Cover of the first edition
|Series||Narratives of Empire|
|Media type||Print (Hardback & Paperback)|
Set during the American Civil War, the novel describes the presidency of Abraham Lincoln through the eyes of several historical figures, including presidential secretary John Hay, First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln, Secretary of State William H. Seward, Secretary of the Treasury Salmon Chase, his daughter Kate Chase, U.S. Representative Elihu B. Washburne, and conspirators John Wilkes Booth and David Herold.
The novel's emphasis is on the president's political and personal struggles, and not the battles of the Civil War. Though Lincoln is the focus, the book is never narrated from his point of view (with the exception of several paragraphs describing a dream Lincoln had shortly before his death). Vidal's portrait is drawn from contemporary diaries, memoirs, letters, newspaper accounts, and the biographical writings of Hay and John Nicolay, Lincoln's secretaries; and is buttressed by the work of both 19th- and 20th-century historians.