Lincoln. Yes, technically, the writing is very good but the Mary Lincoln the author presents is whiny, needy, and a glutton for punishment. Not to mention the borderline nymphomania she exhibits with her reluctant husband. Perhaps Mary Lincoln displayed these personality traits in real life, but I doubt to such an extreme extent. To be fair, Newman's President Lincoln seems pretty accurate. But between the constant hopes that her oldest son would actually become affectionate and the constant attempts made by Mary to get her husband into the sack, I had to throw the book down in digust. And woven through all of the story is her flash-forwards to the mental asylum from which she is reflecting on her life. I think I'll stick to actual historical biographies next time.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 11, 2007

    A reviewer

    I really loved this great book. I couldn't put it down! A must read if you are interested in the Lincoln family, death and mourning in the Victorian era, spiritualism, and the woman in Victorian society.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 6, 2014

    SKY IS A SLUT SHE HAS A BF NAMED T

    SLUT WHAT A SLUT

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 11, 2013

    Tctctctcrcrcrctcttctctctc

    Female male &star &heart

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 24, 2013

    Excellent book. Hard to put down.

    Excellent book. Hard to put down.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 12, 2013

    Ski

    Im on. So at u wanna do? * i go get a monster* we got one more monster left.

    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 17, 2013

    Sam

    RP Titan at SL for a few minutes.

    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 40 Customer Reviews

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