A Free Man of Color , etc.) has a knack for bringing historical figures to life in all their flawed humanity. This touching portrait of Mary Todd, a brill"/>

THE EMANCIPATOR'S WIFE

Barbara Hambly, Author . Bantam $25 (624p) ISBN 978-0-553-80301-3

Hambly (A Free Man of Color , etc.) has a knack for bringing historical figures to life in all their flawed humanity. This touching portrait of Mary Todd, a brilliant but troubled belle in Kentucky when she meets Abraham Lincoln in 1839, recounts Mary's personal struggles and triumphs and describes the general state of women in the 19th century, as well as supplies an evenhanded overview of the political and practical issues surrounding the emancipation of the slaves. With her sharp intelligence, social skill and standing, and political astuteness, Mary seems the perfect partner for Lincoln. But her emotional problems hobble her from the start and worsen over the years under the tremendous strain of political life and with the terrible loss of three of her four sons as well as her husband. Ten years after Lincoln's assassination, Mary's sole remaining son is fighting a court battle to have his mother declared insane. Told from her own perspective and that of some fictionalized historical figures like Frederick Douglass, Mary's story, including her hard-won insight into her own difficulties and her addiction to her laudanum-laced medicine, is moving. Despite a jarring abruptness to some of the changes in point of view and the slow pace of the narration, the novel paints a full, nuanced picture of a talented, tormented woman. Agent, Frances Collin. (Feb. 1)

Reviewed on: 01/10/2005
Release date: 01/01/2005
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