Civil War Fangirl

The thoughts of a (slighty eccentric & crazy) Canadian who happens to be obsessed with Abraham Lincoln, General William Tecumseh Sherman & the Civil War

Archive for the tag “melancholy”

My Absolute Favourite Book Of 2016 Is…

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…”A Friend Of Mr. Lincoln” by Stephen Harrigan (you can find him on Twitter @stephenharrigan) . I did write about this book in an earlier post, which you can find here. I give a brief synopsis of the book in that post.

As 2016 comes to a close, I can say not only is this my favourite book that I read this year but it has become one of my favourite books ever. The writing is brilliant. The characters, both real (Lincoln and Speed) and fictional (Cage Weatherby, through whom the story is told), are well-developed, and Harrigan weaves a world in which I was pulled right into. The writing is such that the book played out in my head like a movie. I could see Lincoln and his friends playing handball as they discussed poetry. I felt like I was there at the various social events that play out in the novel. I felt the emotions the characters felt – there were moments I laughed, moments I felt frustrated and yes, moments where I was moved to tears. There was characters I absolutely loved and characters I detested but that I still enjoyed having as part of the story. In reading this book, I got absolutely lost in the world that was mid-19th century Springfield, Illinois.

I absolutely loved Mr. Harrigan’s portrayal of Lincoln. He presents such a humanizing portrayal of Lincoln. If you’re like me, you will come away feeling that you’ve come to know him just a little bit better.

The other thing that made me love this book so much is the author’s portrayal of depression – it is raw, it is relatable and it is real. Lincoln is not the only character to suffer from depression – it is quite clear that some of the other characters do too. I remember one scene in particular making me cry because I knew how the character was feeling. The way in which he described how he was feeling was exactly how I feel when I’ve been in my most depressed states.

But the main reason I recommend this book? I absolutely loved Mr. Harrigan’s portrayal of Lincoln. It is a humanizing, at times raw, portrayal of him. I saw Lincoln’s good side but I saw his bad side too. It doesn’t get much more human than that. I came away feeling that, even though this is historical fiction, I somehow have come to know Lincoln better, especially how he was in his younger days. The author gives a voice to Lincoln as well as the other characters that is relatable. It has given me a deeper respect for a man that I have loved and respected nearly all of my life. It is a book that has stayed with me and that I know I will read again. That’s why it is my favourite book of 2016.

I also want to take this time to wish everyone of my readers a very Happy New Year and all the best in 2017! Y’all are awesome and I can’t thank you enough for reading.

Love,

Mary 🙂

Another of my favourite books from 2016 is…

…”Lincoln’s Melancholy” by Joshua Wolf Shenk.

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Y’all, I’ll be honest – I’m going to be lazy with this one and just point you over to here. That is my review I wrote of this book back in March.

But I do have some stuff to add (I’m a chatterbox just like my man Cump was…)

It still remains one of my favourite books about Lincoln. It is one I most certainly will read again. In the months since I’ve read it, I’ve recommended it to numerous people. These are not just people who love Lincoln. In fact, quite a few of them do not know much about him. The reason I recommended it though? Because we were discussing depression and I told them how much this book helped me to understand my own depression. It was the first book that really spoke to me, and as I say in my earlier review, made me feel like “hey, you’re not alone”. I tell them how inspirational the book is and that in knowing that Abraham Lincoln suffered from depression (and at a time when it was not well understood) and he managed to do all the incredible things he did. I think a few of them have ended up reading it.

In reading more about Lincoln since finishing “Lincoln’s Melancholy”, I have come to truly realize how much his depression did challenge him and fuel him as a person. When I read about him, I’m always keeping this in mind and it truly has made me see him in a different light. It’s made reading Donald’s bio of “Lincoln” that much more interesting because I read between the lines, as one would say, and will think “Hmm, that could be why he’s being that way”.

The one thing I see the most as stemming from his depression is his empathy. Lincoln had an incredible amount of empathy and I think this is one of the many things about his personality that made him so ahead of his time. The best example I can think of involves General Sherman (I know. Y’all are so not surprised by that…) and just how empathetic Lincoln was to him when Sherman had his breakdown in 1862. O’Connell states in “Fierce Patriot” (side note: if y’all haven’t read that one, you need to. I read it in 2015 hence why it’s not being mentioned as a fav of mine from 2016), his biography about General Sherman, that:

Lincoln had suffered from deep bouts of depression since early manhood (he called it the “hypo”) and it’s likely he [Lincoln] recognized a similar condition lurking behind Sherman’s excessive pessimism. He also must have known from his own experience that these bleak episodes eventually passed and so remained open to giving his fellow sufferer additional responsibility once he [Sherman] recovered.

He goes on to write that “mental illness of any sort carried a tremendous stigma in nineteenth century America, but not with Lincoln when it came to a general he instinctively liked and believed in”

Of course I have to include a photo of my two favourite men 🙂

I could go on with other examples of Lincoln’s empathy but this is one that always comes to mind. And hey, any chance to mention my two favourite men in a blog post is always awesome. #goals #historycrush #hotties

“Lincoln’s Melancholy” did make me feel like I came to know Lincoln better. It very much is a book worth reading, especially if you love Abraham Lincoln and want to know more about him. Depression was very much a part of who he was just as was his sense of humour and his empathy, both of which, I believe, stem from him having depression. I know for myself, my sense of humour has been a sort of defence mechanism against depression since I was very young.

I’ll wrap up my post there. What are y’all reading right now? Better yet, what was your favourite book of 2016? I’ll be posting tomorrow what my favourite book of 2016 was.

Until that time, have a happy Friday, y’all!!

