Reviews for Team of Rivals : The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln


Kirkus Reviews 2005 October #1
Well-practiced historian Goodwin, winner of the Pulitzer Prize in history for No Ordinary Time (1994), examines Abraham Lincoln as a practical politician, focusing on his conversion of rivals to allies.Was Lincoln gay? It doesn't matter, though the question has exercised plenty of biographers recently. Goodwin, an old-fashioned pop historian of the Ambrose-McCullough vein, quotes from his law partner, William Herndon: "Lincoln had terribly strong passions for women--could scarcely keep his hands off them." End of discussion. Lincoln was, if anything, melancholic--possibly as the result of abuse on the part of his father--and sometimes incapacitated by depression. Thus it was smart politicking to recruit erstwhile opponents Salmon Chase and William Seward, who had very different ideas on most things but who nonetheless served Lincoln loyally to the point of propping him up at times during the fraught Civil War years. Goodwin indicates that Lincoln knew that war was coming, and he knew why: He'd been vigorously opposed to slavery for his entire public career, and even if "many Northerners . . . were relatively indifferent to the issue" of slavery and the westward expansion of the slave states, Lincoln was determined to settle it, even at catastrophic cost. Chase, Seward and his other lieutenants did not always fall immediately into step with Lincoln, and some pressed for compromise; when he declared the Emancipation Proclamation, writes Goodwin, he assembled the Cabinet and said that while he recognized their differences, he "had not called them together to ask their advice." They acceded, though by the end of the first term, enough divisions obtained within and without the White House that it looked as if Lincoln would not be reelected--whereupon he demanded that his secretaries sign a resolution "committing the administration to devote all its powers and energies to help bring the war to a successful conclusion," the idea being that only a Democrat would accept a negotiated peace.Illuminating and well-written, as are all of Goodwin's presidential studies; a welcome addition to Lincolniana.First printing of 400,000; Book-of-the-Month/History Book Club main selection; Doubleday Book Club/Quality Paperback Book Club alternate selection; film rights to DreamWorks Copyright Kirkus 2005 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.

----------------------
Library Journal Reviews 2006 July #1

In an 1876 eulogy, Frederick Douglass famouslyâ€"and foolishlyâ€"asserted that “no man can say anything that is new of Abraham Lincoln.” Thirteen decades and hundreds of books later, that statement appears no closer to the truth than when Douglass uttered it. Although Lincoln may be the most studied figure in American history, there is no end to new interpretations of the man. Shenk’s and Goodwin’s engaging new books are impressive demonstrations of that truth. Looking closely at Lincoln’s entire life, essayist Shenk examines every scrap of evidence that Lincoln suffered from chronic depression so severe that he twice came close to suicide. He argues that Lincoln not only never conquered his depression but used it to channel his energy into his political work. Shenk’s thesis may not convince everyoneâ€"including Goodwin, who takes a different viewâ€"but both arguments and his evidence are compelling. His is a fascinating story and one enhanced by Richard M. Davidson’s forceful reading. Highly recommended.

Nearly three times longer than Shenk’s book, Goodwin’s study covers much of the same ground but concentrates more on Lincoln’s presidency. She argues that Lincoln’s success in winning the election and in building an exceptionally effective administration lay in his extraordinary ability to empathize with his rivals. Much more than a biography of Lincoln, historian Goodwin’s book also closely examines the lives of Lincoln’s chief opponents for the Republican nominationâ€"Edward Bates, Salmon P. Chase, and William H. Sewardâ€"all of whom appeared better qualified to be President than he. After Lincoln persuaded the three menâ€"as well as other strong figuresâ€"to join his cabinet, it was expected that his former rivals would dominate him. Instead, the exact opposite occurred. Suzanne Toren’s narration of the unabridged version is fine, but the book’s sheer length may demand a greater commitment than many listeners are willing to make. As such, the abridged edition, read by Richard Thomas, may be a better choice for most libraries.â€"R. Kent Rasmussen, Thousand Oaks, CA

[Page 120]. Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

----------------------
Publishers Weekly Reviews 2006 January #1

While Goodwin's introduction is a helpful summary and explanation for why another book about Lincoln, her reading abilities are limited: Her tone is flat and dry, and her articulation is overly precise. But the introduction isn't long and we soon arrive at Richard Thomas's lovely and lively reading of an excellent book. The abridgment (from 944 pages) makes it easy to follow the narrative and the underlying theme. Pauses are often used to imply ellipses, and one is never lost. But the audio version might have been longer, for there is often a wish to know a little more about some event or personality or relationship. Goodwin's writing is always sharp and clear, and she uses quotes to great effect. The book's originality lies in the focus on relationships among the men Lincoln chose for his cabinet and highest offices: three were his rivals for the Republican presidential nomination in 1860, and each considered himself the only worthy candidate. One is left with a concrete picture of Lincoln's political genius--derived from a character without malice or jealousy--which shaped the history of our nation. One is also left with the painful sense of how our history might have differed had Lincoln lived to guide the Reconstruction. Simultaneous release with the Simon & Schuster hardcover (Reviews, Sept. 26). (Nov.)

[Page 58]. Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

----------------------
Publishers Weekly Reviews 2013 February #4

This production of Goodwin's acclaimed biography enters the marketplace as a tie-in for Steven Spielberg's latest Hollywood epic, Lincoln. While Goodwin's book serves as the basis for the film, listeners of the adaptation may be puzzled that the narrative in this abridged edition does not include President Abraham Lincoln's efforts to gain passage of the 13th Amendment--efforts that provides the centerpiece for a great deal of the movie's storyline. However, the abridgment flows quite smoothly in its own right. Narrator Richard Thomas evokes an earnestness and dignity in keeping with the spirit of the material. He effectively conveys the personal bonds between Lincoln and his unlikely circle of advisors. In the case of Secretary of State William Seward, the emotional depths of the character's devotion become especially clear via Thomas's performance. And the narrator--whose tone remains sentimental without descending into maudlin territory--nicely tackles the sections devoted to Lincoln's family life, most notably the attachment he maintained with youngest son Tad. A Simon & Schuster paperback. (Oct.)

[Page ]. Copyright 2013 PWxyz LLC

----------------------