Mary

Mary

3.6 30
by Janis Cooke Newman
     
 

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An engrossing novel about Mary Todd Lincoln — one of history’s most misunderstood and enigmatic women. Writing from Bellevue asylum — where the shrieks of the other inmates keep her awake at night — a famous widow can finally share the story of her life in her own words. From her tempestuous childhood in a slave-holding Southern family through… See more details below

Overview

An engrossing novel about Mary Todd Lincoln — one of history’s most misunderstood and enigmatic women. Writing from Bellevue asylum — where the shrieks of the other inmates keep her awake at night — a famous widow can finally share the story of her life in her own words. From her tempestuous childhood in a slave-holding Southern family through the opium-clouded years after her husband’s death, we are let into the inner, intimate world of this brave and fascinating woman. Intelligent and unconventional — and, some thought, mad — she held spiritualist séances in the White House, ran her family into debt with compulsive shopping, negotiated with conniving politicians, and raised her young sons in the Nation’s Capital during the bloodiest war this country has ever known. She was also a political strategist, a comfort to wounded soldiers, a supporter of emancipation, the first to be called First Lady, and a wife and mother who survived the loss of three children and the assassination of her beloved husband. Interwoven with her memories of the past, she describes life in the asylum, where the treatment for lunacy is bland food, cold baths, and near-lethal doses of chloral hydrate. It is here where we meet her friends, the anorexic Minnie Judd, who is starving herself to win the affection of her beautiful husband; and Myra Bradwell, the suffragist lawyer who helps Mary win her freedom. A dramatic tale filled with passion and depression, poverty and ridicule, infidelity and redemption, this is the unforgettable story of Mary Todd Lincoln.

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Editorial Reviews

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.
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)

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781596929227
Publisher:
MacAdam/Cage Publishing, Incorporated
Publication date:
05/22/2010
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Sales rank:
526,830
File size:
1 MB

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