Much love,

Mary 🙂

Four Words: What Abraham Lincoln Means to Me…

Since I was six years old, I have had an immense love for Abraham Lincoln. He has been a constant in my life and knowing who he is and all that he accomplished has had an incredibly positive impact on my own life. On this, the 151st anniversary of his assassination, I decided to write a post about what Lincoln personally means to me.

Four words…

Hope. Perseverance. Kindness.Laughter.

These are words that come to mind when I think of what Abraham Lincoln means to me.

Why those four words?

HOPE…

Abraham Lincoln is someone who suffered from depression. He was a melancholy person. As someone who personally battles depression and anxiety, knowing he suffered and managed to get through and do all the amazing things he did, gives me hope. Hope that I can get through the days that are rough, that I can push through and come out maybe a bit stronger than I was before. It gives me hope that we all can push through.

PERSEVERANCE…

Abraham Lincoln’s humble origins show us that where we are from matters not. We can, just like he did, rise above that which holds us back, be it people, a place or, in the case of depression, ourselves. He shows us that we can always push forward and persevere. Always. And hey, this gives us hope, too.

KINDNESS…

Lincoln teaches us to find “the better angels of our nature” and “to have malice toward none”, no matter the situation. While he applied these words to a country that was at war, they can apply to any situation, big or small. These words remind me to be a good person and treat others well.

LAUGHTER…

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You can see a slight smile in this photo of Lincoln. Thanks to one of my Twitter friends for sending this to me the other day. It brought a smile to my face on a day in which I needed to remember to smile 

I can’t remember Lincoln without remembering his sense of humour. It is so very much apart of who he was. He has taught me to always remember to laugh, even in the face of depression. That laughter is good.

Hope. Perseverance. Kindness. Laughter.

It is these four words that are what Abraham Lincoln means to me. For me personally, this is his legacy. He has been a part of my life since I was six. That is 27 years now. Besides these four words, knowing who he is has brought me so much. Through him, I developed a lifelong love and passion for history. In developing a passion and love of history, I decided to pursue an education in the museum field and become an artifact conservator. It is also because of him I have met many wonderful, amazing, and caring people, especially in the past year. I’m so happy that I can call many of these people friends. I’m so grateful to have them in my life. I’ve learned so much from them.

As we remember Abraham Lincoln on the 151st anniversary of his assassination, it will be in different ways; it all depends on what he personally means to us. That is truly one of the things that is amazing about him. What he means to each of us, and what we believe his legacy to be, may be different from person to person. I am sure, however, that one thing we can all agree on is what an amazing, inspiring person he was and really, what he continues to be. It is because of this, he will never be forgotten and that his spirit lives on in us.

So, Lincoln, where ever you, thank you for all you did and continue to do. Thank you for giving us hope, for inspiring us, for helping us persevere and for making us remember to smile and laugh.

We will continue to remember you. Always.

 

 

“Lincoln’s Melancholy”

The other day I finished what has become one of my favourite books about Abraham Lincoln. “Lincoln’s Melancholy: How Depression Challenged A President and Fueled His Greatness” by Joshua Wolf Shenk is an amazing book. It’s a stunning portrayal of the 16th President and his struggle with depression, how it shaped him as a person, what coping mechanisms he used and how having depressive insight helped him find the strength to help see America through its greatest crisis: the Civil War.
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I was intrigued to read this book for a number of reasons. Obviously, one reason is because it’s about Abraham Lincoln, and if there’s one thing I can’t get enough of, it’s learning more about him. The second reason is more personal. For my entire life, I have struggled with having anxiety disorder. I don’t recall a time in my life where I wasn’t anxious or worrying about something, usually the littlest things (but, for those of us the have anxiety disorder, those can actually seem like very big things). I’ve also tended to have a more melancholy personality. In my late teens, depression hit me. I’m now in my early 30s and yes, I still struggle with it, anxiety and mild ADD. When I found out this book existed, I knew I had to read it. I had a feeling in some way it might help. Plus: LINCOLN!

“Lincoln’s Melancholy” helped me to understand my own depression as well as depression as an illness. It’s helped me come up with a couple more coping mechanisms (like to keep laughing, which I do a lot of to begin with, but this book reaffirmed for me how important laughter is and how it’s often used by people who suffer from depression as a coping mechcanism).It also showed me what Lincoln went through, which just makes him even more amazing as a person to me. I’ve come away having an even greater love, appreciation and respect for him (I didn’t think that was possible). To know that he struggled too and managed to achieve all he did is just so inspiring and hopeful. Reading the book was also like hearing “Hey, you’re not alone” and “you can get through this”. It also reiterated to me yet again those of us who suffer from depression see the world differently than those that do not. And that’s okay.

Shenk did an incredible amount of research for this book. While the book is shorter when compared to some of the other books about Lincoln I’ve read, I feel like I  learned more about Lincoln as a person in these 243 pages than I have in reading other biographies about him. This was more the personal side of Lincoln that was presented but seeing this more personal side helps us in understanding why he was such amazing President and how he managed to accomplish the things he did in his life. Learning that he suffered from depression, that he recognized it and did not let it hold him back, is not only amazing, it’s also inspirational. And, most of all, it gives those of us that suffer from it too a hope that we can  persevere, that we don’t have to be held back. Yes, we have dark days and go through depressive episodes. Abraham Lincoln certainly did. But we can come through it, just as he did. We can become stronger than we were before, we can push through what holds us back and sure, we might see the world differently at the end of it, but that is okay. Seeing the world differently than others can make certain things become apparent to us that perhaps we didn’t see before. Most of all, it shows us again, what an amazing, timeless person Abraham Lincoln is and that in our society today, he is still relevant. The other important thing that “Lincoln’s Melancholy” shows us is this – it lets those of us that sufferer from depression know that we are not alone.

 

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