Vidal doesn’t invent stories: He pulls out the stories hidden in historical documents, translates them into contemporary language, and puts them in dramatic context. He lets readers can decode the character and motivation of persons long since dead.
Vidal’s focus is Lincoln’s “White House” years. (During Lincoln’s occupancy, it was called the President’s House.)
The novel opens February, 1861 with president-elect Lincoln’s arrival in Washington, disguised in plain clothes and guarded by detective Allan Pinkerton.
The country has split over slavery.
Several “cotton republics” have already seceded from the Union.
Lincoln’s life has been threatened.
Lincoln has one overriding goal: Maintaining the unity of the states.
Vidal weaves into his narrative contrasting and conflicting impressions of Lincoln held by the people with whom he spent the most time: His personal staff, his cabinet, and the generals who he is forced to rely on to fight to save the Union.
Vidal’s writing is sparklingly clear and bubbles with humor.
Through the multiplicity of viewpoints, Vidal provides nuanced picture of President Lincoln, the politician.
Lincoln: A Novel by Gore Vidal
Random House 1st ed. 1984. 657 p.
1984 bestseller #10; my grade: A+
©2019 Linda G. Aragoni