Friday, February 27, 2015

Book Review Friday: Destiny of the Republic


Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine, and the Murder of a President
By Candice Millard

Don't know much about History?  Here's the amazing story of the life and death of James A. Garfield, 20th President of the United States.  Killed by an assassin's bullet only a few months after his inauguration. Except, as the assassin argued at his trial, the bullet didn't kill President Garfield, it was his incompetent doctor and the poor medical care he received that killed him.

Candice Millard displays an amazing depth of research in her writing and provides insight into the life and death of an almost forgotten President.  The post Civil War era was a time of turmoil in the United States as people tried to heal the wounds of the Civil War and chart a course through the murky world of politics. James A. Garfield rose from a poverty stricken youth to become an educator, a Civil War General, a Congressman, and finally a reluctant Presidential candidate. Meanwhile, his would-be assassin, Charles Guiteau, was charging through life convinced that he was destined for greatness.  Millard details Guiteau's delusions of grandeur, his family's attempts to institutionalize him, and his close encounters with Washington DC's political elite until the fateful day that he crossed paths with Garfield in a Washington train station.  Other lives touched Garfield's as well, from Doctor Joseph Lister in England to Alexander Grahame Bell in Boston, Millard describes the threads that formed a tragic tapestry that brought Americans together to mourn the death of a President for the second time in 15 years.

This was a great book, very readable and accessible, not a textbook history.  An excellent choice to recommend to History buffs especially Civil War buffs and those interested in Presidential assassinations.  Also a great recommendation for people interested in reading more about the history of medicine or politics in the United States.


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