Lincoln in the Bardo: A Novel

by George Saunders

Hardcover, 2017

Call number




Random House (2017), Edition: First Edition, 368 pages


February 1862. The Civil War is less than one year old. The fighting has begun in earnest, and the nation has begun to realize it is in for a long, bloody struggle. Meanwhile, President Lincoln's beloved eleven-year-old son, Willie, lies upstairs in the White House, gravely ill. In a matter of days, despite predictions of a recovery, Willie dies and is laid to rest in a Georgetown cemetery. Newspapers report that a grief-stricken Lincoln returned to the crypt several times alone to hold his boy's body. Willie Lincoln finds himself in a strange purgatory, where ghosts mingle, gripe, commiserate, quarrel, and enact bizarre acts of penance. Within this transitional state, called, in the Tibetan tradition, the bardo, a monumental struggle erupts over young Willie's soul.… (more)

Library's review

Approach this one gently, with patience. "Hilarity ensues", as the author has said in an interview about the book. The "Lincoln" in the title is Willie Lincoln, the President's 11 year old son who died tragically of typhoid. The "Bardo" is the Tibetan Buddhist transition from death to
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reincarnation. It is a difficult read at times, because of the multivocal form (dozens of characters, presented in an almost-play script format, along with chapters that are a series of quotes from biographical sources--some apparently made-up--on the period). All of the voices (other than the quoted sources) are the dead, in the Bardo transition, except for occasional appearances of the President and one graveyard attendant. The hilarity is tragi-comedy, given that these "dead-in-transition" are still there (in Bardo) because of a variety of sins and confusions they are working through, which can, at times, be painful to witness. The range of character/voices, however, is remarkable. There were times when I was ready to either skim quickly over the text, or stop entirely, but I'm glad I stuck it out to the end. The final paragraph/chapter is one of the more moving reading experiences I've had in awhile (and is particularly relevant to the current socio-political climate). (Brian)
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User reviews

LibraryThing member japaul22
This book has gotten a lot of hype and I'm happy to report that I feel it very well deserved. I absolutely loved this. Saunders has taken a moment in the life of Abraham Lincoln and created an inventive and emotional story around it. The moment is when his 11 year old son, Willie, dies. The night
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he is buried, Lincoln visits his tomb twice, reportedly holding the body. Saunders takes this idea and creates a spirit world, the bardo, based on a Tibetan idea of the time between death and afterlife.

The spirits who inhabit this world are odd, fixated on some moment in their human lives, sometimes sad, sometimes angry, and sometimes funny. The arrival of Willie's spirit, a child who doesn't move on immediately is rare, and then his alive father's visit sends the bardo into turmoil.

Any exploration of death and the afterlife is hard. These are topics that are hard to put into words and hard for a reader to believe an author's idea of. Saunders balances this by contrasting the events in the bardo with snippets from real contemporary reports of Willie's death and the Lincolns reactions. They come from newspapers, diaries, letters, essays, biographies, etc. This really grounded the novel for me and kept it moving. It was also a wise choice for Saunders to keep everything brief despite the weighty topic. The contemporary clips are very brief and the events in the bardo are all dialogue that keeps things moving along.

I think the most impressive thing about this book to me was that even though it uses a unique and inventive form, the emotions are very strong. The form does not overwhelm the emotion of losing a child.

This is an exciting and impressive novel and one that I highly recommend
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LibraryThing member ozzer
Saunders explores how flawed humans are forced to contend with life’s many challenges in his first novel, LINCOLN IN THE BARDO. He sets it during one night at the Oak Hill Cemetery near Georgetown. The bardo is a Buddhist concept where the human spirit is in transition awaiting either ascension
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to nirvana or reincarnation into another existence following death. Willie Lincoln, Abraham Lincoln’s 11-year-old son, is in the bardo having recently died from typhoid. The grief-stricken President, who is also in the midst of the early stages of the Civil War, visits him there in a profound state of guilt and grief.

