2011: 1. Lincoln's Dreams

"Traveller died of lockjaw two years after Robert E. Lee died."

Lincoln’s Dreams, Connie Willis

          This is an odd book, an early Willis, and sort of an ur-Willis, in that it has all the best and worst qualities of a Willis book.  The best is, of course, an interesting idea - here, the notion that a woman in present day (or at least, in present day when it was written), is some how having dreams that are coming from the past (SPOILER - they turn out not to be Lincoln’s dreams - that is a plot point from the other part of the novel, which has to do with the narrator being a researcher for an author or historical fiction - but, rather, Lee’s dreams).  Although the book handles this notion sort of strangely, its a fascinating idea to play with - how devastating to have to dream what Lee dreamt, considering what he lived through, and her character definitely struggles with the horror and the sadness of it all.

           The worst is the typical Willis sin of having her characters run around, basically for lack of anything better to do.  The more I read of Willis, the more I enjoy her ingenious ideas, which are sci-fi without being all spaceships and aliens, and like her characters, who only seem more real and interesting (and often charming) the more she writes.  And the more I realize that plotting is just not her strong suit - her books leave me exhausted, from all the running around and a little bored - like she cannot think of anything else for her characters to do!  And, on top of that, this book screams early-book-itis.  The writing is not as good, the ending is sort of disappointingly O Henry-like.  

       On top of all that, there is the problematic issue of Robert E. Lee.  I get that people love Lee, and we’re supposed to think he’s this great hero, or whatever, because he loved Virginia and was so wonderful.  But I am a Northerner, and I have to say, is it so great to turn your back on your country to defend a bunch of slaveholding states? I mean, I’m a little over the glorifying of Bobby Lee.  I wish it was about Lincoln’s dreams.

Categories:  Fiction, Library Book

© Carrie Dunsmore 2017