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Publisher's Summary

On May 18, 1860, William H. Seward, Salmon P. Chase, Edward Bates, and Abraham Lincoln waited in their hometowns for the results from the Republican National Convention in Chicago. When Lincoln emerged as the victor, his rivals were dismayed and angry.

Throughout the turbulent 1850s, each had energetically sought the presidency as the conflict over slavery was leading inexorably to secession and civil war. That Lincoln succeeded was the result of a character that had been forged by life experiences that raised him above his more privileged and accomplished rivals. He won because hepossessed an extraordinary ability to put himself in the place of other men, to experience what they were feeling, to understand their motives and desires.

This capacity enabled President Lincoln to bring his disgruntled opponents together, create the most unusual cabinet in history, and marshal their talents to preserve the Union and win the war.

©2006 Doris Kearns Goodwin (P)2011 Simon & Schuster

Critic Reviews

"An elegant, incisive study....Goodwin has brilliantly described how Lincoln forged a team that preserved a nation and freed America from the curse of slavery." (James M. McPherson, The New York Times Book Review)
"Goodwin's narrative abilities...are on full display here, and she does an enthralling job of dramatizing...crucial moments in Lincoln's life....A portrait of Lincoln as a virtuosic politician and managerial genius." (Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times)
"Splendid, beautifully written....Goodwin has brilliantly woven scores of contemporary accounts...into a fluid narrative....This is the most richly detailed account of the Civil War presidency to appear in many years." (John Rhodehamel, Los Angeles Times)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings


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  • JJ
  • San Francisco, CA
  • 09-10-12

Beautiful, Heartbreaking, and Informative

"Team of Rivals" surprised me in so many ways. I was surprised by how much I didn't know about Abraham Lincoln. I was surprised by how beautifully told this story is. And I was surprised by how moved I was by a story that I, essentially, already knew.

Strange to say, but by the time Abraham Lincoln is shot by John Wilkes Booth in Ford's Theater, I had almost willed myself into thinking Lincoln was a character who could figure out the trap, and avoid it somehow. I really didn't want him to die.

Narrator Suzanne Toren breathes life into the story, and even into the nearly all-male cast of characters. I could listen to her talk all day, and she made some of the dull spots easier to get through.

Readers/Listeners will be surprised at how well they'll come to know Lincoln's cabinet and family, and how heartbreaking it is to consider the untimely deaths of three of his four children, not to mention the tragic histories that haunted both Salmon P. Chase and Edwin M. Stanton.

I listened to this shortly after listening to "1861: The Civil War Awakening" (Adam Goodheart) which makes a fascinating companion piece to "Rivals" for its more colorful descriptions of the times, and its different perspective on figures such as Gustavus Fox.

"Rivals" is destined to go down as one of the definitive accounts of Lincoln's life, and any reader with even the most fleeting interesting in the 16th president would do well to delve into it.

109 of 112 people found this review helpful

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  • C. Telfair
  • Shepherdstown, WV, United States
  • 01-13-13

Doris Makes a Difference

Everyone has reviewed this book. It is as excellent as everyone says! I'm only writing yet another review because I believe there is a real difference between this and other great Presidential and civil war tomes - the perspective of a few, very interesting woman.

Don't get me wrong - the stars here are Lincoln and his "rivals", but a female historian just naturally carries her interest a little farther - into the lives and motives of the women who love and inspire them. Mary Lincoln becomes real here, but I also appreciate the fascinating details about lesser-known wives and daughters like Kate Chase and Frances Seward. Doris Kearns Goodwin's inclusion of these women adds yet another dimension to an already exemplary historical effort. It's an element which many fine male historians have overlooked.

49 of 54 people found this review helpful

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Lincoln Comes Alive Through His Realtionships

Though I was very familiar with Lincoln and the Civil War, I learned new things about Lincoln through finding out about Seward, Chase, and Stanton. Lincolns close relationship to Seward and their true loyalty to one another was touching. Chase comes across poorly, but Lincoln's patience with him is telling. Stanton is a bulwark. The story dragged a bit for me at times, but it was a very good listen.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

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  • Jean
  • Reston, Virginia
  • 12-13-12

Beautifully written, narration inadequate

This is a great book, beautifully researched and written. I wish, however, that I had bought the hard copy. The narrator's style was cold and uninvolving, although at the beginning I was hoping to get used to it. After 40 hours, unfortunately, I did not; she lacked all passion for her subject. Doris Kearns Goodwin would have been a much better choice as reader. It didn't matter to me that Toren was a woman, and she has a beautiful speaking voice. This brilliant book deserved better.

