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Lincoln in the Bardo
Cover of Lincoln in the Bardo
Lincoln in the Bardo
WINNER OF THE MAN BOOKER PRIZE 2017
Borrow Borrow
WINNER OF THE MAN BOOKER PRIZE 2017

A STORY OF LOVE AFTER DEATH

'A masterpiece'
Zadie Smith
'Extraordinary' Daily Mail
'Breathtaking' Observer
'A tour de force' Sunday Times
The extraordinary first novel by the bestselling, Folio Prize-winning, National Book Award-shortlisted George Saunders, about Abraham Lincoln and the death of his eleven year old son, Willie, at the dawn of the Civil War
The American Civil War rages while President Lincoln's beloved eleven-year-old son lies gravely ill. In a matter of days, Willie dies and is laid to rest in a Georgetown cemetery. Newspapers report that a grief-stricken Lincoln returns to the crypt several times alone to hold his boy's body.
From this seed of historical truth, George Saunders spins an unforgettable story of familial love and loss that breaks free of realism, entering a thrilling, supernatural domain both hilarious and terrifying. Willie Lincoln finds himself trapped in a transitional realm - called, in Tibetan tradition, the bardo - and as ghosts mingle, squabble, gripe and commiserate, and stony tendrils creep towards the boy, a monumental struggle erupts over young Willie's soul.
Unfolding over a single night, Lincoln in the Bardo is written with George Saunders' inimitable humour, pathos and grace. Here he invents an exhilarating new form, and is confirmed as one of the most important and influential writers of his generation. Deploying a theatrical, kaleidoscopic panoply of voices - living and dead, historical and fictional - Lincoln in the Bardo poses a timeless question: how do we live and love when we know that everything we hold dear must end?
WINNER OF THE MAN BOOKER PRIZE 2017

A STORY OF LOVE AFTER DEATH

'A masterpiece'
Zadie Smith
'Extraordinary' Daily Mail
'Breathtaking' Observer
'A tour de force' Sunday Times
The extraordinary first novel by the bestselling, Folio Prize-winning, National Book Award-shortlisted George Saunders, about Abraham Lincoln and the death of his eleven year old son, Willie, at the dawn of the Civil War
The American Civil War rages while President Lincoln's beloved eleven-year-old son lies gravely ill. In a matter of days, Willie dies and is laid to rest in a Georgetown cemetery. Newspapers report that a grief-stricken Lincoln returns to the crypt several times alone to hold his boy's body.
From this seed of historical truth, George Saunders spins an unforgettable story of familial love and loss that breaks free of realism, entering a thrilling, supernatural domain both hilarious and terrifying. Willie Lincoln finds himself trapped in a transitional realm - called, in Tibetan tradition, the bardo - and as ghosts mingle, squabble, gripe and commiserate, and stony tendrils creep towards the boy, a monumental struggle erupts over young Willie's soul.
Unfolding over a single night, Lincoln in the Bardo is written with George Saunders' inimitable humour, pathos and grace. Here he invents an exhilarating new form, and is confirmed as one of the most important and influential writers of his generation. Deploying a theatrical, kaleidoscopic panoply of voices - living and dead, historical and fictional - Lincoln in the Bardo poses a timeless question: how do we live and love when we know that everything we hold dear must end?
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Awards-
About the Author-
  • George Saunders is the author of ten books, most recently the essay collection A Swim in a Pond in the Rain. His debut novel Lincoln in the Bardo won the 2017 Man Booker Prize and the Premio Rezzori prize. His collection Tenth of December was a finalist for the National Book Award and won the inaugural Folio Prize. He has received MacArthur and Guggenheim fellowships and the PEN/Malamud Prize for excellence in the short story, and was recently elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In 2013, he was named one of the world's 100 most influential people by Time magazine. He teaches in the creative writing program at Syracuse University.
    georgesaundersbooks.com
Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from August 8, 2016
    Saunders’s (Tenth of December) mesmerizing historical novel is also a moving ghost story. A Dantesque tour through a Georgetown cemetery teeming with spirits, the book takes place on a February night in 1862, when Abraham Lincoln visits the grave of his recently interred 11-year-old son, Willie. The distraught Lincoln’s nocturnal visit has a “vivifying effect” on the graveyard’s spectral denizens, a gallery of grotesques who have chosen to loiter “in the Bardo”—a Tibetan term for a liminal state—rather than face final judgment. Among this community, which is still riven by racial and class divisions, are Roger Bevins III, who slashed his wrists after being spurned by a lover, and Hans Vollman, a “wooden-toothed forty-six-year-old printer” struck in the head by a falling beam shortly after marrying his young wife. As irritable, chatty, and bored in their purgatory as Beckett characters, Bevins and Vollman devote themselves to saving Willie from their fate: “The young ones,” Bevins explains, “are not meant to tarry.” Periodically interrupting the graveyard action are slyly arranged assemblies of historical accounts of the Lincoln era. These excerpts and Lincoln’s anguished musings compose a collage-like portrait of a wartime president burdened by private and public grief, mourning his son’s death as staggering battlefield reports test his (and the nation’s) resolve. Saunders’s enlivening imagination runs wild in detailing the ghosts’ bizarre manifestations, but melancholy is the novel’s dominant tone. Two sad strains, the spirits’ stubborn, nostalgic attachment to the world of the living and Lincoln’s monumental sorrow, make up a haunting American ballad that will inspire increased devotion among Saunders’s admirers.

