Saturday, October 8, 2011

Review: "The Emancipator's Wife" by Barbara Hambly

From Goodreads:  As a girl growing up in Kentucky, she lived a sheltered, privileged life filled with picnics and plantation balls. Vivacious, impulsive, and intoxicated by politics, she is a Todd of Lexington, an aristocratic family whose ancestors defeated the British. But no one knows her secret fears and anxieties. Although she is courted by the most eligible suitors in the land, including future senator Stephen Douglas, it is a gangly lawyer from Illinois who captures her heart. After a stormy courtship and a broken engagement, Abraham Lincoln will marry twenty-four-year-old Mary Todd and give her a ring inscribed with the words “Love Is Eternal.”

But their happiness won’t last nearly so long. Their first child will be born under the gathering clouds of a civil war, and three more follow. As Lincoln’s star rises, the pleasure-loving Mary learns, often the hard way, the rules of being a politician’s wife. But by the time the fiery storm of war passes, tragedy will have claimed two sons, scandal will shadow her days as First Lady, and an assassin’s bullet will take Lincoln himself, leaving Mary alone and all but forgotten by the nation that owed her husband its survival.

Yet it is in the years to come that Mary Todd Lincoln will truly come into her own. In public, she will fight to preserve Lincoln’s memory even as she battles a bitterly contested insanity trial. In private, she will struggle with depression and addiction as she endures the betrayals–both real and imagined–of family and friends.

My Thoughts:  This book made me feel really sorry for Mary Todd Lincoln; she had such a hard life!  Her mother died when she was young, three of her sons died and her husband was assassinated right next to her, it's no wonder she was eccentric.  It also seems that she suffered from depression and other issues that wasn't helped by the "medicine" she was prescribed.  This book mad Mrs Lincoln into a sympathetic character; she was not always likeable but I always felt for her.  Ms. Hambly made Mrs Lincoln into such an interesting character that I kept wanting to read more.  It was really hard to put this book down!  The writing was excellent and I also liked how Ms. Hambly included the power that men had over women at this time.  Mary Lincoln was tried for insanity and hospitalized because her son couldn't (and wouldn't) deal with her.  This brought up the subject of men regularly institutionalizing unruly women, i.e. women who didn't follow the social norms of the time.  Mary Todd Lincoln was a such a tragic figure and I feel like this book did a good job of showing both her good side and bad side.  4 stars.


  1. Wow, I might have to read this. You never really think about his wife that much. Makes you wonder what she might think of a book about her today... then again she might think our world now is kind of crazy.

    Beth ^_^

  2. "women who didn't follow the social norms of the time"
    How many of us would have fallen under this umbrella? I complain a lot about these times, but I have to admit that some things have improved.

    Thanks for the review. I'm adding this to my TBR list.

  3. Thanks for the review - this made me realise that I have never thought about his wife and what her life must have been like, it sounds like a really interesting read.


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