Sunday, August 15, 2010

Team of Rivals

OK, so if you know me, you know I love Books, I love to read AND I read A LOT. I read all sorts of things. A little Romantic fluff here, a little Murder mystery there. Of late I have taken to reading the musings of people who decided that their personal life journeys were interesting enough to be published. Then there is History. I like most history. When I was about 16 or 17, I read the HUGE tome Peter the Great. Who, at that age reads these things you ask? Well me. I have no clue if any of my peers read these things then, because I was too embarrassed to let on that, despite my wild behavior, I was actually an intellectual soul. Most of my friends thought I lived and died by Stephen King books, which was only slightly true. Anyway, at almost 40, it is hardly an embarrassment to be interested in history and be somewhat intellectual... The transition from Historical fiction to History has been an easy one.

I am now reading Team of Rivals -- The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin.

Can I just tell you that I am really into this book! I am surprised how much was not learned in school about the man himself and particularly that the fervor in the nation was never really expressed to me as so volatile by any teacher I ever had. All I can say is, I had only 1 teacher - EVER - that made history even remotely interesting -- thank you Mr. Mullaney! Sadly he could not make up for the lack in all those who came before him.

I have long been interested in the Civil War and the events that took place during those years, but I never really delved into the events leading up to the election of Lincoln and how the fuse was lit. To say the least, this book has caused me to feel inside the anxieties and heartfelt emotions of the people of our great country when so much was at stake. I can even understand better, though I would NEVER have agreed with, the South's efforts to preserve their way of life and what the removal of slavery would do to their financial stability and more interestingly... their self image and identity. Previously I have always just thought the South was motivated by greed and a sincere -- and SICKENINGLY WRONG -- belief that blacks, slave or free, were not humans that deserved respect, but a lower life form to be treated as lower than animals. I mean consider that many treated their farm animals and house pets with considerable love and adoration. Can you imagine living your life knowing that you were valued less than an animal? I cannot fathom the ache this must have cause these people who by no means started life wanting to be treated this way. For all the interest I have had in the Civil War, I never considered that, for the slave owners, it was an entirely natural way to behave, because that was what they knew and understood. As with anyone, you learn at the most basic level to be as your ancestors wish. Even now, too many people find it either difficult or impossible to ultimately reject the long held ideals of their families/peers, especially when those ideals are offensive to the very core of humanity. It takes an iron will to stand amid that type of ideology and express not just doubt but absolute horror at the actions of those you know and love. Far to many Southerners must've feared absolute rejection or possibly slaughter of themselves and likely kept their feelings quiet as a matter of self preservation. Those who stood up in the South and openly rejected slavery risked everything to do so and I doubt I could ever understand what it meant for them on any level to do so.

Anyway, this book has really given me a different insight into things than I previously had. Certainly adulthood and parenthood contribute some to that. Different than a straight biography, this story unfolds around many participants in the History of the time. I had no expectations going into this and was not at all certain I was even going to be able to read it through. Some books of history can be so dull as to ruin them before you ever get to the stuff you want/need to know. All I can say is that if you like history then you would probably like this book. I have laughed, cried and held my breath.


  1. I received this book for Christmas a couple of years ago, and while I love the Civil War and Abraham Lincoln, I've only read the beginning. You've given me the push I needed to start reading it again -- thanks!!

  2. AWESOME Ellen! Let me know how it goes. It'd be interesting to compare our reactions to see how they differ or not.

  3. Ellen posted this on FB today, and I thought it was worth adding the link.