Lincoln in the Bardo was a challenging read, some of us hadn’t finished it before the bookclub evening but after Jane’s research and the discussion it seems we are all likely to persevere and finish it. Some links and Recipes for the curry and cucumber salad to follow!
Here’s some of the comments after the evening:
Karen…This novel was a challenging “listen” though I am glad I persevered. I admit I was very confused by the novel’s style. It was hard to get a foothold on what was happening and who was who. I wondered why George Saunders choose to write about the multitude of characters in the bardo and then juxtaposing their stories with the personal loss of Abraham Lincoln. Jane’s commentary helped me understand the novel’s purposeful complexities. Thanks Jane for always raising the bar! The book, the conversation and the meal were SUPERB! And just a reminder to please send us links to those sites that you found particularly insightful.
Laura…I also gave up on checking out all of the characters and citations about a third of the way into the story, and was able to settle in to it and enjoyed it all the more. You did a lot of research for us and it really helped to give me more insight into both the author and the concept of the Bardo. I loved the challenge of this book, and as well I always love hearing others’ perceptions that I overlooked or missed. The curry was delicious and yes, I too would love the recipe for the cucumber salad / raita.
Ann…, I think this is one book that hearing the conversation before I read the book will be to my advantage. I was so interested in the conversation and I came back to school today and was talking with one of my other book-loving friends to recommend it.
Jill…This story will stay with me a while, which includes our conversation about the Catholic/Buddhism religious aspect regarding being in limbo or bardo. Thoughts for the soul…
Summary of Lincoln on the Bardo from Goodreads.com:
In his long-awaited first novel, American master George Saunders delivers his most original, transcendent, and moving work yet. Unfolding in a graveyard over the course of a single night, narrated by a dazzling chorus of voices, Lincoln in the Bardo is a literary experience unlike any other—for no one but Saunders could conceive it.
February 1862. The Civil War is less than one year old. The fighting has begun in earnest, and the nation has begun to realize it is in for a long, bloody struggle. Meanwhile, President Lincoln’s beloved eleven-year-old son, Willie, lies upstairs in the White House, gravely ill. In a matter of days, despite predictions of a recovery, Willie dies and is laid to rest in a Georgetown cemetery. “My poor boy, he was too good for this earth,” the president says at the time. “God has called him home.” Newspapers report that a grief-stricken Lincoln returned to the crypt several times alone to hold his boy’s body.
From that seed of historical truth, George Saunders spins an unforgettable story of familial love and loss that breaks free of its realistic, historical framework into a thrilling, supernatural realm both hilarious and terrifying. Willie Lincoln finds himself in a strange purgatory, where ghosts mingle, gripe, commiserate, quarrel, and enact bizarre acts of penance. Within this transitional state—called, in the Tibetan tradition, the bardo—a monumental struggle erupts over young Willie’s soul.
Lincoln in the Bardo is an astonishing feat of imagination and a bold step forward from one of the most important and influential writers of his generation. Formally daring, generous in spirit, deeply concerned with matters of the heart, it is a testament to fiction’s ability to speak honestly and powerfully to the things that really matter to us. Saunders has invented a thrilling new form that deploys a kaleidoscopic, theatrical panorama of voices—living and dead, historical and invented—to ask a timeless, profound question: How do we live and love when we know that everything we love must end?
George Saunders was born December 2, 1958 and raised on the south side of Chicago. In 1981 he received a B.S. in Geophysical Engineering from Colorado School of Mines in Golden, Colorado. He worked at Radian International, an environmental engineering firm in Rochester, NY as a technical writer and geophysical engineer from 1989 to 1996. He has also worked in Sumatra on an oil exploration geophysics crew, as a doorman in Beverly Hills, a roofer in Chicago, a convenience store clerk, a guitarist in a Texas country-and-western band, and a knuckle-puller in a West Texas slaughterhouse.