Daniel Mark Epstein
The Lincolns: Portrait of a Marriage.
Ballantine, 576 pages, $28
While Abraham Lincoln was many things to many people, one rarely thinks of him as a model of domesticity. One would rather like to believe that the man responsible for the Gettysburg Address had no trouble rising above marital squabbles, and that childrearing, even in the national limelight, was nothing compared to the rift between North and South. While European politics, with its empires and dynasties, has always been a family affair, it is hard to imagine the Lincolns engaged in the kind of high drama that was at the heart of Hapsburg or Romanov rule.
In fact, Lincoln’s ascendancy to the White House in 1860 provided the divided nation with a marriage as fraught and contentious as that between its feuding states. Abraham had been a taciturn lawyer from Illinois, rising to national prominence on an abolitionist...