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Lincoln's Dreams

Narrated by: James Lurie
Length: 7 hrs and 19 mins
3.5 out of 5 stars (5 ratings)

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Summary

For Jeff Johnston, a young historical researcher for a Civil War novelist, reality is redefined on a bitter cold night near the close of a lingering winter. He meets Annie, an intense and lovely young woman suffering from vivid nightmares. Haunted by the dreamer and her unrelenting dreams, Jeff leads Annie on an emotional odyssey through the heartland of the Civil War in search of a cure.

On long-silenced battlefields their relationship blossoms - two obsessed lovers linked by unbreakable chains of history, torn by a duty that could destroy them both. Suspenseful, moving, and highly compelling, Lincoln’s Dreams is a novel of rare imaginative power.

©1987 Connie Willis (P)2012 Audible, Inc.

Critic reviews

"A novel of classical proportions and virtues...humane and moving." (The Washington Post Book World)
"A love story on more than one level, and Ms. Willis does justice to them all. It was only toward the end of the book that I realized how much tension had been generated, how engrossed I was in the characters, how much I cared about their fates." (The New York Times Book Review)

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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

A moving, but strangely dated, story

Connie WIllis has become rightly famous for her time-travel stories. Most of these stories are about people caught up in intense historical events -- war, plague, etc -- and only secondarily about time travel. Lincoln's Dreams is also a story about time travel, but without any actual travel. Instead, events of the American civil war are played out in the dreams of a disturbed young woman. The action veers back and forth between the 19th century and the present day, but all the real action is in the past -- nothing much happens in the present.

This is a slow-paced story, and the interactions between the various characters are explored in detail. Some of the relationships are painful to read about, because the attention to detail makes the characters entirely convincing. A surprising amount of dramatic tension is generated, particularly considering how little action takes place. Of all Willis' works, this book is most similar in its atmosphere to her short story The Winds of Marble Arch -- tense and claustrophobic, with a strong emphasis on the pain of the past, and on mortality. To my mind, however, it's more similar to work by Shirley Jackson than to anything else.

What strikes me as odd, however, and prevents me rating the book more highly, is the strange datedness of the environment. The story is clearly set in the present day -- at the time it was written -- but the characters speak and behave as if they're living in the 1940s. Ironically, Willis does the 1940s really well in Blackout and All Clear, but it seems wrong here. The central female character seems to be entirely dependent on the various men in her life, as if the 1960s never happened. This gives the whole story a rather dreamlike quality which might, given the title of the book, be intentional. But it just felt strange to me.

This is by no means a bad book, and almost certainly I will listen/read it again. But it lacks the visceral immediacy of Willis' more popular work, and takes some time to get into. I'm still not entirely sure whether I liked it.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Beyond dream

In Lincoln's Dreams Connie Willis has created characters and built a world that will both open your eyes and haunt your dreams for the rest of your life. A story of loss, obsession and love, it is also proof that ordinary humans can build more worlds and live more dreams than most gods and heroes have room for in their philosophy.

If War & Peace was a great triumph, Lincoln's Dreams is a true miracle.

1 person found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Julia
  • 23-04-15

Last chapter not missing

I hesitated about buying the audiobook since the only comment complained about the end missing, but took a chance on it being fixed. Luckily it was, and the end is not missing anymore.

The book convinced me once again that Connie Willis is a fabulous writer, so I will continue to listen my way through her bibliography :)

15 people found this helpful

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  • Rachel
  • 26-07-16

decent, but not excellent Connie Willis

Given that Connie Willis is great, this was not my most favorite of her books or stories.
I thought the pace of this one was a little slow, and I wasn't super excited about the main weird thing going on in the story.
Published in 87, this is her second book (as far as I can tell) and it includes hints of what the great author will handle so expertly later (namely history, mysterious goings on, people trying to make a difference, etc), but just isn't as good.
If you're reading through all her books, like I am, go for it. It's not bad.

2 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • C. Robb
  • 13-09-12

missing the last chapter

What did you like best about Lincoln's Dreams? What did you like least?

I love willis's style that sucks the reader or listener in to improbable situations and accelerates the excitement and uncertainty

Any additional comments?

last chapter was missing. the last 20 minutes was a replay of the middle of the book.

10 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • J.K.
  • 04-03-18

Disappointing story, good history of Civil War.

I love love Connie Willis and have read most of what she’s written. Every once in a while she writes a lovely but depressingly sad story, like this one. It feels like she’s trying to say something poignant but doesn’t really know how to give meaning and purpose to suffering. Kind of like the Winds of Marble Arch (which if you liked you might like this story.) As usual her historical research and feeling like you were IN the Civil War was spot on, but ultimately the story just felt sad and hopeless. Read one of her many other delightful works instead..

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  • Ronnie
  • 18-12-19

I love Connie Willis but I really didn't like this

I didn't like Bellwether either so I traded it in for this. Big mistake! Not only is the story underdeveloped but it's far too sympathetic to Lee and the Confederacy. Lincoln is a minor character despite the title of the book. Willis spends 7 hours trying to convince me that Lee was a good and honorable man bound by a terrible duty, a man to be pitied and admired. I wanted to spit nails!

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    2 out of 5 stars
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  • cavenewt
  • 18-11-18

I’m a huge Connie Willis fan but…

It pains me to post a less than rave review about a Connie Willis book. It pains me even more to admit that I returned it because I could not stand it.

I suppose that helps a little that I learned this is probably only the second book she had published. Still! my introduction to Willis was the short story “Blued Moon“ in Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine long long ago. It was perfect.

I mostly read science fiction and fantasy, so suspension of disbelief is not a problem for me. However, I was completely appalled at the lack of curiosity exhibited by the protagonist. He never once asks “How is this happening?“ He becomes so obsessed at first meeting this woman that all other considerations are thrown by the wayside? He jumps with both feet and total confidence into each new theory, only to abandon it a short time later?

No thanks. I think I’ll go reread Blackout and All Clear for the third time.

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  • cps
  • 11-06-17

Good book

Any additional comments?

Good book but not as good as some of her other books. I would recommend it.