“Our most controversial first lady, Mary Lincoln was reviled by her critics and few historians have treated her kindly. Lively and entertaining, Mrs. Lincoln will cause readers to rethink the stereotypes about Mary—and perhaps to question some of their beliefs about her husband as well.”
“In this remarkable book, Catherine Clinton displays an emotional depth in her understanding of Mary Lincoln that has rarely been revealed in the Lincoln literature. This engaging, wonderfully written narrative provides fresh insight into this complex woman whose intelligence and loving capacities were continually beset by insecurities.”
“Noted historian Catherine Clinton manages to enlighten readers, confirm some well-documented stories, question others and offer additional insights into one of the most complicated fist ladies in American history. . . . Clinton has allowed history to make a more fair-minded appraisal of Mary Lincoln’s life.”
“Clinton’s careful research and thoughtful presentation result in the best treatment of the troubled life of Mary Lincoln in recent memory. . . . Mary was, and continues to be, controversial, but, as Clinton submits, she remains a figure of great color, worthy of continued interest.”
Booklist (starred review)
“Clinton’s portrait is distinctive for its abiding sanity, its deft and in-depth handling of the White House years, and for the consistent quality of its prose.”
“As wife and widow of America’s greatest president, Mary Lincoln was the focus of cruel controversies in her lifetime and among historians ever since. With sensitivity and empathy, Catherine Clinton brings us the real Mary Lincoln—a tragic yet compelling figure.”
Any biographer of Mary Lincoln has a tough act to follow in Jean H. Baker's groundbreaking and definitive Mary Todd Lincoln: A Biography, published two decades ago and reissued in paperback in 2008. Queens University (Belfast) history professor Clinton (Harriet Tubman: The Road to Freedom) fails to rise to the occasion. For starters, the book seems to have no raison d'être: Clinton offers no revisionist interpretation and has uncovered no new sources. Add to this Clinton's annoying style, such as a penchant for ESP, narrating Mary Lincoln's thoughts through various key moments in her life, such as this upon the day in April, 1865, when her husband triumphantly visited the Confederate capital of Richmond: "Mary found a sense of serenity that was distinctly new and uncharacteristic ... she imagined that she might be reconciled with those alienated...." The author also too frequently paraphrases the contents of diaries and letters, without quoting them directly. Although Clinton's book provides an adequate summary of an important life, readers can find a far more than adequate rendition elsewhere. B&w illus.
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History has certainly been kinder to Abraham Lincoln than to his troubled wife, Mary Todd Lincoln. This is partly because of the animus between Mrs. Lincoln and her husband's law partner and early biographer, William Herndon; partly owing to her Southern heritage, troubling in a time of secession and civil war; and partly for the mental distress that marked her life. In this evenhanded treatment, noted historian Clinton (Queen's Univ., Belfast;
Fanny Kemble's Civil Wars) sifts through the many criticisms of Mary Lincoln to offer a sensitive reassessment that debunks unjust attacks and reveals Mrs. Lincoln's many strengths-charitableness, devotion to family and nation, unwavering love and encouragement for her beleaguered husband-alongside the mental illness and flaws of temperament for which she is better known. This biography builds on the recent scholarship of Jason Emerson ( The Madness of Mary Lincoln) and standard primary and secondary sources to provide what will undoubtedly become a standard work on Mary Todd Lincoln. Written in a style that will appeal to the general reader, Clinton's book features sufficient nuance to satisfy scholars looking for a greater interpretation of the life of this controversial historical figure. A necessary purchase for most public, school, and academic libraries. Linda V. Carlisle
"Clinton’s careful research and thoughtful presentation result in the best treatment of the troubled life of Mary Lincoln in recent memory. . . . Mary was, and continues to be, controversial, but, as Clinton submits, she remains a figure of great color, worthy of continued interest."