What was the chance that my restless search for entertaining fiction would lead me to the Mississippi River (in the first half of the 19th century) TWICE in a row? Is there a message here? Time to book a riverboat cruise?
Courting Mr. Lincoln is mostly set in Springfield, Illinois, when that city was being built on the prairie. Mary Todd (eventually Lincoln) arrives to stay with her married, older sister. The family’s intent is to find Mary a husband, preferably with wealth and good manners. We see the courtship of Lincoln and Ms Todd through Ms Todd’s eyes.
The other character used to illuminate Abraham Lincoln is his close friend Joshua Speed. Sections of the novel alternate between the perspectives of Joshua and Mary. In some ways, they compete for Lincoln’s attention and affection.
Abraham Lincoln was… unusual? complex? troubled? So much has been written about him. Mary Todd Lincoln has also been extensively analyzed. The documents available have been thoroughly analyzed.
This book felt like ordinary historical fiction for a number of chapters, then suddenly took flight about 80% of the way through. Took flight, surprised me and romped on to a strong conclusion!
The turning point and surprise, for me, was the account of Abraham Lincoln becoming embroiled in an “affair of honor” which almost ended in a duel, to be fought with (of all things) cavalry swords. High drama, and in the end, no one was injured.
Louis Bayard has written a number of other books, and I’m looking forward to sampling them. One is entitled Roosevelt’s Beast. What on earth?!