Saunders uses two very different motifs to present a kaleidoscope of human failings from varying perspectives. On the one hand, he presents multiple voices from spirits who are trapped in the Oak Hill bardo. The cacophony they create presents a picture of just about every human frailty, including murder, suicide, rape, theft, prejudice, homophobia, etc., etc. They suffer from a host of bizarre deformities that represent their failings in life but have one thing in common; all are bitter and refuse to complete their journey to the afterlife until they settle old scores. This approach can be both dark and comical, but seems rambling and incoherent, lacking in the gravitas of similar works that use voices from the grave to explore similar themes (e.g., “Our Town,” “Spoon River Anthology”).

To achieve the needed gravitas, Saunders joins these slapstick graveyard antics with citations from scholarly works, both real and imagined. The latter create a more nuanced picture of Lincoln and the early Civil War period. His approach not only informs Lincoln’s life and times, but also provides insights into the complexity of peoples’ understanding of his motivations and mental state at the time.

Of course, the protagonist of the novel is Lincoln himself. Saunders employs two of the spirits, Roger Bevins III and Hans Vollman, as a clever way to explore Lincoln’s thinking about the war. Willie is tempted to stay in the bardo because his spirit has experienced his father’s profound grief. However, Bevins and Vollman know this would be a grave mistake and thus merge their spirits with Lincoln’s body to influence him to accept that Willie will never return. With this “mind meld,” we learn of Lincoln’s powerful realization about the only way he could conduct the war. “His mind was freshly inclined toward sorrow…toward the fact that the world was full of sorrow, that everyone labored under some burden of sorrow; that all were suffering; that whatever way one took in this world, one must try to remember that all were suffering (none content; all wronged, neglected, overlooked, misunderstood), in this state, he could be of no help to anyone and, given that his position in the world situated him to be either of great help or great harm, it would not do to stay low, if he could help it.” Shockingly, Lincoln then concludes that “to do the maximum good,” he must “[k]ill more efficiently” and “cause more suffering.” As good cancer surgeons know, sometimes this is the only viable strategy.
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LibraryThing member Beamis12
Wow, this wasn't just reading a novel it was a true reading experience. Wholly inventive, imaginative, the amount of research staggering, something totally new and different. Will admit having some trouble in the beginning, couldn't see where the author was going with this, wondering if it was gong
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to progress, it did in a very interesting way. Not going to rehash the plot, the description only loosely defines this. The book is helped along by some very unusual narrators, Vollmam and Bevins, along with a Reverend that can't figure out why he wasn't let in the pearly gates. There is a cast of many others, all with thru own stories to add to the mix.

This novel takes a little patience, a willingness to embrace the unusual and an imagination that lets one see outside the norm. I though it was brilliant.

ARC from publisher.
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LibraryThing member Cariola
I started listening to this book on audio last summer but gave up. It's just too complex for that format, at least for me--too many voices in rapid-fire conversation, all the quotations from contemporaneous accounts, etc. I just could not keep track of what was going on, but I felt that this was
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definitely something I would give another try in print. (I actually read it on my kindle.) I'm glad that I did. It was much easier reading when I pictured each character in my mind and heard a distinctive voice for each. I could take my time with each chapter devoted to excerpts (what some have referred to as "all those footnotes") and could simply pass over the citations that were so awkward read aloud. As I did so, I was fascinated by the contrasts and connections between them and began to see how they were part of the novel's themes. In addition, I think the page layout is intentional. It leaves wide spaces between speakers, spaces that parallel the distances between them. (This is something I look forward to exploring further in a hard print version.)

If you've read anything about this book, you probably know that the Bardo is the place (space?) between life and death in the Buddhist religion. It's 1862, the Civil War is raging, and President Lincoln's 11-year old son Willie has just died following a devastating illness (most likely typhoid fever). The action takes place inside Oak Hill Cemetery in Georgetown, where Willie's body has been laid to rest in the Carroll family mausoleum. The speakers in the novel--sometimes in conversation with one another, sometimes as individual narrators--are spirits who reject the fact that they have died and linger in this world due to to their attachments to and regrets made in life. They cannot even accept any words relating to death, referring instead to their caskets as "sick-boxes" and their dead bodies as "sick-forms." The speakers multiply in numbers as the story proceeds, each with his or her own story, but three in particular hold it together: Roger Bevins III, a young man who slit his wrists in despair, then changed his mind--too late to be saved; Hans Vollman, a businessman killed when a beam fell and struck him at his desk; and the Reverend Everly Thomas. These three feel a particular compassion for the youngest among them, including Willie Lincoln, who has just joined them in the Bardo. The spirits in the Bardo have the ability not only to observe but to pass through or enter into the living--including the grieving Lincoln, who keeps returning to his son's tomb. It is their desire to help him move beyond this loss, to help Willie to cross over, and to accept the mistakes and regrets of their own lives as well as the fact that they are far beyond "sick" themselves.

