Today I have a review of Courting Mr. Lincoln by Louis Bayard, publishing via Algonquin Books on April 23, 2019. Thank you to Algonquin for the invitation to review!
Oh, how charming this read is! In 1840, Mary Todd and Abraham Lincoln meet for the first time. At the moment, Abe’s not on anyone’s presidential radar.
Instead, he is a rough-and-tumble backroads lawyer, a bit uncouth, but a captivating and clever speaker.
Mary is a debutante, who happens to be interested in elections, as well as intellectual debates. Abe is a puzzle to Mary at first. At the time, he is living with a roommate, Joshua Speed whom she confides in about Abe.
Eventually, more of Abe shows to Mary, and she sees not just his awkwardness, but his intellect, goodness, and genuine respect for her strengths in politics.
As Mary and Abe become closer, there’s a third person involved, the charming Speed, Abe’s roommate who has smoothed many of Abe’s rough edges. The two have a deep and abiding friendship.
Courting Mr. Lincoln is narrated by both Mary Todd and Joshua Speed. It was fascinating to hear the take on Abe from each of them. The sense of time and place is deftly drawn, and the story is rich in historical detail without feeling heavy.
I’ve never “known” Mary Todd in exactly this way, and I loved the portrayal. I also loved the genuine friendship between Speed and Abe. It’s so steadfast and true and honestly gives me chills to think about how well it was written!
Overall, Courting Mr. Lincoln is page-turning, enthralling storytelling at its best, a gorgeous story I’ll never forget about love and friendship, friendship and love!
I received a complimentary copy. All opinions are my own.
From the prizewinning author of Mr. Timothy and The Pale Blue Eye comes Courting Mr. Lincoln, the page-turning and surprising story of a young Abraham Lincoln and the two people who loved him best: a sparky, marriageable Mary Todd and Lincoln’s best friend, Joshua Speed.
When Mary Todd meets Abraham Lincoln in Springfield in the winter of 1840, he is on no one’s shortlist to be president. Rough and reticent, he’s a country lawyer lacking money and manners, living above a dry goods shop, but with a gift for oratory. Mary, a quick, self-possessed debutante with a tireless interest in debates and elections, at first finds him an enigma. “I can only hope,” she tells his roommate, the handsome, charming Joshua Speed, “that his waters being so very still, they also run deep.”
It’s not long, though, before she sees the Lincoln that Speed knows: a man who, despite his awkwardness, is amiable and profound, with a gentle wit to match his genius and a respect for her keen political mind. But as her relationship with Lincoln deepens, she must confront his inseparable friendship with Speed, who has taught his roommate how to dance, dress, and navigate the polite society of Springfield.
Told in the alternating voices of Mary Todd and Joshua Speed, and rich with historical detail, Courting Mr. Lincoln creates a sympathetic and complex portrait of Mary unlike any that has come before; a moving portrayal of the deep and very real connection between the two men; and most of all, an evocation of the unformed man who would grow into one of the nation’s most beloved presidents.
Louis Bayard, a master storyteller at the height of his powers, delivers here a page-turning tale of love, longing, and forbidden possibilities.
Have you read Courting Mr. Lincoln, or is it on your TBR? Happy Reading! ~ Jennifer THR