cover image Mrs. Lincoln: A Life

Mrs. Lincoln: A Life

Catherine Clinton. Harper, $26.99 (415pp) ISBN 978-0-06-076040-3

Any biographer of Mary Lincoln has a tough act to follow in Jean H. Bakers groundbreaking and definitive Mary Todd Lincoln: A Biography, published two decades ago and reissued in paperback in 2008. Queens University (Belfast) history professor Clinton (Harriet Tubman: The Road to Freedom) fails to rise to the occasion. For starters, the book seems to have no raison d'être: Clinton offers no revisionist interpretation and has uncovered no new sources. Add to this Clinton's annoying style, such as a penchant for ESP, narrating Mary Lincoln's thoughts through various key moments in her life, such as this upon the day in April, 1865, when her husband triumphantly visited the Confederate capital of Richmond: ""Mary found a sense of serenity that was distinctly new and uncharacteristic ... she imagined that she might be reconciled with those alienated...."" The author also too frequently paraphrases the contents of diaries and letters, without quoting them directly. Although Clinton's book provides an adequate summary of an important life, readers can find a far more than adequate rendition elsewhere. B&w illus