Interspersed with their stories and conversations are chapters consisting entirely of short quotations or excerpts from books, memoirs, and testimonies regarding the Lincolns and the period surrounding Willie's death. Each chapter focuses on one specific aspect: Lincoln's appearance, Willie's illness, the party held at the White House while Willie was in decline, the funeral procession, etc. Sanders has carefully laid out the excerpts in these chapters to demonstrate that what happens is not so much fact as a matter of perception. Some of the observers agree with one another while others present a totally different picture. In one, for example, various observers claim that Lincoln was the handsomest or ugliest man they had ever seen, had a most pleasant or most disagreeable countenance, was strong and well-built or gangly and ape-like, etc. The theme of perception--visual, emotional, and intellectual--plays into the stories of the spirits lingering in the Bardo as well.

It wasn't long before I was totally engaged with Lincoln in the Bardo. While it may not be the easiest read, it is definitely worth the effort required. This is one that will stick with me for quite some time, and I look forward to reading it again in hard copy.
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LibraryThing member gbill
Lincoln in the Bardo has so many elements that I love - deep historical research, a creative writing style, humor, a supernatural setting, a bit of Buddhism, and a reflection of the humanism of a president I've always admired. I was blown away by how Saunders painted a picture of life in the 19th
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century, tugged on the old heartstrings, and touched on the profound.

On suffering, and compassion:
“His mind was freshly inclined towards sorrow; toward the fact that the world was full of sorrow; that everyone labored under some burden of sorrow; that all were suffering; that whatever way one took in this world, one must try to remember that all were suffering (none content; all wronged, neglected, overlooked, misunderstood), and therefore one must do what one could to lighten the load of those with whom one came into contact; that his current state of sorrow was not uniquely his; not at all, but rather, its like had been felt, would yet be felt, by scores of others, in all times, in every time, and must not be prolonged or exaggerated, because, in this state, he could be of no help to anyone…”

On Lincoln’s reason for compelling the Confederates into remaining in the Union; it reminded me of his Gettysburg Address. Without a doubt the South seceded for no other reason that slavery, and Lincoln’s response, to go to war, was motivated by keeping the Union together, and I thought this articulated his view of the bigger picture well:
“Across the sea fat kings watched and were gleeful, that something begun so well had now gone off the rails (as down South similar kings watched), and if it went off the rails, so went the whole kit, forever, and if someone ever thought to start it up again, well, it would be said (and said truly): The rabble cannot manage itself.”
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LibraryThing member DrApple
This is an imaginative work describing the night after Willie Lincoln was interred. The characters are mostly the deceased who have remained in the cemetery, either by choice or circumstance. Most are still there because they either don't believe they are dead or they are waiting for someone.
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Lincoln comes to visit the body of his young son, and this creates all sorts of problems for the dead.

It is well written; however, I did not like the style. Narration can switch from one character to another a dozen or more times in a chapter. It is like reading a list of quotations which, although they sometimes advance the story line, are repetitive. After reading all of the glowing literary reviews, I must say I was disappointed in this novel.
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LibraryThing member murderbydeath
So, I was shopping Bloomsbury's annual end of financial year sale the other day, when I was suddenly possessed by someone who reads award winning literature; not wanting to waste the money spent on the book, I wanted to read it before the exorcism, so I cracked it open as soon as it arrived. The
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ripping-off-the-bandaid method for personal growth.