  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from April 24, 2017
    It takes a full six minutes at the end of this unforgettable audio production to read the cast list of 166 actors: comedian Nick Offerman, author David Sedaris, Hollywood A-listers Carrie Brownstein, Don Cheadle, Lena Dunham, Bill Hader, Miranda July, Julianne Moore, Ben Stiller, Susan Sarandon, and Jeffrey Tambor, and others. The main challenge of Saunders’s Civil War–era novel is fragmentation. In addition to the plethora of characters to keep straight, the novel features several challenging elements of postmodern fiction: punctuationless sentences, a constantly shifting perspective, and a mélange of factual snippets and boldly fabricated sources. The effect, however, is a wonder brought to life in these performances. Sedaris steals the show as Mr. Bevins, a wry and lonely spirit who tarries in the titular bardo, mourning the lover who left him. Two other performances deserve special mention: Kirby Heyborne, a veteran audiobook narrator, more than holds his own in this star-studded cast, breaking listeners’ hearts with his quiet and sensitive portrayal of Mr. Lincoln’s recently deceased boy Willie. And one of the book’s best performances belongs to Saunders himself, who plays the Reverend Thomas, a timid man of the cloth who is haunted by sin—but what sin, however, he doesn’t know. If fiction lovers listen to just one audiobook in 2017—or ever—it should be this one. A Random House hardcover.

  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from January 1, 2018
    It takes a full six minutes at the end of this unforgettable audio production to read the cast list of 166 actors: comedian Nick Offerman, author David Sedaris, Hollywood A-listers Carrie Brownstein, Don Cheadle, Lena Dunham, Bill Hader, Miranda July, Julianne Moore, Ben Stiller, Susan Sarandon, and Jeffrey Tambor, and others. The main challenge of Saunders’s Civil War–era novel is fragmentation. In addition to the plethora of characters to keep straight, the novel features several challenging elements of postmodern fiction: punctuationless sentences, a constantly shifting perspective, and a mélange of factual snippets and boldly fabricated sources. The effect, however, is a wonder brought to life in these performances. Sedaris steals the show as Mr. Bevins, a wry and lonely spirit who tarries in the titular bardo, mourning the lover who left him. Two other performances deserve special mention: Kirby Heyborne, a veteran audiobook narrator, more than holds his own in this star-studded cast, breaking listeners’ hearts with his quiet and sensitive portrayal of Mr. Lincoln’s recently deceased boy Willie. And one of the book’s best performances belongs to Saunders himself, who plays the Reverend Thomas, a timid man of the cloth who is haunted by sin—but what sin, however, he doesn’t know. If fiction lovers listen to just one audiobook in 2017—or ever—it should be this one. A Random House hardcover.

  • Sunday Times George Saunders's brilliant debut novel about a grieving Lincoln confirms him as a literary star ... To read Saunders's fiction is to be dazzled by ingenuity, imagination and searing comic verve ... A tender but trenchant reminder that America is and always has been many-voiced: not one story, but millions
  • New Statesman, Books of the Year 2017 Death haunts us, and in Lincoln in the Bardo George Saunders mines the many ways it does: the Gothic, the sentimental, the fearful and, above all, the grief-stricken
  • Guardian, Best Books of 2017 I was impressed but challenged by the originality and scope of George Saunders's Booker-winning story of grief and empathy, Lincoln in the Bardo
  • New York Times A luminous feat of generosity and humanism... Such is Saunders's magnificent portraiture that readers will recognize in this wretchedness and bravery aspects of their own characters as well
  • Financial Times The most strange and brilliant book you'll read this year ... Riotously imagined ... So intimate and human, so profound, that it seems like an act of grace
  • Guardian, Best Books of 2017 A historical novel that hews deeply and movingly to archival fact while also being an all-out crazy spectacle of his own invention ... A puzzling, hilarious vortex of invention that only Saunders could pull off. The novel made me feel intimate with Lincoln, and that particular moment of history, in a way I never had before
  • Observer, Best Books of the Year 2017 Ingenious ... As entrancing as it is beautiful
  • Observer, Best Books of the Year 2017 Lincoln in the Bardo was every bit as wonderful as I expected from the great George Saunders
  • Sunday Times It would be an understatement to call this novel an extraordinary tour de force ... Steeped in morality, it's a master-feat of vitality
  • The Sunday Times, 'Novel of the Year 2017' Could hardly be more of a phenomenal tour de force ... Encompassing macabre fantasy and aching emotion, this brilliantly imaginative excursion into a post-mortem world hauntingly celebrates the pleasures and the privilege of life
  • The Times, Best Fiction of 2017 The book is as weird as it sounds, but it's also pretty darn good
  • Evening Standard A surreal metaphysical drama about grief and freedom ... A father-son narrative that is both hilarious and haunting
  • Evening Standard, Books of the Year 2017 I was so pleased that George Saunders won the Booker for Lincoln in the Bardo. He's like literary psilocybin, scaring the bejesus out of you before revealing the world anew
  • New York Times Saunders's extraordinary verbal energy is harnessed, for the most part, in the service of capturing the pathos of everyday life ... It is Saunders's beautifully realized portrait of Lincoln - caught at this hinge moment in time, in his own personal bardo, as it were - that powers this book
  • New Statesman, Books of the Year 2017 I can't choose Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders: everyone will, right? Still, it's utterly astonishing
  • New York Times A masterpiece
  • New Statesman, Books of the Year 2017 'The Man Booker Prize judges got it right in choosing George Saunders's Lincoln in the Bardo ... A polyphonic masterpiece, by turns hilarious and deeply poignant
  • Mail on Sunday The story canters along ... The writing constantly surprises
  • Washington Post This is a book that confounds our expectations of what a novel should look and sound like
  • Buzzfeed Year Ahead in Books An original father-son tale that expertly blends history and fiction (and even the supernatural), Lincoln in the Bardo explores grief,...
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WINNER OF THE MAN BOOKER PRIZE 2017
George Saunders
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