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Topic: This is why I love reading.....*Spoiler Alert**

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Subject: This is why I love reading.....*Spoiler Alert**
Date Posted: 7/20/2009 7:32 PM ET
Member Since: 6/22/2009
Posts: 781
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I was advised that what I posted in Club Member's Thoughts would also be a good thread for Hidden Gems and for Historical Fiction:

So I'm on page 312 of 624 of Mary by Janis Cooke Newman. It's based on the diaries of Mary Todd Lincoln. So far I'm just blown away. I want to tell you all the interesting and shocking stuff I've learned so far, but I want all of you to read it for yourself. One thing I will share is that, I've now just reinforced my theory that textbooks teach you nothing interesting. I can see myself on a mission to read all the biographies of first ladies, even the ones  dubbed "fiction" like this one, starting with good ole Martha.

Ok, I added a spoiler alert.

Can you believe that Mary cheated on Mr. Lincoln!!! I couldn't believe it! Right after he became president, Mrs. Lincoln was escorted by a general to New York to buy much needed re-decorations for the white house because it was absolutely falling apart. To begin, Mary was a very passionate person, and as part of the deal in marrying Abe, she had to suppress this passion because Abe claimed it would drive him mad to unleash his own passion. So I guess she just couldn't help herself, and she goes into detail about how her and this general went at it all night. Someone found out and sent an anonymous letter to Abe.

Also, she was pretty much commited just because of the unsuppressable passion in bed and her extreme love of shopping. We'd all be commited if that were the case now!

I just had to get all this off my chest. Haha.

Date Posted: 7/20/2009 8:37 PM ET
Member Since: 3/8/2009
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Thanks for the recommendation.  I just added it to my WL!

Along the same lines (I think), I have Patriot Hearts: A Novel of the Founding Mothers on my WL too.  I saw it someone else's TBR in a recent swap.  It covers the first four first wives.  Has anyone read it?

Date Posted: 7/20/2009 9:28 PM ET
Member Since: 8/20/2006
Posts: 1,930
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Cassie - this book is historical fiction . . .

I haven't read the book but I did look at it in the book store and chose to pass on it because, if I remember correctly, the author did not provide any sources, notes, etc. to substantiate many of the "shocking" details. While the book is based on the diaries it really comes down to rather you believe she was sane or not and hence what she wrote - was it made up or true or a combination? If an author does not take the time to delineate what was fact and what she/he fictionalized I tend to believe that more of the book is fiction than fact.

If there are some notes, etc in the book please post about them. I would be interested to learn more.

 



Last Edited on: 7/20/09 9:30 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 7/21/2009 7:43 AM ET
Member Since: 12/10/2005
Posts: 2,851
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I've now just reinforced my theory that textbooks teach you nothing interesting.

Well, I don't know about that as I've read many an interesting textbook. But I hear you. My recent example involves Louis XIV of France. Jamie Fraser fans (Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon) may remember Jamie telling Claire how "costive" the king is. (I don't know why I remember stuff like this.) Anyhoo, in Jean Plaidy's The Wandering Prince, readers learn that Louis sat upon his pot daily for 30 minutes.

LOL! Seems to match. However, per Sheila's warning, I have no idea whether or not it's true.

Date Posted: 7/21/2009 8:07 AM ET
Member Since: 1/12/2008
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Cassie--I've read Mary and really enjoyed it as well. I'm not so stringent on requiring end notes--I love it if they are there to substantiate but can appreciate a read regardless. It sounds to me like you've just become a historical fiction fan---we've all had the experience you describe. Some of the best HF writers, especially the ones who stick closely to documented history but who also have a lively narrative voice, do make history come alive and interesting and make us wonder why school's presentation of the same era had to be so dry!

 

Welcome to the asylum!

Date Posted: 7/21/2009 8:11 AM ET
Member Since: 6/22/2009
Posts: 781
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Can anyone recommend more books like this about first ladies? I don't want it to read like a textbook. Mary is written in the first person, and although I am quite aware that the book is fiction, it does say at the end of the book the Janis Newman based the book off her biography and notes she wrote while at the Bellevue Place Sanitarium.

Kat (polbio) -
Date Posted: 7/22/2009 1:30 PM ET
Member Since: 10/10/2008
Posts: 3,067
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I have read two non-ficition books, one on lincoln (With Malice Toward None) and one on Mary (The Trials of MRs Lincoln ). IN Malice they hinted that Mary may have cheated on Abe, but never said so. They talked about how she had inapropriate friendships with men in Washington. She would entertain them in her own drawing room. she ran up a credit account of $28k behind Abe's back thinkign she had plenty of time to raise money from her gentlemen friends before they would be out of the white house. Than when he died, she was put out on the street. They gave her no salary. Her son was embarrased by her and had her put in an assylum when she tried to sell her dresses to raise money. The Trials, was about her sueing to prove she wasnt crazy. I highly recommend both books.