Half-kidding aside, while I do generally use literary award short lists as guides of what not to buy, Lincoln in the Bardo has intrigued me for some time - from the descriptions, it came across as an adult version of Gaiman's The Graveyard Book, and while this sale was on it seemed as good a time as any to give it a try.

It turns out there is a lot in common with The Graveyard Book in terms of setting and characters, but it goes worlds beyond, too. It's an odd book. Written as something akin to witness testimony, only in present voice, and interspaced with historical quotes about the Lincoln administration and Willie Lincoln's death, each complete with proper citations, it's constructed in a way that is unique in my (admittedly limited) literary experience.

Upon Willie Lincoln's death and internment, Willie fails to move on as he should and a battle erupts in the graveyard over his eternal soul. Saunders populates the graveyard cast with a wide and varied collection of souls, good and bad, all flawed, although Saunders seems to prefer a larger percentage of twisted and corrupted. Perhaps this makes sense in the construct of the story's logic, but there were moments that teetered precariously towards gratuitous.

Is this story Man Booker worthy? I wouldn't know, but it is brilliantly written; unique; startlingly creative. Did I like it? Yes, it was a compelling story; one I couldn't put down and read in two sittings. Do I think it's the acme of the literary form? No, but probably not far from it. Did I find it flawless? No. What was the reverend's fate? Saunders invested an awful lot of intimate detail in the reverend to just leave his fate unexplained. And I found the ending ... odd. Abrupt. In any other literary form, I'd say there's a sequel in the works.

LIncoln in the Bardo is in the purest sense, a ripping good story; one that just happened to win an Important Literary Prize, and that's why I'd recommend it - the prize, in this case is irrelevant.

Off now to that date with an exorcist...
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LibraryThing member Copperskye
Soon after the Civil War began, President Lincoln's young son, Willie, was taken seriously ill and tragically died. The night of the burial, the distraught President visited his son in his burial crypt. From this historically accurate moment, Saunders' cemetery ghosts begin to tell their own
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stories. They witness Lincoln's raw grief and love and attempt to help young Willie leave their land of limbo and cross over to the other side.

The action takes place in one night and is told in various voices in a stream of consciousness style. That style may turn off some readers, but for the adventurous reader, it's a marvelous treat that's both wildly imaginative and heartbreaking. Can an author known for his short stories write longer fiction? In this case, a resounding yes. I can't wait to listen to the multi-voiced audio version. 5 stars
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LibraryThing member RandyMetcalfe
In the cemetery in which Abraham Lincoln’s son, Willie, has just been interred, the shades of those who have not relinquished their ties to their earlier existence consider his arrival and the remarkable appearance, in the middle of the night, of Willie’s grief-stricken father. No wonder
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Willie’s shade lingers, with so much love and commitment on offer. But lingering isn’t something you want to do too long here in the bardo, a purgatorial way-station between what came before and what is to come.

Saunders deploys his mastery of voice to imbue his principal shades, as well as those with lesser parts, with all the subtle linguistic charms to, virtually, bring them to life. And voice is pretty much all he’s got here, since almost the entire novel consists of dialogue. The remarkable feats of serial monologue that Saunders brings to his best short stories, are here multiplied into intricate choral lattices. All without losing the close interiority that is a hallmark of Saunders’ empathetic characterization. Grief and responsibility, both individual and national, will struggle throughout this very long, dark night. But what changes will be wrought, and will they be for good or ill?

Astonishingly good writing. Subtle, sympathetic, wistful, bawdy, wonderfully whimsical, and heart-wrenching. Saunders has convincingly demonstrated that he is just as inspiring in the long form as he is in the short form.

