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Abraham Lincoln [Large Print] [Hardcover]

Thomas Keneally
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)

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Book Description

May 2003 Thorndike Biography
This self-made man from a log cabin-the great orator, the Emancipator, the savior of the Union, the martyr-was arguably our greatest president; but it takes a master storyteller like Thomas Keneally, author of the award-winning novel that inspired the film Schindler's List, to bring alive the history behind the myth. Acclaimed for his recent Civil War biography, American Scoundrel, Keneally delves with relish-and a keen, fresh eye-into Lincoln's complicated persona.

Abraham Lincoln depicts all the amazing man's triumphs, insecurities, and crushing defeats with uncanny insight: his early poverty and the ambition that propelled him out of it; the shaping of the man and his political philosophy by youthful exposure to Christianity, slavery, and business; his tempestuous marriage and his fatherly love. We see him, elected to the presidency by a twist of fate, unswerving in the grim day-to-day conduct of the war as his vision and acumen led the country forward. Abraham Lincoln is an incisive study of a turning point in our history and a revealing portrait of its pivotal figure, his greatness etched even more clearly in this very touching human story.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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From Publishers Weekly

Keneally offers up a new volume in the popular Penguin Lives series of short biographies. Some writers appear to benefit from the forced brevity. Keneally, however, seems inhibited and constrained by the limitation in his life of Abraham Lincoln. Unlike his previous, lengthier nonfiction outings (notably The Great Shame and the recent American Scoundrel), his life of Lincoln reads not as a great illuminating narrative placing past events in a fresh perspective, but rather like a Cliffs Notes version of better books by such scholars as David Donald. The facts of Lincoln's life as related are both true and readable, but the author offers no new insights, no imaginative or interpretive leaps, no poetry. Keneally is at his best, perhaps, in presenting Lincoln in his final stage, a calculating and at times ruthless war leader. This is the Lincoln whom Keneally's "American scoundrel," Dan Sickles, knew best and with whom Keneally also seems to be pretty well acquainted. Still, all the other Lincolns here-the wilderness child, the prairie lawyer, the husband, the father, the fledgling politician-come across as little more than hollow robots walking doggedly from one well-known benchmark to the next, lacking that one element so essential to real life: a soul.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Abraham Lincoln was several times accused of "spirit-rapping," whereby he called on the dead to speak. Novelist and biographer Keneally has worked just such magic in his eloquent and insightful brief biography of America's most complicated subject. Like Lincoln, Keneally tells a good story, finding the right anecdote to make his case and never forgetting the moral of the tale. Keneally's Lincoln is a self-actuated farm boy made good by self-discipline, savvy instincts, wit, the wisdom acquired from courtrooms, friendships, and political huckstering-and luck. He is an individual of principle committed to promoting the self-made man through government support for economic improvements and opening a West free of slavery. Keneally recounts Lincoln's early missteps in romance, business, and politics and his self-doubts and depression as his star dimmed several times, and he concedes Lincoln's erratic course toward emancipation and a successful strategy for Union victory during the Civil War. But in the end, Keneally's Lincoln emerges almost as a "father Abraham" anointed for his great role in leading a chosen people toward redemption and their rendezvous with destiny. This is an epic compressed into a tightly written biography that all Americans might read with profit. Keneally's occasional tendency to let folklore stand as fact notwithstanding, there is no better brief introduction to Lincoln and his American dream. For all libraries.
Randall M. Miller, Saint Joseph's Univ., Philadelphia
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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ABRAHAM LINCOLN WAS BORN on a mattress of corn husks in a nest of bear rugs on the morning of February 12, a Sabbath, 1809. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Really Good Overview May 26 2004
Format:Hardcover
I'm only a casual reader of history and biographies. I didn't want to read a thousand-page work about Lincoln's extraordinary life. I only wanted an overview, some sort of work to give me a sense of the man. For my purposes, this little biography by Thomas Keneally was a success. It's brief, but it hits all of the most important points of the presidents life. It captures the contradictions and conflicts that marked Lincoln's life, and it does so with, at times, soem true lyricism. Keneally is a good writer (though his fiction such as Schindler's List is much better) and particularly over the first part of this biography, that is evident. The biography only suffers during the last half when Lincoln seems to disappear behind Keneally's depiction of the war. I don't think Lincoln's great role and conflicts during the war were aptly shown. Also, the biography ended too abruptly with no attempt at summation. I know that the Penguin Lives reach for brevity, but this is one of the shorter books in that series. Keneally could have given Lincoln another twenty pages and still been under 200 pages. Nevertheless, this biography is good, certainly serving its purpose as an overview that will answer essential questions and incite further inquiry into life of one of America's greatest presidents.
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4.0 out of 5 stars One of the better American presidents April 1 2004
Format:Hardcover
All in all, this is a reasonable but uninspired biography suitable for anyone not otherwise familiar with the heritage and life of America's greatest, or at least second-greatest, president.
History, even biography, is an examination of the past to understand the present and offer a guide for the future. On this basis, the contrast between Lincoln and modern politicians is abundantly relevant; Kenneally makes abundantly clear that Lincoln was a compromiser, a man concerned with temporary expediency of policy, a man of stubborn persistence and long-held values. Unlike today's politicians, who like bold decisive actions, he was not a man of unilateral impulsive decisions and hasty judgments.
