We had five at Brew Ha today. The book we discussed was The Emancipator's Wife by Barbara Hambly. The ratings were all 5's out of 5. Though this is historical fiction, the events of Mary Todd Lincoln's life are not always held in consensus.
What we discussed were ways this work differed from other details about her life that we have read. We discussed the differences in treating physical and emotional illnesses from the 1800's to today including issues regarding common medical care - or lack of it for the maladies she suffered. Ms. Hambly's works to date have been prolific and include primarily Science Fiction, Fantasies and Mysteries. She has created characters for this depiction that allow her fertile imagination some free rein.
Among the health issues that Mary suffered were physical pain from a carriage accident, migraine headaches, "female trouble" and the challenges of losing loved ones all through her life. She saw her mother's body removed from their home after dying from childbirth when Mary was a small girl. She lost other close family members, three of her four sons and of course, her husband, Abraham. It is known that she used over the counter medications common at the time including opiates and alcohol to manage her symptoms of pain, depression and mood disorders. There are differing versions of her life with Lincoln. But generally it is agreed that she was the driving force in his becoming President. Most of the correspondence between the two was lost or destroyed. Speculation includes depicting them as loving to having a distant relationship. Written accounts vary widely on this topic.
The book opens in 1875 as Mary is taken to court for a determination hearing on her sanity. She is deemed "insane" and moved to Bellevue Place, a private institution. Our group felt that Ms. Hambly's novel relied on some information that is heavily disputed by historians. Keeping in mind that this does not purport to be a biography, rather an imagined account, the group felt that it was an enjoyable read.
COMING UP:The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak - June 24, 2014 at Pizza King at Noon
This No 1 Bestseller has been making the rounds of Book Clubs since it first appeared in 2005. The following is from Amazon.com:
It is 1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier, and will become busier still.--Susan
Liesel Meminger is a foster girl living outside of Munich, who scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can’t resist–books. With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, she learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement.
In superbly crafted writing that burns with intensity, award-winning author Markus Zusak, author of I Am the Messenger, has given us one of the most enduring stories of our time.