Barbara Hambly,
The Emancipator's Wife
(Bantam, 2005)

The premise of Barbara Hambly's The Emancipator's Wife is the life and times of Mary Todd, a.k.a. Mrs. Abraham Lincoln.

Weirdly enough, I have seen a couple of reviews on this book that complain there's not enough information on Abraham Lincoln or the battles and movements of the Civil War. My take on that is "Huh?" Did they not read the title? It's called The Emancipator's WIFE. This is not a book about Lincoln or the war, though both are definitely involved. This is the story of Mary Todd Lincoln.

The thing I like to say most about this book is -- WOW. It is a totally eye-opening experience. While a work of fiction, it does have a lot of historical research involved and it is presented in a wonderfully entertaining manner. You get to see the issues facing the people of that time period from all sides and can view the complexities not normally discussed regarding slavery, the Civil War and the wide-ranging opinions on what solutions would be best for all involved.

Even more amazing is the view into the shackles placed on women, by men, society and women themselves. The concepts on medicine and the female anatomy are astounding. And the legal rights of women considered odd/insane by male relatives are totally disturbing.

This is the story of a strong woman dealing with internal and external difficulties. I found The Emancipator's Wife riveting and incredibly fascinating. Kudos to Hambly for tackling this subject! If anyone can make history come to life, it is definitely her.

by Gloria Oliver
26 May 2007

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