Lincoln in the Bardo

Lincoln in the Bardo

Book - 2017
Average Rating:
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The extraordinary first novel by the bestselling, Folio Prize-winning, National Book Award-shortlisted George Saunders, about Abraham Lincoln and the death of his eleven year old son, Willie, at the dawn of the Civil War The American Civil War rages while President Lincoln's beloved eleven-year-old son lies gravely ill. In a matter of days, Willie dies and is laid to rest in a Georgetown cemetery. Newspapers report that a grief-stricken Lincoln returns to the crypt several times alone to hold his boy's body. From this seed of historical truth, George Saunders spins an unforgettable story of familial love and loss that breaks free of realism, entering a thrilling, supernatural domain both hilarious and terrifying. Willie Lincoln finds himself trapped in a transitional realm - called, in Tibetan tradition, the bardo - and as ghosts mingle, squabble, gripe and commiserate, and stony tendrils creep towards the boy, a monumental struggle erupts over young Willie's soul. Unfolding over a single night, Lincoln in the Bardo is written with George Saunders' inimitable humour, pathos and grace. Here he invents an exhilarating new form, and is confirmed as one of the most important and influential writers of his generation. Deploying a theatrical, kaleidoscopic panoply of voices - living and dead, historical and fictional - Lincoln in the Bardo poses a timeless question: how do we live and love when we know that everything we hold dear must end?
Publisher: London, Bloomsbury Publishing,, 2017.
ISBN: 9781408871744
1408871742
9781408871751
Characteristics: 341 pages ; 24 cm.

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p
peachmcd
Oct 21, 2017

Saunders is a genius, and this book is a work of genius. Which is not to say everyone will love it the way I did. I read it non-stop and was done way too quickly. I loved the different voices describing the same thing (the moon, Lincoln's eyes) or event (a party, a funeral) - how difficult it is for humans to know anything surely! I loved the metaphysic of Saunders' afterlife, blending Tibetan Buddhism with C.S. Lewis and adding a dash of Saunders' own astute wit. This is a book that bears re-reading, and fully deserves every prize it has won and will win.

debwalker Oct 17, 2017

Just won the 2017 Man Booker Prize.

n
njon38
Oct 07, 2017

Without a doubt the most unique novel I've read in a long time. "Bardo" is a limbo, that place between worlds and is the place we find Willie Lincoln who died at age 11 of typhoid. When President Lincoln come to the cemetery to visit him it riles up many other spirits also in the bardo. It is about freedom and slavery, body and spirit, the civil war and the author says the novel’s "Apparent Narrative Rationale" is that it is about Abraham Lincoln. Although odd and somewhat difficult to get a handle on, it is well worth the read.

b
becker
Sep 13, 2017

This book was incredibly unique, well written and poignant. I am so glad to have read it. Despite this, it is a difficult book to recommend. Or perhaps I just don't know where to begin to explain it. The story itself is simple and sad. It is a story of the grief Lincoln experiences when his young son dies. It's the telling of the story that is interesting and unusual. Told through the many voices of the souls in the crypt where the boy lays. If you appreciate the work of George Saunders or if you are curious to read something with a unique and creative format, this book will not disappoint you.

l
ladiablesse
Sep 04, 2017

As other commentators have weighed in, this is a book that divides readers. I had listened to Saunders in interview and was captivated by his reading of a brief section at the beginning, in the voice of one of his main narrators. So I had a lot of anticipation going in... The Spoon River Anthology analogy is very apt, and if approached more as script than novel, per se, the book does gain in emotional impact.
Like another reader, I wanted to like this book more than I actually did. I found the real and fictionalized references somewhat distracting and cumbersome, hindering what was a meandering story to mid-point. And the concentrated focus on men and male grief seemed somewhat claustrophobic by the end. Inventive, yes, clever, without a doubt. But I felt its cleverness and scholarship, and like most children, I'd rather not have a magician disclose their tricks.

y
yesucan
Aug 26, 2017

I really wanted to like this book, but I found it so confusing. Hated the way the story is told and just did not enjoy it!

w
WCLSDemingLibrary
Aug 05, 2017

The way the particular Bardo of the book and all its dimensions are slowly revealed, and the characters whose stories I learn through their own confused/illusive/wandering/clear voices = an amazing feat of writing and spirit and magic. Heart, hilarity, and history. Longing and levity. I so highly recommend this book. (Now on the long list for the 2017 Man Booker prize.)

athompson10 Aug 05, 2017

Brilliant, creative, loved it. A worthy Man Booker nominee.

l
lukasevansherman
Aug 01, 2017

Well, I kinda hated his short stories and I kinda hated this novel, which about Lincoln's dead son or something. In Tibetan Buddhism, bardo is the period of existence between death and rebirth. Huh.

s
sevenup
Jul 20, 2017

I really loved this book. Of course, I love anything that Saunders writes. At first, I was really thrown off by the narrative style, but once I got accustomed to it (It's similar to a chorus in a play), I was off and running.

Saunders' writing always shows so much insight into human nature, both good and bad. This book made me laugh, and also moved me to being near tears.

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