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Monday, December 31, 2012

Truth in Fiction Challenge–Entry 2

Alright, talk about squeaking my final entry for the Truth in Fiction Challenge in just under the wire – challenge ends today.  I was in a race against time to get the second book in this pairing done – it was a 30+ hour audio book that I just seemed to not be making any progress in despite the hours of listening. 

Book Pair: The Lincoln Conspiracy by Timothy L. O’Brien (Fiction)
                  Lincoln by David Herbert Donald (Non-Fiction)

I have already officially reviewed The Lincoln Conspiracy (see review link above) and I will be reviewing Lincoln sometime in January.  See below for how I linked these two books together.


When I picked up The Lincoln Conspiracy I expected it to be about Lincoln – however it was set after his death and focused on the events surrounding the assassination plot.  In Lincoln by David Herbert Donald, the life of the 16th President is told in detail – ending with his death.  There is a small section regarding the lead up to the assassination – however, Donald tries to keep the scope of the book limited to what Lincoln would know – and obviously he didn’t know about the assassination.  So what tied these two books together for me?  Mostly Mary Lincoln.

Let me explain.  In The Lincoln Conspiracy, Mary Lincoln has a small, but pivotal, role.  The majority of the characters refer to her in some manner as being crazy and over-emotional.  In one scene it is explained that she regularly consults with a medium to reach out to her deceased husband and child, Willie.  This is the way I have always seen her portrayed but knew that there are two sides to each story.  In Lincoln she is a much more fleshed out human being.  When they were younger and first married, Mary was very active in Abraham’s political affairs, and while she wasn’t the most well-liked person, she certainly wasn’t crazy.  We also learn about how hard the death of her young son hit her.  She spent over a year in mourning in the White House after his death.  Then while she is still fragile her husband is killed.  I think that would be enough to send anyone over the top – I do have to feel sorry for her.  While The Lincoln Conspiracy caricatured her, Lincoln made her a real woman.  However, it is interesting to note, that in Lincoln it also addressed her visits to mediums. 

The above is what immediately drew me to tie the two books together.  However there were other small things.  Of note:

  • In passing, Donald discussed how Pinkerton was involved in keeping an eye on Lincoln at one point.  Pinkerton was a very important character in The Lincoln Conspiracy.
  • Different characterizations of the War Secretary, Stanton.  Conspiracy draws him into the plot, while Lincoln makes him very supportive of Lincoln

While these two books seemingly cover different time periods there were elements that brought them together.  I found O’Brien’s characterizations of various characters different from how Donald portrayed them in his history.  I am intrigued to know more about them to see how others portray them as well. 

I would recommend both books to those who find Lincoln of interest – Conspiracy is more of an adventure novel while Lincoln is for those who have an interest in the President and can handle a long haul.



Copyright © 2012 by The Maiden’s Court

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