Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Reviewed “Lincoln’s Boys” at SBR Yesterday

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Sometimes, I get luckier than others when it comes to books I review over at Shiny Book Review (SBR for short, as always). Such is the case with LINCOLN’S BOYS, perhaps the most interesting piece of nonfiction I’ve read this year.

Why?

Well, LINCOLN’S BOYS is the story of Abraham Lincoln’s two young personal Presidential secretaries, John George Nicolay and John Hay. They saw Lincoln from a unique vantage point in two ways: first, because they worked with him for four-plus years, they saw him in nearly every imaginable circumstance. And second, they later were tapped to be his biographers by Lincoln’s sole surviving son, Robert Todd Lincoln, and were given access to all of Lincoln’s Presidential Papers in order to put out a massive ten-book biography, LINCOLN: A HISTORY.

I enjoyed this book thoroughly for a wide variety of reasons. Seeing Lincoln as a man first, able politician second, and transformational figure third was a revelation in and of itself. But seeing how Nicolay and Hay managed to craft Lincoln’s image at a time no one had even conceived of such a thing — and doing so in such a way that showed Lincoln as a man rather than as a demi-god or worse, a full-fledged Deity figure (as was already happening at the time they started work on Lincoln’s biography) — was also eye-opening.

As I said in my review:

Because Nicolay and Hay were honest men, they did their best to show Lincoln as a man. Full of talent, yes, and possibly the best President we’ve ever had . . . but still a man.

And because Zeitz is an honest biographer as well as an honest historian, he was able to show Lincoln in a brand-new light by showing Lincoln through the eyes of Nicolay and Hay.

So if you like history, politics, or have made it a point to seek out every word ever written with regards to Abraham Lincoln, this book is obviously meant for you.

But if you also like biographies that put the subjects of same into the full context of their time and shows them as living, breathing men with interests and goals and dreams all their own, you will adore LINCOLN’S BOYS . . . guaranteed.

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