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The Emancipator's Wife


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About the Author

Barbara Hambly is the author of The Emancipator's Wife, a finalist for the Michael Shaara Award for Excellence in Civil War Fiction. She is also the author of Fever Season, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year, and seven acclaimed historical novels.


Hambly's (Days of the Dead) enthralling new historical novel about Mary Todd Lincoln demonstrates the same sense of place and period detail as her popular Benjamin January series. Moving back and forth in time through the mid-19th century, Hambly depicts Mary's life in Lexington, KY, as a flirtatious Southern belle who resents her stepmother, craves her father's attention, and slowly becomes aware of the different worlds of men and women, whites and blacks. Her explosive temper and debilitating migraines were a critical factor in her daily activities. Alternating chapters describe how Mary's son Robert had her declared insane and committed to a private sanitarium; throughout, there is stream-of-consciousness commentary from Mary, which adds another level of narration. Hambly goes beyond Mary's relationship with Lincoln, her shrewish behavior, and the very real physical and emotional pain that led her to self-medicate with various "female" cordials containing opium and/or alcohol. She deals with the basic issue of how women were regarded at that time: as weak, hysterical, and constitutionally incapable of intellectual or financial ability. Issues of spiritualism, mental illness, addiction, race, and politics are interwoven, giving the reader a clearer understanding of their pervasiveness and influence. This sympathetic yet unabsolving portrait of a much-maligned figure belongs in all public libraries.-Ann Fleury, Tampa-Hillsborough Cty. P.L., FL Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

Hambly (A Free Man of Color, etc.) has a knack for bringing historical figures to life in all their flawed humanity. This touching portrait of Mary Todd, a brilliant but troubled belle in Kentucky when she meets Abraham Lincoln in 1839, recounts Mary's personal struggles and triumphs and describes the general state of women in the 19th century, as well as supplies an evenhanded overview of the political and practical issues surrounding the emancipation of the slaves. With her sharp intelligence, social skill and standing, and political astuteness, Mary seems the perfect partner for Lincoln. But her emotional problems hobble her from the start and worsen over the years under the tremendous strain of political life and with the terrible loss of three of her four sons as well as her husband. Ten years after Lincoln's assassination, Mary's sole remaining son is fighting a court battle to have his mother declared insane. Told from her own perspective and that of some fictionalized historical figures like Frederick Douglass, Mary's story, including her hard-won insight into her own difficulties and her addiction to her laudanum-laced medicine, is moving. Despite a jarring abruptness to some of the changes in point of view and the slow pace of the narration, the novel paints a full, nuanced picture of a talented, tormented woman. Agent, Frances Collin. (Feb. 1) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

"From its perfect title to its beautiful poignant, last scene, this is a wonderful portrait of one of the most important, complex, and misunderstood figures in American history--a brilliant novel of the Civil War."--Max Byrd

"Touching...Hambly has a knack for bringing historical figures to life in all their flawed humanity."--Publishers Weekly

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