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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars His best book, if you discount Julian, Live From Golgotha, Burr..., 28 Dec. 2012
By 
Mister Terne (Wiltshire, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: 1876: Number 3 in series (Narratives of empire) (Paperback)
I am going to keep this review short. Or at least try. This is isn't the sort of book I would normally review, given that it was written by a giant of literature whose other works I have greedily devoured and, in some cases, enjoyed more. However, seeing that there were only three reviews praising this book and given the author's untimely passing, I just wanted to add my voice to the fray shout its praises. For those unfamiliar with Gore Vidal's work, 1876 is the third volume of his lengthy treatise examining the history of America. What distinguishes this work from the varying qualities of what came before, and after, is that is another memoir from a man who is possibly Vidal's greatest creation, Charles Schuyler. Through his writings we are made privy to the changing face of politics in America's centennial year. But for me, the (fascinating, to be sure) story is secondary to a character that is so real you will be hanging on his every word. Interestingly, Gore Vidal himself declared this novel's predecessor, Burr, his personal favourite of his books. Well, Burr may be the better novel, but it is 1876 that will break your heart when you read its final pages. Witty, beautifully written, and insightful to the point leaving me feeling that my accrued knowledge was just a whisker above ignorance, the combination of Burr and 1876 should be considered a real modern classic. Unfortunately, the former has been overshadowed by lesser novels and the latter deemed little more than a footnote to The Narratives of Empire. A shame, as 1876 may just be Gore Vidal's best book, if you discount Julian, Live from Golgotha, Burr, Creation, Kalki, A Search for the King...
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fast paced, funny and close to historical fact, 4 Aug. 2005
By 
Robin (London, UK) - See all my reviews
This review is from: 1876: Number 3 in series (Narratives of empire) (Paperback)
This is the shortest of Gore Vidal's astonishing series of historical novels which trace the history of the country from Washington to FDR. The central character is fiction; his contemporaries are factual. This witty but poignant novel allows you to follow a great story while also learning a lot about a time in American history when a president stole an election by cheating in Ohio, thanks to the electoral college system. Sound familiar?
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Vidal does care!, 6 Jun. 2011
By 
rob crawford "Rob Crawford" (Balmette Talloires, France) - See all my reviews
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It is a great pleasure to read something by this disillusioned man that can surprise me: I have read most of the novels in his American Cycle and (with the exception of his "Lincoln") was growing tired of his cynicism. Well, I picked up this one - its theme is the corruption of the Gilded Age and its plot revolves around the stolen election of 1876 - and was delighted to learn that Gore Vidal genuinely cares about how the US democracy works/worked. Moreover, this is a wonderful accomplishment by a novelist at the height of his powers, one of the best of the series.
The protagonists in the story are Charlie Schuyler, from "Burr", and his incomparable daughter as they wend their way into the New York and Washington "City" of the Gilded Age. While blatant corruption is corroding the foundations of the Republic, Charlie is wined and dined by the politically indifferent rich as a celebrated political writer (on Europe) while he seeks to find a suitable mate for his recently widowed and now penniless daughter. As a courtiers at the court of Napoleon III, they fit in brilliantly as Charlie attempts to find any writing work he can; the subtleties of the behavior of the ruling classes come across as both comic and sinister, but also realistic. It is a brutal indictment of decadence at the Centennial of America that gets worse and worse as the machinations of stealing a presidential election are revealed. Though it is from an observers eyes, which is consistent with the style of most of Vidal's series, political events take much more of the center stage and as such, there is a great deal of history to learn (of which I for one was largely ignorent).

As a novel, this is also great fun. It is written in the form of a candid diary by Charlie, who is making notes for future books he is imagining as he observes unfolding events in real time. The characters he comes in contact with are fabulously well drawn. First, there is Samuel Tilden, one of the few truly decent men to appear in any of Vidal's work (and a loser, I note). Then there is the apparently corrupt President Grant and his cronies who are indisputably corrupt along with all of the top politicians in DC. And of course, there are the journalists (including a brilliant, hilarious, and yet sad cameo portrait of Mark Twain), some of whom are idealists and most of whom are simple opportunists. Finally, there is the birth of the fictional Sanford clan that re-appears in Vidal's later novels. An unexpected twist in the plot also reveals the weaknesses of Charlie as an observer, which adds a whole new dimension to the novel that shocks the reader into reassessing everything (s)he has read. It is a brilliant device.

Warmly recommended. THis is a true masterpiece of historical fiction.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great history, 8 Jan. 2015
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This review is from: 1876: Number 3 in series (Narratives of empire) (Paperback)
Vidal's approach to writing history is indeed novel. His knowledge from the inside of politics makes this a fascinating read.
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7 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Illuminating, entertaining and startling!, 3 Jan. 2001
This review is from: 1876: Number 3 in series (Narratives of empire) (Paperback)
A great book, especially now given what has happened to Gore Vidal's cousin Al Gore in much the same way and much the same place. A startling book which explodes the myth, often thought correct over here, that the USA has no history. It does, a richly textured and colourful one. All Gore Vidal's historical novels are stunning and taken together give a vast sweep of the whole of American history, a delight and a revelation. He is surely one of the finest writers of the last 50 years.
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1876: Number 3 in series (Narratives of empire)
1876: Number 3 in series (Narratives of empire) by Gore Vidal (Paperback - 2 April 1994)
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