Highly recommended.
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LibraryThing member Othemts
This is a curious, experimental novel that is built upon the true story of President Abraham Lincoln making several visits to a crypt to hold the body of his recently deceased son Willie. The "bardo" is a Tibetan Buddhist concept that of an intermediate state where a person doesn't know if they'r
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alive or dead. The author gives voice to dozens of deceased people who comment Lincoln & Willie but also tell their own stories and interact with one another. A third element to this novel are sections which are merely collages of writing, newspapers clippings, and historical works about Lincoln and his times. The novel is an oddly abstract attempt at understanding grief and coming terms to death, both on Lincoln's personal level and the large scale trauma of the Civil War. The audiobook is particularly interesting since each character is read by a different actor, several of them quite famous, lending it the quality of an audio play.
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LibraryThing member TommyB
A very strange story.
LibraryThing member rmckeown
George Saunders has received enormous praise for his first novel, Lincoln at the Bardo. I try to be wary of over-hyping, but when one of my several trusted friends spoke so highly of it, I decided to read it. At first, I felt as if it was another “gimmick” novel, but it turned out to be a
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“gimmick” I have never seen. The first, obvious peculiarity I notice was the structure, but then I became intrigued. The “Bardo” is a Tibetan word for the time after death and before the soul is “taken away.”

According to Wikipedia, Saunders is an American writer of short stories, essays, novellas, and children’s books. His writing has appeared in The New Yorker as well as other magazines. He was born December 2, 1958 in Amarillo, TX, and he has won a MacArthur Fellowship, as well as several other awards. He lists his influences as Kurt Vonnegut, Pynchon, Flannery O’Conner, John Updike, and Steinbeck. He is a professor at Syracuse University.

The story begins casually enough with a man who marries a woman much younger than himself. On the day after his wedding, he goes to his office, and while seated at his desk, Saunders writes, “A beam from the ceiling came down, hitting me just here, as I sat at my desk. And so while our [honeymoon] must be deferred, while I recovered. Per the advice of my physician, I took to my-- // A sort of sick box was judged to be—hans vollman // Efficacious. roger bevins iii // Efficacious, yes, Thank you, friend. hans vollman // Always a pleasure. roger bevins iii” // There I lay, in my sick-box, feeling foolish, in the parlor, the very parlor through which we had recently (gleefully, guiltily, her hand in mine) passed en route to her bedroom. Then the physician returned, and his assistant carried my sick-box to his sick-cart, and I saw that—I saw that our plan must be indefinitely delayed” (5). As I am sure you are aware, hans is dead, as is roger blevins iii. The names appear on the page as if they are scripts for a film. The names of hans, roger, and all the inhabitants of the bardo are all in lower case with about an 8 point font. The rest of the novel involves conversations of more than forty deceased characters.

When willie appears in the bardo, the other souls try to reconnect him with his father who pays daily visits his tomb. They believe that a connection to Lincoln can save willie for a life in the bardo, so he won’t be taken away.

Most of the conversation takes place among, hans, bevins, and the reverend everly thomas. There are some characters who provide a tiny dab of humor. The barons use a stream of obscenities each time they talk, and thankfully, only the first and last letter of each word appears with a dash between them. Another character, actually corrects the grammar of the deceased.

Interspersed with the conversations of the deceased are the italicized thoughts of Abraham Lincoln as he agonizes over the way the Civil War is being conducted, as well as the death of his son willie.

The novel has 108 chapters, some with only a single line of text. Occasionally, Saunders places what appear to be newspaper, magazine articles, and quotes from works of history regarding Willie’s death and Lincoln’s presidency. This 343-page novel can be read in a single sitting.

This interesting novel, Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders is a novel that will keep you in your chair to find out what happens next! 5 stars.

--Jim, 4/2/17
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LibraryThing member villemezbrown
This seems more like a stunt than a novel, from the structure of the book to the inclusion of Abraham Lincoln. Using a farrago of voices to tell his tale was for me only interesting when the author seemed to be using actual historical citations. I liked the parallels and contradictions in the
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various people's opinions even on something as simple as Lincoln's eye color. The purely fictionalized bits with the ghosts were lyrical at times, but mostly served to show the practicality of plays and screenplays in putting the name of the speaker before his or her lines.

Unfortunately, most of the speakers were people I didn't really care to know. The fact that they were dead and that characters would say other characters' lines for them served to create an air of aloofness that distanced me from the characters and story events. And frankly, some of the events were pretty darn corny, especially during the ending.

