Ben Oliver


Lincoln in the Bardo

30 October 2018

Set in the days around the death of Willie Lincoln, the son of Abraham Lincoln who died aged 11 while his father was in office. The novel mostly takes place in ‘the bardo’ - a place somewhere between life and death. It’s an ambitious work of magical realism combining cited historical facts with fiction.

Saunders’ writing style is experimental, and it takes a few pages to really get into the flow of how the book is written and structured. This might be off-putting but sticking with the novel has its rewards - Lincoln in the Bardo finds new perspectives (sometimes literally) on grief, life, death and sin.

He also strikes a warm, inviting tone, injecting a morbid but charming sense of humour throughout. It’s a sad novel, but it’s never depressing.

A truly inspired and heartfelt piece of work.