Lincoln in the Bardo

Lincoln in the Bardo

A Novel

Book - 2017
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On February 22, 1862, two days after his death, Willie Lincoln was laid to rest in a marble crypt in a Georgetown cemetery. That very night, shattered by grief, Abraham Lincoln arrives at the cemetery under cover of darkness and visits the crypt, alone, to spend time with his son's body. Willie finds himself in a strange purgatory-- the bardo-- where ghosts commisserate quarrel, and enact bizarre acts of penance ... and where a struggle erupts over his soul.
Publisher: New York : Random House, [2017]
Edition: First edition
Copyright Date: ©2017
ISBN: 9780812995343
0812995341
Branch Call Number: FIC SAUNDER 2017
Characteristics: 341 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm

Opinion

From Library Staff

Saunders’ boldly imagined, exquisitely sensitive, and sharply funny historical and metaphysical drama pivots on President Lincoln’s grief over the death of his young son, Willie, as the cemetery’s dead tell their stories in a wild and wily improvisation on the afterlife.

2017 Man Booker Prize winner.


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Brontina66
Aug 29, 2018

I had heard a lot about this book and it was also recommended to me by a friend who works in the world of movies, so I had high expectations (not for the rave reviews, though, I have learnt to be cautious with them, but for my friend's opinion). It is an "experimental novel" due to the particular narrative style. Young Will, one of Lincoln's sons, dies and is temporarily brought to a cemetery in Georgetown. Here his father, unable to let him go, visits him and holds his corpse (true story). This is the main plot, but it gets more interesting, because the story is mostly told by several ghosts, who inhabit the cemetery and do their best to convince Will's spirit to leave and reach the other side, the proper place for him. Lincoln's love and desperation keep Will anchored to the wrong dimension, the cemetery, and the other specters tell us their stories while slowly helping the boy to move on. As I said before, the narrative style is unusual. Different ghosts pronounce parts of the same sentence, as if they were different voices of the same mind. The graphic reminded me of a play, because the names of the characters appear near what they say. I have to admit, it was a bit tiring, because of course I am used to a more flowing narrative and there are 166 characters here, but the final impression was that of a chorus, like in the Greek tragedies. Although I personally would not define this book one of the best that I have read, it is certainly very original and moving. Bardo is an intermediate space between death and rebirth in Buddhism, somehow like the Catholic Purgatory but with much less pain, it seems, from where the dead observe the living. If you have seen the play "Kodachrome" by Adam Szymkowicz you get an idea. Although there is lot of pain and loss, as well as regret, in the book, the final message is one of hope. Life doesn't end with death and the people we love are never really lost. It's not an easy book to read, but a sort of challenge, not only of our skills as readers but also as human beings.

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ellenmaki
Aug 16, 2018

This was a clever novel, nicely put together from letters and histories about Lincoln of the time, interwoven with the voices of the dead who refuse to accept death. It all takes place in the cemetery where Lincoln's child, Will, is taken to be interred. I didn't quite get the metaphor of the ghosts, during reading, but I figure now they represent the aspect of our culture that denies death so strenuously that it impairs their ability to live.

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TechWriter1
Aug 14, 2018

If you like Lincoln in the Bardo, try Spoon River Anthology by Edgar Lee Masters and Our Town by Thornton Wilder. They all provide perspectives on life, for the living, by those who have passed. Enjoy your days, moment by moment. Do not dwell upon them but do take time to reflect now and then.

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eappelbaum
Jul 22, 2018

I enjoyed the book, but not as much as other works by this author--hard to follow. The ghosts denying death reminded me of many people who deny the obvious.,

Oddly composed of snippets of this and that, but I'm still at the beginning and a bit derailed by the over-the-top lavish state banquet, with all the exquisite confections and entrees, on the same night that Willie dies.

Later: Those who speak are in neither heaven nor hell, but caught by their own unsettled minds where their remains are buried. Stubbornly self-engrossed and unresolved, they find Lincoln's presence a very welcome respite. But demons dwell there too. A compelling work that still stays in my mind.

Kris--PR Library

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talk2terih
Jun 13, 2018

As Salieri said of Mozart's music in the film Amadeus "This was something entirely new."

Every now and then, a piece of art emerges that forces to rethink how we define that particular genre. Picasso, Pollock, Manet, Seurat, all put forth paintings in styles previously unknown, e e Cummings caused us to view poetry in a new way, and as Salieri observed, Mozart gave us music that was entirely new.

With this book, George Saunders has expanded our definition of what constitutes a novel, a fictional work of literature. It is difficult to find our way at times in this book, but that is noone' s fault. We are breaking new ground and that is an effort that goes slowly. The writing, if odd, is beautifully crafted. The ideas of the aftetlife, if unusual, are beautifully described. And the grief of Mr. Lincoln for his dead son is so raw and immediate, you feel as though you should turn away from witnessing such an intimate moment.

This book is the heir to Master's Spoon River Anthology, itself a groundbreaking play. If that work appealed to you at all, give this one a go and bring an open mind. I am guessing that you, like me, will never define the novel in quite the same way after reading this book.

bibliotom May 19, 2018

I have gleaned from experts on TV that ghosts are spirits of the dead who can't move on to the next plane of existence. In this way they are perfect exemplars of the Buddhist problem of attachment, the universal neurosis that is the unspoken subject of Saunders' novel. The "ghosts" here are stuck in the bardo because they won't let go of something in their lives, and in this way they are more like living human beings than the dead. The key to their escape from this perpetual twilight is compassion. There is no mention of Buddha in this book, but it's a wonderful example of how buddhism works in the real world, as imaginary and imaginative as this graveyard bardo is.

KateHillier May 14, 2018

That was an experience of a book. The format takes a little bit of getting used to but once I found my rhythm it was smooth sailing. Aside from the pain and gutpunching that the entire story as a whole is. Abraham Lincoln's young son, Willie, has died. He finds himself in an inbetween place with other spirits, who don't know or won't recognize their actual state of being. Meanwhile, in the living world, Lincoln grieves and a war goes on. The grief, and death, and destruction and penance being taken is heartbreaking. There are bits of humour throughout but it almost seems more tragic than funny.

I really enjoyed this. I guarantee you've never read anything like it.

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LThomas_Library
May 05, 2018

Read and reflect.

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Nanabelle_5
Apr 15, 2018

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LThomas_Library
May 05, 2018

Other: Topics: Death, super natural.

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LThomas_Library
May 05, 2018

Frightening or Intense Scenes: Intense empathetic scenes.

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LThomas_Library
May 05, 2018

Coarse Language: Moderate language.

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LThomas_Library
May 04, 2018

LThomas_Library thinks this title is suitable for 17 years and over

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