At least with all the white space on every page this is a quick read. I suppose there is something just in a story about ghosts being so airy and removed and insubstantial.
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LibraryThing member mojomomma
I listened to this book and it was an unusual format. It was written like a play, but there were chapters with nothing but quotes and footnotes, giving the reader the sense of the contemporary viewpoint. The whole story is about Willy Lincoln's death in 1862 and his parent's grief over that death.
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After the funeral, Willy doesn't transition immediately to heaven or hell, but lingers in the crypt waiting for his father. Other ghosts in the cemetery are also lingering in their "sick boxes."
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LibraryThing member ozzie65
This is one of those books that sits with you and that you find yourself mulling over and discussing with other people. Your first instinct is to either love it or hate it, but as you keep talking about it, you realize that this is a really good book. And it would have made one hell of a Twilight
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Zone episode.

The story is set in Washington DC. President Lincoln had a son, Willie, who died of Scarlet Fever when he was in office. It is during the Civil War. There are a series of people who congregate in the cemetery and are there to see Willie laid to rest.

What the reader is aware of is that these people are all dead. They have all died in a variety of different time periods and their language reflects the era in which they died. There are quite a number and they are all involved in some seemingly supernatural fight for their lives.

The Bardo is a Buddhist term. It is the period after death and before rebirth when the soul is disconnected from the physical body and has a series of experiences. Willie and the rest of the individuals are in the Bardo.

The other inhabitants operate as a kind of chorus who keep the story moving and offer explanatory and expository information for the reader. A further interesting aspect the author uses is that he has researched contemporary commentary on how writers viewed many of the events depicted and has used those writings to show that any one event can be viewed and interpreted in a variety of ways.

And, since this is Twilight Zone material…..that is all I will say. Because, as in all good TZ episodes, the twist is always the best part of the story. Book clubs that really want to discuss allegory, theme, exposition and the meat and potatoes of writing will really enjoy discussing this book.

If your book club just wants to drink wine and touch on a book, I challenge you to give this one a go. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised. Five stars.
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LibraryThing member alanteder
Deadwood has a lot to answer for

This is a tentative review based on the audiobook edition. I still intend to read "Lincoln in the Bardo" in print as well. I was curious to hear what a book narrated by 166 voices would be like and you may have guessed the answer... confusing.

I would not recommend
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listening to any of the audiobook editions unless you have a print/ebook copy to refer to and reference. At least that was my experience. I'd likely listen to the audio again once I've read the print edition to see if it is easier to follow.

Probably you should at least read a few reviews that explain the structure of the book so that you know what you are in for.

The actual narration performances were excellent but it was simply too difficult to follow what was going on most of the time and I found my mind wandering as the voices droned on and on, especially the ones reciting the real and the fake news quotes and all of the Ibids and Op cit.s.

And (getting back to the header) just because a bunch of characters in a frontier mining town TV series spoke in a continuous stream of obscenities I really can't imagine that folks in the same era in Washington D.C. (or its graveyards) spoke the same way (this seems to be confined to a short few bursts at the front end and then some extended sequences towards the back end though).

3 out of 5 is more along the lines of I "admired it" (for its inventiveness) rather than "liked it."
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LibraryThing member JosephKing6602
I was really looking forward to reading this book; but i just did't get it! The experimental narrative style just didn't click with me! Not a book for everyman!
LibraryThing member reganrule
What first appears as an experimental novel--the first by master of the short story, George Saunders--replete with conflicting first person historical accounts of the moments leading to the death of Willie Lincoln, turns out instead to be a retelling of so many Walpurgis/purgatorial nights, from
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Dante to Goethe to Bulgakov to name but a few. Dialogue between (mostly bawdy) cemetery spirits is interspersed with chapters of eye witness testimony, arranged to maximum affect.

I was game, but the game wore thin after a hundred or so pages. The juxtaposition of young Willie Lincoln's death & Lincoln's grief and the deaths of thousands of soldiers of the civil war is one ripe for literary picking. I would have thought Saunders up to the task of illuminating this dark night of the soul with some trenchant levity, but it all fell somewhat flat for me. Robert Kloss tackled this exact same moment in Alligators of Abraham to much greater effect.
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LibraryThing member Jaelle
Winner of the 2017 Man Booker prize, this haunting novel blends history and literary fiction into a melancholy tale about the suffering of Abraham Lincoln after his son Willie died of typhoid in 1862 and the interactions of Willie and other beings in a indefinite state of the afterlife. In its use
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of differing reports of first person historical accounts of a reception at the White House and in the criticism of Lincoln’s handling of the Civil War, the novel calls to mind our own times.

