Lincoln in the Bardo by George Sanders

I have all the feelings about Lincoln in the Bardo by George Sanders and yet, have so many problems.

  1. I wish I had read it sooner.
  2. I wish I had the eloquence to say just how much I loved this book.
  3. I wish I had something new to say about this book. I feel I missed the boat on this one.
  4. And lastly, I wish I wasn’t so rusty when it comes to writing book reviews.

Yet, I feel like my experience in reading Bardo could be helpful.

When first Bardo came out, it came touting its 166 member cast which boasted such talent as Nick Offerman, Julianne Moore, Ben Stiller, Lena Dunham, Jeffrey Tambor, Carrie Brownstein, Don Cheadle, Rainn Wilson, and Susan Sarandon, plus many, many more, I could not wait to listen. Count. Not. Wait. It just sounded so exciting! 166 readers? WOW!

Alas, I hated it. I don’t think I have ever felt so claustrophobic and confused while listening to an audiobook. I couldn’t keep up with the characters, let alone the story. I was too busy trying to figure out who the celebrity voicing the character WAS, that I missed what the character was SAYING. I had to give up. And I was sad about it, because it seemed like everyone whose opinion I respected, loved it. I WANTED TO LOVE IT TOO DAMNIT.

Flash forward a few months. I went on a reading retreat with some of my favorite bookish people and I found a hardback copy of Bardo, for $5 (!), and I snapped it up.  I was still absolutely certain the book was for me. Yet, still I hesitated. Until, in the weeks leading up to my daughter’s back surgery, I picked it up (in a long series of other books) looking for a distraction. I was instantly enchanted and I could not put it down.

I had found the perfect book at the perfect time.

I plan to go back and listen to the audio again soon. Now that I know the story, I don’t think I’ll be so overwhelmed. I hope, if you were similarly put off by the audio, that you will try the book again in paper. It’s just wonderful and sits squarely in my top ten favorites for the year, if not ever.

8 thoughts on “Lincoln in the Bardo by George Sanders”

  1. My book club was supposed to read this last year or the year before. One person picked it up and tried and said she couldn’t get into it so they voted to abandon it. I think I need to give it a go.


    1. It’s just the first few pages that give me doubts. The format is very weird because characters speak for other but once you get past those first few pages… like maybe ten, it all makes sense. People give up too soon. It’s a wonderful read.


  2. Well, I ignored all the people who couldn’t get past the few pages and pitched it to my club and it was read and enjoyed by all who READ it. Some didn’t even try because it was about death and they felt it would be too morbid. Their loss. It was so heartbreaking. I found a Virtual Reality experience for the book and it REALLY brought to life the world that Saunders created in that cemetery. I posted on on my review. Haunting.


  3. AMEN!! The virtual reality experience Ti mentions is totally worth checking out. It gives you a visual of the entire world for those who may have struggled to imagine it. I agree with Ti also when she says that people are WAY too quick to abandon this one, especially in print. It is one that requires you to work but so worth it in the end. Then, once you have the print version under your belt, you can really enjoy the audio and let the 166-person cast bring the characters to life for you.


  4. This is one of those books that has me so very intimidated! Could you be the person who finally pushes me past my fear? You could be, Heather darling, and if you are, it sounds like I shall be back to give you a big thank you! 🙂


  5. I was completely intimidated by this one and didn’t even consider picking it up for that reason. I think I’ll try the print and hope for the best. Thank you for the encouragement!


  6. Oh wow, I’m really surprised! I feel like I’ve heard nothing but raves about the audio version, so this is a total reversal of what I expected. But, good to know, and I will definitely report this information if any of my pals mention that they have a hard time with the audio.


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