Normally, I don’t read much historical fiction. The real stuff is just as exciting, with rich story lines jammed with as many twists and turns and interesting characters as any novel. But C. S. Lewis once wrote that “imagination is the source of meaning” and occasionally, I’ve found a piece of fiction that deepens my understanding of an historical figure.
That’s the case with Stephen Harrigan’s "A FRIEND OF MR. LINCOLN," a beautiful volume that explores the mind and actions of the young Abraham Lincoln’s struggle. I use the word beautiful deliberately: Harrigan is a wonderful writer who uses the device of a friendship with a fictional Springfield, Illinois, poet and hotel keeper, Cage Weatherby, to illuminate the emergence in the 1830s and 40s of the man we know as the 16th president, a great man, yes, but a man with flaws, shortcomings, needs and doubts.
The book is not a treat to read just because of the elegant prose. It is also informed by a deep understanding of Lincoln’s intellectual development, his manner his way of speaking and thinking. If you like reading about Abe Lincoln, buy this superb book.
P.S. If you’re happy with the volume, then pick up Harrigan’s "THE GATES OF THE ALAMO" for reading at the beach this summer and you’ll have made a second great decision.