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Lincoln in the Bardo (Hardback)
  • Lincoln in the Bardo (Hardback)

Lincoln in the Bardo (Hardback)

Hardback 368 Pages / Published: 09/03/2017
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Shortlisted for the Waterstones Book of the Year 2017

Winner of the Man Booker Prize 2017

The extraordinary first novel by the bestselling, Folio Prize-winning, National Book Award-shortlisted author, George Saunders.

At the dawn of the Civil War Abraham Lincoln nurses a very private grief.

President Lincoln's beloved eleven-year-old son lies gravely ill. In a matter of days, 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 thrilling, supernatural domain: electric, hilarious and terrifying.

Willie Lincoln finds himself trapped in a transitional realm - called, in Tibetan tradition, the bardo - and as ghosts mingle, squabble, gripe and commiserate, and stony tendrils creep towards the boy, a monumental struggle erupts over young Willie's soul.

Unfolding over a single night, Lincoln in the Bardo is written with George Saunders' inimitable humour, pathos and grace. Inventing an exhilarating new form, Saunders confirms his status as one of the most important and influential 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?

Arguably the best American short story writer of his generation, George Saunder’s mantelpiece must be groaning under the weight of awards. His best-known collections include The Tenth of DecemberCivilwarland in Bad Decline and Congratulations, by the Way, Some Thoughts on Kindness.

Read a Waterstones exclusive article on the historical context to Lincoln in the Bardo, with recommended further reading about the American Civil War

Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
ISBN: 9781408871744
Number of pages: 368
Weight: 684 g
Dimensions: 234 x 153 mm


"George Saunders's brilliant debut novel about a grieving Lincoln confirms him as a literary star ... To read Saunders's fiction is to be dazzled by ingenuity, imagination and searing comic verve ... A tender but trenchant reminder that America is and always has been many-voiced: not one story, but millions." - Sunday Times

"A luminous feat of generosity and humanism... Such is Saunders's magnificent portraiture that readers will recognize in this wretchedness and bravery aspects of their own characters as well." - Colson Whitehead, New York Times 

"The most strange and brilliant book you'll read this year ... Riotously imagined ... So intimate and human, so profound, that it seems like an act of grace." - Financial Times

"Dazzling and disorientating ... As you turn the pages of this remarkable novel it starts to feel uncannily like a hinge in American history." - The Times 

"A breathtakingly agile narrative ... A brilliant, exhausting, emotionally involving attempt to get up again, to fight for empathy, kindness and self-sacrifice, and to resist." - Alex Clark, Observer

"A surreal metaphysical drama about grief and freedom ... A father-son narrative that is both hilarious and haunting." - Johanna Thomas-Corr, Evening Standard

"Saunders's extraordinary verbal energy is harnessed, for the most part, in the service of capturing the pathos of everyday life ... It is Saunders's beautifully realized portrait of Lincoln - caught at this hinge moment in time, in his own personal bardo, as it were - that powers this book." - Michiko Kakutanii, New York Times 

"A strange and haunting novel - his highly anticipated first, after decades of short-story wizardry - about the effect the dead have on the living, and the living on the dead." - Economist

"The story canters along ... The writing constantly surprises." - Mail on Sunday

"Lincoln in the Bardo has great matters on its mind: freedom and slavery, the spirit and the body. But it is, finally, "about" Abraham Lincoln, that great spectral presence in a whole subgenre of American fiction." - New Yorker 

"This is a book that confounds our expectations of what a novel should look and sound like." - Washington Post 

"The much anticipated long-form debut from the US short-story maestro does not dissapoint." - Guardian

"A historical novel like no other - a supernatural ensemble extravaganza of awesome intricacy and somewhat perplexing purpose ... A feat of style ... A polyphonic spree that spins the head."- Anthony Cummins, Daily Telegraph 

"George Saunders makes you feel as though you are reading fiction for the first time." - Khaled Hosseini

"A cacophonous, genre-busting book inspired by the death of Abraham Lincoln's young son." - Metro

"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

"There is no one better, no one more essential." - Dave Eggers 

"Reading George Saunders is, it's safe to say, like no other literary experience." - Observer 

"Funny, poignant - in flashes, deeply moving - light as a feather and consistently weird." - Hari Kunzru

"Fiction taken to a new realm, and a work of sheer brilliance." - GQ 

"Tremendously moving ... Surpasses all expectations. This is a masterpiece." - Sunday Express 

"An urgently political, profoundly moral book, albeit one so playful and so fantastical that the reader may hardly notice." - Economist 

"Best known for his critically acclaimed short stories, this is Saunders' first full-length novel, told with tenderness, imagination and wit." - Zoe Apostolides, Daily Telegraph, Summer Reading 

"It's like a gothic, American Under Milk Wood." - The Times, Summer Reading 

"Filled with wit and sadness ... It is an immensely powerful work. In the hands of the right imagination, the horror of individual loss can become an extraordinarily humane exploration of the beauty and the value of life, however painful." - Guardian

"George Saunders's Lincoln in the Bardo is an extraordinary act of poignant literary virtuosity about love, death, ghosts and history, starring the grieving president." - Simon Sebag Montefiore, Evening Standard, Summer Reading 

"I was won over by the sheer brio, writerly flourish and humanity of Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders, which imagines a disputatious convocation of the dead observing the US president as he mourns his son." - Nick Curtis, Evening Standard, Summer Reading 

"From his short stories, we might have expected Saunders's long-awaited first novel to be some sprawling vision of a future America. In fact, it's a historical novel - albeit one like no other ... It's an admirable feat of style." - Daily Telegraph, Summer Reading 

"I'll be working my way on backwards through George Saunders, having been hooked conclusively by Lincoln in the Bardo, tonal whimsies and all. I'm presently on Tenth of December, but I expect to have reached The Brief and Frightening Reign of Phil by the time we go on holiday." - Francis Spufford, Guardian, Summer Reading 

"Unfolding in the graveyard over a single night, narrated by a dazzling chorus of voices, Lincoln in the Bardo is a thrilling exploration of death, grief and the deeper meaning and possibilities of life." - Irish Times 

"Huge excitement greeted this debut novel from the US short-story master. Abraham Lincoln mourns his dead son, while other spirits in the cemetery, hovering between life and death." - Guardian

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“A most unusual masterpiece....”

I ' d warn you all that you have never read anything like this before. It is an extraordinarily unique and wonderfully inventive novel about Abraham Lincoln and the death of his eleven year old son Willie. After... More

Hardback edition
Helpful? Upvote 179

“A Reinvention of the Novel”

So, I thought I'd let Saff' say it all, for fear of not being able to match her astute observations and way with words, her near perfect review, her fantastic rendering of exactly what Saunders has done.... More

Hardback edition
Helpful? Upvote 126


I was fortunate enough to receive a proof copy of this title after a fantastic recommend by a fellow bookseller. Despite the graveyard setting and the voices of the dead, this book is beautiful and full of life. A... More

Hardback edition
Helpful? Upvote 95

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