Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, by Doris Kearns Goodwin

by Derwood Hunsdale-Talbot on July 27, 2009

Review by D.B. Lee
team-of-rivalsI mightily wish, somehow, I could hear Lincoln speak. If able to choose, I would not choose to hear a speech, even his most famous. Instead, I would like to hear him tell a story. He was, by all accounts, a riveting storyteller, who could weave character, accent and action in ways that were wonderfully timed and delivered. Often the stories were humorous, and he was not reluctant to include, if necessary, the mildly ribald and profane, the better to captivate his listener.

I’ll have to make due with Ms. Goodwin’s fine book, which is easy, as she is such a fine storyteller herself. She brings to life not only Lincoln, but also the fascinating cast of characters that filled his political and wartime life. We’re shown that these were great men (and women) not because of their decisions as much as from their struggles–the battles they fought with themselves, as well as one another. We see how commonality of ultimate purpose (in this case, the preservation of the Union) was manifested in a wide diversity of opinions and strategies, all held with a zealot’s passion. We’re shown that the genius of Abraham Lincoln was in how he reconciled these opinions and the people who held them, all the while personally facing much greater responsibilities and decisions. A terrific story, superbly told.

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