the guardian Sat 28 February 2009
Tolstoy called Lincoln "so great he overshadows all other national heroes". This Pulitzer prize-winning life does ample justice to the "moral power" the novelist admired, but also reflects the peerlessly eloquent orator; the stoical head of a family afflicted by death and depression; and, above all, the shrewd manager of men who riskily gave cabinet posts to the better-known trio he beat to the 1860 Republican nomination - William Seward, Salmon Chase and Edward Bates. What makes Team of Rivals such a rich experience is that it's a team of books, combining an absorbing psychological study, a group biography of the four rivals and their families, a history of the civil war as viewed from the White House, and a vivid, West Wing-like portrayal of two presidential campaigns and Washington infighting. Barack Obama (who rightly calls it "wonderful") famously used it as a manual in picking his own cabinet; he may now find it also a source of comfort, showing that even Lincoln sometimes chose the wrong guy.