As Kenneally makes clear, it was the Confederate leaders who recklessly and unilaterally plunged into the Civil War. Had they accepted Lincoln's compromise efforts, the Old South might still be a cotton-picking slave society; at the very least, slavery would have lasted for decades past the Emancipation Declaration of Jan. 1, 1863.
Sound familiar? Lincoln had his own "radical right" critics; instead of being ruled by their evangelical values, he remained in charge and favored gradualism. This gradualism may have been beneficial, or it may have been disastrous. Kenneally writes, "But even Lincoln began to believe, as McClellan delayed, that some Democratic generals didn't really want anything drastic to happen to the Confederacy, fearing that a great victory would encourage the administration to emancipate slaves."
Perhaps Lincoln's compromise and gradualism meant he selected "cautious" generals rather than plunge an unprepared army into disaster as happened at Bull Run on July 21, 1861. Except for U.S.
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Format:Hardcover
All in all, this is a reasonable but uninspired biography suitable for anyone not otherwise familiar with the heritage and life of America's greatest, or at least second-greatest, president.
History, even biography, is an examination of the past to understand the present and offer a guide for the future. On this basis, the contrast between Lincoln and modern politicians is abundantly relevant; Kenneally makes abundantly clear that Lincoln was a compromiser, a man concerned with temporary expediency of policy, a man of stubborn persistence and long-held values. Unlike today's politicians, who like bold decisive actions, he was not a man of unilateral impulsive decisions and hasty judgments.
As Kenneally makes clear, it was the Confederate leaders who recklessly and unilaterally plunged into the Civil War. Had they accepted Lincoln's compromise efforts, the Old South might still be a cotton-picking slave society; at the very least, slavery would have lasted for decades past the Emancipation Declaration of Jan. 1, 1863.
Sound familiar? Lincoln had his own "radical right" critics; instead of being ruled by their evangelical values, he remained in charge and favored gradualism. This gradualism may have been beneficial, or it may have been disastrous. Kenneally writes, "But even Lincoln began to believe, as McClellan delayed, that some Democratic generals didn't really want anything drastic to happen to the Confederacy, fearing that a great victory would encourage the administration to emancipate slaves."
Perhaps Lincoln's compromise and gradualism meant he selected "cautious" generals rather than plunge an unprepared army into disaster as happened at Bull Run on July 21, 1861. Except for U.S.
Read more ›
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5.0 out of 5 stars My favorite "Brief Life" so far July 26 2003
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
This was my favorite in the series so far. Of course it shortchanges the war years--but then Sandburg wrote four thick volumes on those years and even he didn't cover everything. Where this book excels is in humanizing a man who is known to most Americans mostly as an icon. It's particularly vivid on his early years. When I grew up (I was born in the 1950s), Lincoln's formative years were the stuff of legend and lore--the log cabin, the rail-splitting, the feats of strength, all that hagiography stuff. Keneally does a nice job of making those years real again, and that's what I enjoyed most.
Keneally is a nice discovery too--I'd never read anything of his before, and this book was so nicely written that I think I'll look for other things by him.
I'm really enamored of the Penguin lives series. For years biographies just got longer, and longer, and longer, until they got virtually impossible for non-specialists to read (I mean, has Dumas Malone reached the end of his Jefferson bio yet? Is it still ongoing? What is it by now, 26, 27 volumes? I had to quit after three). I'm not saying there isn't a place for that sort of biography--of course there is--but these "shorties" fill a real need too. With them, I can revisit old favorites, and also read bios of people I've never had a great deal of interest in. For instance, I just read Bobbie Ann Mason's bio of Elvis. It's virtually the first thing about Elvis I've ever read, and if it had been 300 pages there would have been no way I would have picked it up.
So, bravo to Penguin. And bravo to Keneally for this entertaining and humanizing view of Lincoln as a real person. Don't be put off by reviewers who will (inevitably) dispute the details of Keneally's portrait; this isn't the last word on Lincoln, and it isn't meant to be. It's a good read nonetheless.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Introductory Lincoln
Having not been educated in the US where veneration of Lincoln is widespread, Thomas Keneally's biography of the famed president is a breath of fresh air. Read more
Published on Dec 28 2003 by Andrew Desmond
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent brief overview
I think Thomas Keneally could make a shopping list an interesting read; he is that good a writer. Certainly there are many biographies out there about Lincoln and many studies of... Read more
Published on Nov. 10 2003 by R. BULL
4.0 out of 5 stars A concise summary of a great man in American history.
Keneally may not be as exalted a writer as others who have written about our greatest President, but he does a good job summarizing Abraham Lincoln. Read more
Published on July 27 2003 by Kevin M Quigg
5.0 out of 5 stars Best Concise Biography
This can serve as a primer in Lincoln and Civil War history. In a concise, easy to read and suspenseful tale one learns how Lincoln, coming from the most common of backgrounds,... Read more
Published on July 5 2003 by bert hirsch
2.0 out of 5 stars inadequate
This treatment of Lincoln is inadequate at best. I've read other biographies in the "Penguin Lives" series (e.g. Read more
Published on June 17 2003
5.0 out of 5 stars Easy to read and comprehend
Lincoln and the Civil War are complex subjects and Mr. Keneally did a superb job of describing both in a concise manner. Read more
Published on March 23 2003 by Sarah A. Bradford
3.0 out of 5 stars A fair effort.
It is not clear why Keneally was chosen to be the author of this bio on Lincoln. I would have thought that there would have been many other more notable and capable historians to... Read more
Published on Jan. 28 2003 by Robertomelbourne
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