Friday, November 20, 2020

Review: Mrs. Lincoln's Sisters by Jennifer Chiaverini (audio)


Title: Mrs. Lincoln's Sisters
Author: Jennifer Chiaverini
Narrator: Cassandra Campbell
Published: June 2020, Harper Audio / William Morrow
Length: 12 hours 24 minutes / 336 pages
Source: Audio via library / Print via Publisher

The New York Times bestselling author of Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker returns to her most famous heroine, Mary Todd Lincoln, in this compelling story of love, loss, and sisterhood rich with history and suspense.

In May 1875, Elizabeth Todd Edwards reels from news that her younger sister Mary, former First Lady and widow of President Abraham Lincoln, has attempted suicide. 

Mary’s shocking act followed legal proceedings arranged by her eldest and only surviving son that declared her legally insane. Although they have long been estranged, Elizabeth knows Mary’s tenuous mental health has deteriorated through decades of trauma and loss. Yet is her suicide attempt truly the impulse of a deranged mind, or the desperate act of a sane woman terrified to be committed to an asylum? And—if her sisters can put past grievances aside—is their love powerful enough to save her? 

Maternal Elizabeth, peacemaker Frances, envious Ann, and much adored Emilie had always turned to one another in times of joy and heartache, first as children, and later as young wives and mothers. But when Civil War erupted, the conflict that divided a nation shattered their family. The Todd sisters’s fates were bound to their husbands’ choices as some joined the Lincoln administration, others the Confederate Army.

Now, though discord and tragedy have strained their bonds, Elizabeth knows they must come together as sisters to help Mary in her most desperate hour.


My thoughts: It's no secret that I am a little bit fascinated with Mary Todd Lincoln and have turned to Jennifer Chiaverini and her books on her. I absolutely loved the first book she wrote on her, Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker, and have looked forward to each and every book since. This latest one was just as fascinating as I expected it to be and I find I learn just a little more about this truly remarkable woman with each book.

I loved how this book explores Mary Todd Lincoln's early life with her sisters as well as the time after her husband has died and she has attempted suicide. Her son, Robert, feeling as if he has no other choice, has declared her legally insane and has her committed. But is she really? She has been estranged from her sisters for some time now, but once they hear the news, they feel they must do something.

This book is narrated by the sisters and I loved getting to know about Mary's family this way. In all the other books I've read about her, I don't recall reading about her early life, so this was such a fascinating read in that aspect. Her mother died when she was quite young and she and her stepmother did not really see eye to eye, so much so that she was sent to boarding school. How much of who she was to become and how she ended up being was shaped by all that I wonder?

There is no doubt in my mind that Mary Todd Lincoln had a difficult life. But was she truly insane? I don't know. She certainly could be manipulate for sure, but she was an inquisitive person who knew what she wanted and often got it. 

This book is such an interesting look into her life and I loved how easy it was to read. Jennifer Chiaverini puts so much research into her writing and I just soaked it all up. I have one more book of hers to read that has been sitting on my shelf for some time and I am definitely going to be putting it on top of my list - Mrs. Lincoln's Rival. I can't recommend her books enough!

Audio thoughts: This was such a great audio and I found myself completely captivated from start to finish. Cassandra Campbell brought her A-game when narrating this, giving each sister their own unique voice and really bringing this audio book to life. Her pacing and intonation were spot on and I really enjoyed listening to it.


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