Read Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders Online

Lincoln in the Bardo

In his long-awaited first novel, American master George Saunders delivers his most original, transcendent, and moving work yet. Unfolding in a graveyard over the course of a single night, narrated by a dazzling chorus of voices, Lincoln in the Bardo is a literary experience unlike any otherfor no one but Saunders could conceive it.February 1862. The Civil War is less than on...

Title : Lincoln in the Bardo
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Number of Pages : 343 pages
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Lincoln in the Bardo Reviews

  • William2

    I avoid the G word. That’s a determination I like to put off until rereading. But this novel’s certainly masterful. I have read nothing so near perfect in some years. The narrative rides a kind of knife edge, between unbearable sorrow one moment and comic relief the next.

    ‘Almost unbearably moving’ was what Anthony Burgess used to say about some of the better books he reviewed. I must say the same with regard to Lincoln in the Bardo—it’s almost unbearably moving. It’s about unendurable personal

  • Jen

    Sorry Saunders, but I disliked your novel. Clearly, I'm swimming against the current on this one. Having read some convincing reviews, I thought it must be included in my TBR this year. Well, I almost tossed it aside 100 pages in and probably should have and not given it a rating.

    This is a read of loss. A parent - president Lincoln - has lost his 11 year old son to an illness.

    The bardo - is the place between heaven and hell - a purgatory of sorts. It's a story of ghosts, and of Willie, who are

  • Trish

    The form of this novel is what readers will notice first. It begins as a series of quotes from reporters’ notebooks, eyewitness accounts, historians using original sources, and we must assume, Civil War-era gossip rags, describing an 1862 White House party which a thousand or more people attended. To say the affair was elaborate understates the case. Apparently when a thousand hungry guests descended on the tables of food, the quantity was such that it looked untouched after the assault.

    Some of

    "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…We must try to see one another in this way…As suffering, limited beings…Perennially outmatched by circumstance, inadequately endowed with compensatory graces…And yet…Our grief must be defeated; it must not become our master, and make us ineffective…We must, to do the maximum good, bring the thing to its swiftest halt and…Kill more efficiently…Must end suffering by causing more suffering…His heart dropped at the thought of the killing…"
    So, we must fight, if fighting is required, to defeat wherever oppression exists. We must work together, and we’ll need all the help we can get from those who have glimpsed truth, and the value of kindness.

    In a radio podcast with David Remnick, editor of The New Yorker, Saunders tells us that in his research he discovers that Lincoln could have negotiated an end to the war in 1862 when the casualty levels were terrifically high. He must have wanted to end the slaughter so desperately, but one requirement of the agreement would have been to return the slaves to the South, and Lincoln simply refused. The black people who make an appearance in this novel live cruelly unfair and insecure lives.

    One could make the case that a novel of this kind is not unprecedented. Think of the ancient Greeks with their choruses of wise and not-so-wise men; Italy’s Dante with his examination of the good or bad we do in life affecting our placement in the afterlife; England’s Shakespeare with his oft-found articulate spirits remarking on the action; Ireland’s Beckett (and his influence Joyce) for language and the insight wrapped in foolishness; America’s Barth and Mamet for exactitude and a deep, abiding humor when rationality might suggest despair.

    The rich variety of voices in this novel are captured in the audio production of this book. In an interview published in, Saunders explains how the Penguin Random House team worked with him (kudos, everyone) to get the requisite 166 voices, including famous stage and screen actors like David Sedaris, Ben Stiller, Lena Dunham, among others, to speak the parts so that it sounds like the “American chorale” Saunders was trying to convey.

    At the same time, I found it helpful to have a written text to clarify Saunders’ experimental form which uses footnotes interspersed with conversation among ghosts. I adored what Saunders was able to tell us from his advanced age of 58 years—the stuff about not doing anything you can’t adequately explain to heaven’s gatekeepers, and how “it wasn’t my fault” actually isn’t much of a defense when one has been lingering in the afterworld for more than fifty years, unable to convince even a bleeding-heart saint that one wasn’t a douche that time.

    Links to an audio clip of this production are posted on my blog, along with a short, three-minute New Yorker Video about Saunders and his writing life. ...more

  • Jaline

    This is an intriguing book; one that is very inventive and yet its basic premise is based on strong possibilities, if not probabilities. There are brief historical excerpts throughout from various sources that are amazing in that they outline stronger than ever that “eye witness” testimony is pretty much wasted without a camera to back it up. For example, on a historically memorable night 5 or 10 people can look at the same night sky and see no moon at all, or a moon – but in about 5 or 6 differ ...more

  • Jill

    One of my great passions in life is reading – and reviewing – books. But how to review this book? It renders me speechless and. I almost feel compelled to reduce my review to two words: “Read it.”

    Years ago, I learned, while visiting the Lincoln Museum in Springfield, Illinois, that Abraham Lincoln was so prostrated by grief after the death of his favorite son Willie that he visited the crypt for months afterwards, opening the coffin and stroking the face and hair of his deceased son. It’s a maca

  • Paromjit

    In this award winning piece of historical fiction, a blend of fact and fiction, Saunders writes of 1862, the American Civil War has been raging for less than year, now intensifying to unbearable proportions with the rising tide of the dead. Amidst this background, Lincoln is facing his very own personally traumatic and testing times. After having already lost a son earlier, his gravely ill 11 year old son, Willie, dies and is laid to rest in Georgetown cemetery with a devastated Lincoln visiting ...more

  • Taryn

    I had a complicated relationship with this book. The writing was exquisite and I was amazed at the brilliance of the author, but there were also long sections where I felt completely lost.

    The tide runs out but never runs in. The stones roll downhill but do not roll back up.

    What I'm about to write doesn't even begin to sum this book up! President Abraham Lincoln's beloved eleven-year-old son Willie passes away after an illness. However, Willie doesn't realize he's dead. His soul is stuck in a t ...more

  • Amalia Gavea

    ‘’My mother, I said. My father. They will come shortly. To collect me’’

    Death is a cruel, cynical visitor. Sometimes invited, others unexpected, many more anticipated. Death is blind to age, race, religion, kindness or evilness. He does not discriminate, he takes everyone. He is the one certain thing in the life of every living creature. An unavoidable, unquestionable snatcher. However, don’t we all desire to know what happens next? Perhaps, this is what makes us so afraid, the fear of being lo