Lincoln in the Bardo, by George Saunders

Second snippet from third chapter:

A clear sightline could not be obtained for the crush; one moved dazed through a veritable bazaar of scents, colognes, perfumes, fans, hairpieces, hats, grimacing faces, mouths held open in sudden shrieks, whether joyful or terrified it was difficult to say.

In “All This Did I See: Memories of a Terrible Time,” by Mrs. Margaret Garrett.

This has already won the 2017 Man Booker Prize, and ought to make a few of this year’s sf lists as well. It’s set in 1862, in the immediate aftermath of the death of President Lincoln’s 11-year-old son, with the main thrust of the narrative being reflections from the ghosts of others who are buried nearby – most of them in denial about their own deaths, sure that they are merely sick – interleavened with quotes from historical sources, some genuine, some invented (the latter includes “All This Did I See: Memories of a Terrible Time,” by Mrs. Margaret Garrett). I thought it was really well done; often stories about the afterlife end up being twee or incoherent, but Saunders has set up a weird situation and exploited it well, mainly for emotional impact but also with some reflections on race and social class, and on the enigmatic character of President Lincoln. There are some points where he misses the right words for the 1860’s, but one has to make allowances. Get it here.

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