Product detail

Lincoln in the Bardo

Lincoln in the Bardo

Author: George Saunders
$33.00(NZD)  inc GST
Available Stock: 4

This is the most original and enjoyable novel to cross my path in recent times. George Saunders is an astounding writer whose gift for story-telling makes Lincoln in the Bardo a pleasure to read and thoroughly absorbing. Using first-hand accounts and a cacophony of voices (from the spirit world) this is predominately a dialogue-driven novel. The year is 1862, an eleven-year-old boy - Willie Lincoln - has a fever and the Civil War rages in America. The book opens with a stately dinner during which the President and his wife venture upstairs at intervals to check on their cherished son. The fever doesn't break and young Willie dies. Lincoln is inconsolable and this is the story of his grief and his visits to the young boy's grave. The historical details from recorded histories, letters, reports and observances create a wonderfully accurate picture of the time and a truthful account of what happened - Saunders cleverly arranges this information to become a readable script ,building visual scenes in the reader's mind. Interspersed are the sections in the Bardo - the Bardo (from Tibetan Buddhist tradition) is a place of transition, a place between death and life, where those stuck in this world are tormented by demons and biding time until the next world. The array of characters Saunders creates are both grotesque and humorous. Unwilling to depart this world, they live in hope for a way back to their loved ones and out of their 'sick-boxes'. Willie is in the Bardo and it is here that his father comes, stricken with grief, to cradle his son one more time. In this place, the cacophony of voices telling this story and their fascination with the living one who enters their world, are intriguing. Not only do these voices give an insight into the times, but their stories of woe are both tragic and entertaining. Saunders gets the pitch just right. A story of grief and familial love against a backdrop of tragedy and crisis, Lincoln in the Bardo is a gem for its stylistic endeavours and the interplay between lightness and dark.


The Bardo Thodol (generally known in the West as The Tibetan Book of the Dead) is a Tibetan text describing the fate of consciousness after death, the torments and wonders experienced by an individual due to patterns of attachment built up while alive and the rigours that must be undertaken in order to erase the impediments that comprise the personality in order to prepare for rebirth. Lincoln in the Bardo is, then, an American Book of the Dead, a sort of ghost story told from the point of view of the ghosts, spirits whose attachment to elements of their pre-death existence prevents their dispersal after death, resulting in them thronging the cemetery in which their bodies have been laid, caricatures or exaggerations of themselves, restlessly, compulsively repeating those circuits of existence and patterns of thought to which they were most attached, for better or for worse, unable to admit or accept or perceive that they are dead. Most ghost stories tell of the intrusion of a spirit of a dead person into the world of the living; Lincoln in the Bardo tells of the intrusion of a living person into postmortem territory of the undeparted dead. Abraham Lincoln, stricken by the death of his young son Willie in 1862, paid visits at night to keep company with the boy’s corpse in the sepulchre. In this book, his presence, and his love for Willie, is immensely attractive to the dead, representing the life they are desperate to rejoin. But there is nothing ghoulish about this book; it is both poignant and comic. The author has clearly had an immense amount of fun writing it, and it is a pleasure to read. Just as historical texts often quote other texts or primary sources, the book begins as an assemblage of presumably authentic quotes regarding the night upon which Willie died, which was also the night of a presidential banquet. This form established, unusually for a novel, the book progresses as a multivocal narrative in the voices mainly of various spirits who have not been able to disperse after death, and who, as they converse (and it is conversation that drives this novel), do so in the reported speech of each other. The primary concern of these spirits is the ordinary content of their lives and their relationships, the very things that are usually overlooked by history, especially history of momentous periods such as the American Civil War, during which this book is set (and which provides some of the dead that appear in it). To the extent that this book shines a light upon history, it is a history not of acts but of motivations. Motivations are always both ordinary and individual, and do not much change through history, enabling a real sympathy between these mostly imagined past people and the reader of the book. The writer, like a ghost himself (like any writer to the world of their book), moves in and out of persons, takes up and abandons the voices of others as if they were clothing. There are some tender moments between Lincoln and his son, which enable the ‘Emperor’s New Clothes’ moment which changes everything for the ghosts but also marks the start of Lincoln’s acceptance of his son’s death and a sense of resolution that will carry him forward into his presidency and through the war. Lincoln in the Bardo has just been awarded the 2017 Man Booker Prize


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
February 1862. The American Civil War rages while President Lincoln's beloved eleven-year-old son lies gravely ill. Days later, 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 supernatural domain both hilarious and terrifying. Willie Lincoln finds himself trapped in a strange purgatory called, in Tibetan tradition, the bardo where ghosts mingle, squabble and commiserate, and a monumental struggle erupts over his soul -

Written with George Saunders' inimitable humour, pathos and grace, Lincoln in the Bardo invents a thrilling new form and confirms him as one of the most important 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?
Promotion info

The extraordinary Booker -Prize winning novel by the bestselling 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    




George Saunders makes you feel as though you are reading fiction for the first time -- Khaled Hosseini A morally passionate, serious writer ... He will be read long after these times have passed -- Zadie Smith He makes the all-but-impossible look effortless. We're lucky to have him -- Jonathan Franzen An astoundingly tuned voice - graceful, dark, authentic and funny -- Thomas Pynchon Saunders is a writer of arresting brilliance and originality, with a sure sense of his material and apparently inexhaustible resources of voice ... Scary, hilarious and unforgettable -- Tobias Wolff There is no one better, no one more essential -- Dave Eggers Few people cut as hard or deep as Saunders does -- Junot Diaz Saunders is a true original - restlessly inventive, yet deeply humane -- Jennifer Egan Reading George Saunders is, it's safe to say, like no other literary experience -- Observer No one writes more powerfully than George Saunders about the lost, the unlucky, the disenfranchised -- Michiko Kakutani, New York Times Surreal and puncturing -- Margaret Atwood Funny, poignant - in flashes, deeply moving - light as a feather and consistently weird -- Hari Kunzru There is really no one like him. He is an original - but everyone knows that -- Lorrie Moore Part of the reason it's so hard to talk about him is the shared acknowledgment among writers that Saunders is somehow a little more than just a writer... [He] writes like something of a saint. He seems in touch with some better being -- Joshua Ferris

Author description

George Saunders is the author of nine books, including Tenth of December, which was a finalist for the National Book Award and won the inaugural Folio Prize (for the best work of fiction in English) and the Story Prize (best short-story collection). 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.

Stock Information

General Fields

  • : 9781408871751
  • : Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
  • : Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
  • : January 2017
  • : 234mm X 153mm
  • : United Kingdom
  • : February 2017
  • : books

Special Fields

  • : 813/.54
  • : 368
  • : George Saunders
  • : Paperback
  • : Export/Airside ed
  • : English