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There are so many books written about Abraham Lincoln that it is difficult to imagine anything new to say; however, this book did just that. By combining the well known historical with the lesser known impact of Lincoln?s psychological condition, this book tells an amazing story. This is a comprehensive, well researched account of Lincoln's lifelong depression, how it shaped his politics, and the affect it had on our country. In stark contrast to the views held today, the author shows how depression, so much a part of Lincoln?s personality, actually helped him politically and as Commander-in-Chief. Further, the story shows how society?s current view of depression may have impacted the politics of 1860 and the outcome of the Civil War. Although, non-fiction, Joshua Shenk weaves a story that reads like an historical novel and leaves us with an interesting dilemma. If the 21st century view of depression was prevalent when Lincoln was alive, would he have been elected president?
For anyone that has had bouts of depression or has family that have those inclinations, this provides very good insight into the study and some reassurance that those with a family history of depression are not predetermined to be less productive people.
By studying Lincoln's mentality, i.e. his lifelong suffering of depression, the author offers what I consider essential understanding of Lincoln's character, motivation, and ability to work within reality, and not within comforting fantasies. Various often romanticized episodes in Lincoln's life, such as the death of Ann Rutledge, are now seen as what they were, and the force of Lincoln's courage in facing a world stripped of the fiction we all (who don't have depression) wrap around ourselves to shelter us from the truth, hits with full force. If I thought Lincoln was a great man before, this book has made me see how truly great he was.
Many of the current reviews, of Lincoln?s Melancholy, mine included, discuss the comparison between how melancholy (depression) was characterized in Lincoln's time and the politics of today. In describing Lincoln?s melancholia, the author did make reference to other, more debilitating forms of depression ...
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