The incredible production of this audiobook, which was done with a large cast of actors, writers and musicians, allows listeners to fully appreciate the differing personalities of the characters and first person historical accounts in the book. Highly recommended, this audiobook requires more attention than the average audiobook in order to fully follow and comprehend the story.
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LibraryThing member arubabookwoman
The "Bardo" is the Tibetan transitional state between lives.

This experimental novel is set in a cemetery, and is narrated by a variety of voices, primarily the dead who reside in the cemetery and who, for whatever reason, are unable to move on after death. Their narratives are interspersed with
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various quotations and snippets from historical sources, including diaries, letters, and news reports.

The novel is set during the Civil War in 1862, and President Lincoln's young son Willie has just died and been interred in the cemetery. That night, Lincoln, deeply grief-stricken, both by his son's death and by the war tearing the country apart, visits Willie's tomb (this is a historical fact). The cemetery inhabitants mingle and interact, and want to help Willie transition out, but Lincoln and Willie find it difficult to let each other go.

Saunders has said that this began as a play, and it is very theater-like, particular with its feel of a Greek chorus narrating and commenting on the action. It is experimental and unique, and I've never read anything like it. I strongly, strongly recommend this.

5 stars
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LibraryThing member thornton37814
This is an unusual book. Its literary style is unique, consisting of multiple narrators and utlizing quotes from history books and other texts. Before I began, I looked up "bardo" in the dictionary to discover it is a transitional state between this life and the next in Tibetan Buddhism. While I
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found the literary style intriguing, I didn't real understand a lot of what was going on. Because of the literary style, it can be read quickly, as I did, but it probably needs a slower read by persons unfamiliar with Tibetan Buddhism if they wish to understand the action. I'm not sorry I read it. I enjoyed the reliance on quotations to drive certain parts of the text; however, I'm not quite as sold on the "bardo" concept.
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LibraryThing member richardderus
Rating: 2.75* of five

Goodness knows I understand parental grief on losing a child, but this story is trying too hard to be clever for me to empathize with it. While many praise its near-perfection of style, I am left wishing the author would just belt uo already and tell this incredibly moving and
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deeply personal story. I'm not going to recommend the read.

My example quote:
His mind was freshly inclined toward sorrow; toward the fact that the world was full of sorrow; that everyone labored under some burden of sorrow; that all were suffering; that whatever way one took in this world, one must try to remember that all were suffering (none content; all wronged, neglected, overlooked, misunderstood), and therefore one must do what one could to lighten the load of those with whom one came into contact; that his current state of sorrow was not uniquely his, not at all, but, rather, its like had been felt, would be felt, by scores of others, in all times, in every time, and must not be prolonged or exaggerated, because, in this state, he could be of no help to anyone and, given that his position in the world situated him to be either of great help, or great harm, it would not do to stay low, if he could help it.
If you like Saunders, you'll like this; I don't, and I *really* don't.
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LibraryThing member kayanelson
What a unique book. I liked the premise of getting the insight on Lincoln. I liked the story being told by all the inbetweeners. It was just very interesting. I would read again to try and catch things I didn't catch the first time.
LibraryThing member rdwhitenack
A boom that I feel was very well written, but questionably important. Masterfully imagined, and creatively told, but not sure who this book reaches out to. Can imagine English courses in future that use this book, but much to the displeasure of teenage students. Do feel that I would get much more
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from the book with a second reading, just not sure if I'll ever do it.
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LibraryThing member BooksForDinner
A fantastic novel. I feel that I will read this one again at some point, as there is so much that I must have missed the first time around. The book reads so quickly that it feels that I should have spent more time with it. A great premise, very funny in some spots, as his work reportedly often is
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(don't know, this is the first I've read of him). Just wonderful, a real inventive voice. Can't wait to read more of Saunders.
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0812995341 / 9780812995343
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