Date Posted: 7/27/2009 8:31 AM ET
Member Since: 6/22/2009
Posts: 781
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Sheila,

I'm almost done with the book. There are no notes or citations, but I can tell you this: I research a lot when it comes to reading and watching movies, and when I see something interesting, I look on the internet. Everything I looked up in regards to this book was found to be true fact. So, Newman has taken all these facts and created a story about them. So, the facts are true, but the conversations and how things went down are made up to create the story. If you read the book, you'll see that it takes place "in the present" for her, while she's committed at Bellevue, and her autobiographical part is her writing down the events of her life in an effort for her son, Robert, to understand why she is the way she is and not insane (He is the one that had her committed, her own son!). I've still yet to research whether or not she did write anything while she was committed.

Date Posted: 7/27/2009 10:47 AM ET
Member Since: 8/20/2006
Posts: 1,930
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Cassie, could you share some of your resources?

I have found as many claims supporting that she cheated on her husband as claims nullifying the incident. Some say she was schizophrenic or bi-polar, some say depressed, while other believe she was just eccentric. Mrs. Lincoln buried 3 of her sons and her husband - she had to be overwrought with grief. Obviously the insanity trial was a sham - five doctors who had never examined Mrs. Todd testified to the jury that she was insane based on statements made by her son. However, excessive shopping (OCD?) and unconventional behavior (especially in such conventional times) do not attest well to her sanity.

This review about Mary by Newman is interesting: http://civilwarstudies.org/articles/Vol_8/mary.shtm

Much of the book is based on first-hand accounts of conversations, documents, and newspaper articles, making it difficult to differentiate fact from fiction. This will be frustrating for anyone who is a Lincoln fan or a history buff, but anyone who loves chick-flicks or romance novels is going to love it.

Date Posted: 7/27/2009 8:56 PM ET
Member Since: 6/22/2009
Posts: 781
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A lot was from wikipedia and some elsewhere. I'm not arguing that the book isn't fiction, it definately is. What Newman has done is created a story about what we do know about Mary, so much of it is of course made up. When I said facts were true, I meant dates, names, events happening, that's all fact....the entire story around it was fabricated.

One example: Her best friend, confidante, and modiste, Lizzie Keckley, wrote a book totally betraying Mary. But when you read on wikipedia, it confirms the truth of this, but when it comes to whether they ever came to terms with one another, nobody is sure...so in the book, it talks about this book being written, but not about any "making up after"...and when they describe in detail how she found the book, how it made her feel, etc....all of that is of course made up. It's for us to judge how much like that did it really happen.

Date Posted: 7/27/2009 9:08 PM ET
Member Since: 6/22/2009
Posts: 781
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I also wanted to add...that I did post this in the historical fiction section and not biographies and memoirs. When someone has died a 100 years ago, never wrote an autobiography, and the only biography written about her was proven to be false during her lifetime...then the best thing we can get is what Newman has done. And as long the book is listed as fiction, that is all we can expect. It's a fabulous book.

Date Posted: 7/27/2009 10:11 PM ET
Member Since: 6/22/2009
Posts: 781
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Well I have just finished the book. I am sad that it is over, but excited to move onto a new book...this one was 620 pages! I began reading it on July 10th...so just under 3 weeks...not bad. It is wishlisted, so some lucky pbs'er is going to get it soon!

Sheila,

At the end, Newman writes a small excerpt, which includes this:

"I am indebted to Jean Baker's excellent biography, Mary Todd Lincoln, which both informed me and inspired me. Anyone interested in an entirely factual account of Mary's life should read this book."

Hope that helps! And I do hope you decide to read this book....I'm going to add the one by Baker to my reminder list, but will wait a while before I get it. As much as I fell in love with Mrs. Lincoln, I need a break from her!

Date Posted: 7/28/2009 9:33 AM ET
Member Since: 8/20/2006
Posts: 1,930
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Cassie, all I really want is verification that Mary cheated on Mr. Lincoln. In your first post you write, "Can you believe that Mary cheated on Mr. Lincoln!!! I couldn't believe it!".

I've read a few books on Mrs. Lincoln and this is news to me. This information you posted about is written in a fictional book and you are saying it is fact. I am genuinely curious regarding the veracity of this claim.

I like historical fiction and it is wonderful that you found a book that you enjoyed so much.

Date Posted: 8/9/2009 2:45 PM ET
Member Since: 7/30/2005
Posts: 1,080
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Cassie: Thanks for recommending Mary by Janis Cooke Newman it sounds good.