27 of 30 people found this review helpful

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  • Michael
  • Walnut Creek, CA, United States
  • 12-18-12

Good story but a bit imbalanced

If you just read this book, knowing what most people know about Lincoln, you will likely learn a lot and enjoy the read. For me, the book was interesting, but it seemed to systematically leave out anything essentially negative about Lincoln himself. This bothered me a bit. Although Lincoln was, and should be, a hero, a good history should show him as human, with all the faults and weaknesses that make heroism so extraordinary. Team of Rivals was more fun to read than Carwardine’s or Donald’s Lincoln, but both of those books portrayed much more flawed, balanced, and believable Lincoln. The best part of Team of Rivals is the portraits of the men in Lincoln’s cabinet which are given short shrift in other histories. The downside is Team of Rivals has a strong point of view about Lincoln as a politician and a heroic man. Instead of presenting the evidence questioning the author’s point of view and refuting it, such incidents are just left out. The author even guesses at Lincoln’s pre-marital sexual experience based (it seems) on little more than guy talk and common sense (both notoriously unreliable). This is a very good read, but should not be the only Lincoln history one reads.

51 of 59 people found this review helpful

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Felt Like an Easedropper at Lincoln's White House

Would you consider the audio edition of Team of Rivals to be better than the print version?

I haven't read the print version, but the exemplary way in which the audio version was executed suggests an equal, if not better, experience.

What was one of the most memorable moments of Team of Rivals?

Lincoln being driven to tears by the adoration and gratitude bestowed upon him by African American soldiers.

Which scene was your favorite?

The scene above - also any references to the closeness of Lincoln with Seward and Stanton.Some great scenes, two, describing meetings between Frederick Douglas and Lincoln.

If you were to make a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

With Malice Toward None

Any additional comments?

This was an amazing piece of non-fiction: Scrupulously researched and presented in a way that made some fairly unwieldy material (especially in the beginning) understandable and compelling. Kearns-Goodwin justifies her place as a revered guest on The Daily Show, The Colbert Report and Sunday morning news programs.There were moments when I truly felt as though I was listening to Lincoln deal patiently with his often argumentitive cabinet.

20 of 23 people found this review helpful

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  • Gerardo
  • Austin, TX, United States
  • 12-01-14

Long, boring and a very hard read

After reading all of Walter Isaacson's biographies, I was looking forward to learn about the life of Lincoln. Water has a unique gift in making a long story entertaining, useful, and engaging. This book just shows how hard it is to do it right.

Listening to Team of Rivals feels more like listening to a researcher that wanted to communicate all the knowledge they have on a subject, rather than walking you through a story, the interesting facts, and the nuggets of wisdom we should learn from it.

Honestly, I was unable to listen to the entire audiobook. This is not a book for me.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Erick
  • Saint George, UT, United States
  • 12-12-12

The Lincoln Story:Tactics of an Underdog

I listened the first half if this book. I have read several books on the civil war but really wanted more history of the events that lead up to the war, and of Lincoln's life and career. The book delivered on this. I was not in the mood to hear about the battles, so maybe later I'll return and finish. Lincoln's tactics of timing, and good humor were well illustrated. Suzanne Toren did an excellent job narrating. She wouldn't have been my first pick, and sometimes I thought her delivery a tad melodramatic, but concidering parts of the book were dry accounts of parties and shopping trips, she really did keep my attention.

7 of 8 people found this review helpful

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Tour de Force of mid-19-th century politics & war

What did you love best about Team of Rivals?

Ms. Goodwin started this marvelous novel, not at the beginning of the civil war, but much earlier in the personal and professional lives of each of the key characters. This allowed the reader to develop a much more complete understanding of the inter-relationships that were forged as Lincoln's cabinet was crafted from the great minds (and egos) of his day.

The thousands of personal correspondence that Ms. Goodwin had to read and research in order to build the elegantly flowing narrative of the lives of several great men and women contained in the novel is truly mind-boggling. She must be applauded for her diligence, passion and commitment, because the result of her work is a truly epic story.

What was one of the most memorable moments of Team of Rivals?

No single moment, but the common theme that almost everyone who initially met Lincoln underestimated him until they actually got to know him. Looks, in this case, were exceedingly misleading as each would come to learn (and sometimes regret).

What about Suzanne Toren’s performance did you like?

Ms. Toren's performance was phenomenal, not necessarily for its range of characters, but more for her ability to convey the far-reaching story and its complex characters with such subtlety that the reader can remain immersed in the tale, rather than becoming distracted by the narration.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

Of course, when Lincoln was assassinated at almost the same moment that his epic struggle to end the Civil War, while keeping the warring factions of his cabinet knitted together.

Any additional comments?

I consider myself fortunate for having read this story. I learned and felt much as the lives of the characters unfolded before me.

14 of 17 people found this review helpful

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Robotic and Foreign

What would have made Team of Rivals better?

Find a different narrator

What was your reaction to the ending? (No spoilers please!)

I barely made it through the beginning of the first few chapters of the first part. It is LONG and hard to follow this woman's voice.

What didn’t you like about Suzanne Toren’s performance?

Robotic, foreign, and seems mechanical at best, but so dry and has so many odd pacing and enunciations that I found myself drifting and not realizing I'd missed most of the last half hour I was listening to something else.

6 of 7 people found this review helpful