She didn't act the way the public expects a president's widow to act, in the way the public still expects.
Incarcerated in an insane asylum by her own son, Mary Todd Lincoln, tells her own story to prove her sanity in Janis Cooke Newman's award-winning novel Mrs Lincoln, published in the UK in paperback on 3rd March.
In her time, one of the most hated women in America, controversial Mary Lincoln was just 'a woman searching for love' according to author Janis Cooke Newman. 'After her mother died, she sought love first from a husband who has difficulty with affection and passion, and then from a son from whom she tries to get affection and love.'
Having witnessed the assassination of her beloved husband, and the loss of her youngest son to tuberculosis, her sole surviving son Robert saw his mother's spending sprees and hallucinations as evidence that she was mad. Newman disagrees: 'She was not insane. She was very highly strung and neurotic. She also suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder after Lincoln's death. Her behaviour points to it. She had trouble sleeping. Doctors prescribed a mix of laudanum and chloral hydrate, and the side effects can cause hallucinations and paranoia.'
Originally published in the US under the title Mary, Mrs Lincoln won USA Today’s Best Historical Fiction of the Year 2006, and was a Los Angeles Times Book Prize finalist. Mrs Lincoln was released in hardback in the UK in March 2008 to rave reviews:
'An impressive, engrossing and moving piece of historical imagining,' according to The Telegraph.
The Times: 'A tender and thoughtful portrait of a 19th century woman severely misunderstood.'
Described by the San Francisco Chronicle as having rescued Mary Lincoln from the slag heap of history, Newman says: 'From a historical point of view, I feel I have become Mary's defender. Mary was very outspoken and people didn't want her to be outspoken. She didn't act the way the public expects a president's widow to act, in the way the public still expects. Like Jackie Kennedy: The president's widow should be retiring and dignified. She should disappear, not marry Aristotle Onassis.'
Notes for editors
Mrs Lincoln by Janis Cooke Newman is published in paperback on 3rd March 2009 by Myrmidon Books. Price: £8.99 ISBN 978-1-905802-21-0
Janis Cooke Newman is available for media requests.
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