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Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President Paperback – January 1, 2012
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A New York Times Notable Book
"Crisp, concise and revealing history. . . . A fresh narrative that plumbs some of the most dramatic days in U.S. presidential history."
—The Washington Post
“A spirited tale that intertwines murder, politics and medical mystery. . . . Candice Millard leaves us feeling that Garfield's assassination deprived the nation not only of a remarkably humble and intellectually gifted man but one who perhaps bore the seeds of greatness . . . splendidly drawn portraits. . . . Alexander Graham Bell makes a bravura appearance.”
—The Wall Street Journal
"Fascinating. . . . Gripping. . . . Stunning. . . . The haunting tale of how a man who never meant to seek the presidency found himself swept into the White House. . . . Millard shows the Garfield legacy to be much more important than most of her readers knew it to be."
—The New York Times
"Destiny of the Republic displays Millard's energetic writing and rare ability to effortlessly educate the listener."
"A staggering tale. . . . Millard digs deeply into the turmoil that got James A. Garfield elected, the lunacy that got him shot and the medical malfeasance that turned a minor wound into a mortal one."
—Janet Maslin, Top 10 Recommendations for 2011
“One of the many pleasures of Candice Millard’s new book, Destiny of the Republic, [is] that she brings poor Garfield to life—and a remarkable life it was. . . . Fascinating. . . . Millard has written us a penetrating human tragedy.”
—The New York Times Book Review
“Brings the era and people involved to vivid life. . . . Takes the reader on a compelling fly on-the-wall journey. . . . Millard takes all of these elements in a forgotten period of history and turns them into living and breathing things.”
“Think you’re not interested in James Garfield, our 20th President? Millard’s action-packed account of his life and truly strange death should change your mind.”
“Filled with memorable characters, hairpin twists of fate and consequences that bring a young nation to the breaking point, Destiny of the Republic brings back to roaring life a tragic but irresistible historical period.”
—The Christian Science Monitor
“A winning amalgamation of history and adventure. They [Millard’s books] exhibit a keen eye for human frailties.”
—The Washington Post
"Fascinating. . . . Millard colorfully recreates the political milieu of 1880."
—The Seattle Times
"Millard provides a splendidly written and suspenseful account of this fascinating episode in American history."
“By keeping a tight hold on her narrative strands, Millard crafts a popular history rich with detail and emotion. One of the pleasures of the book is the chance to learn more about Garfield, who appears as a fully realized historical figure instead of a trivia answer.”
“This tale of physician error contextualized by politics and murder makes for riveting reading. Ms. Millard recounts this episode of our nation’s history in a style that keeps readers on the edge of their seats even though the ending is known.”
—The Washington Times
“Splendid. . . . recovers for us just what a remarkable—even noble—man Garfield was. . . . She also chillingly depicts his killer. . . . This wonderful book reminds us that our 20th president was neither a minor nor merely a tragic figure, but rather an extraordinary one.”
—The Plain Dealer
“An achingly good, suspenseful read. . . . compelling characters and nail-biting storytelling, and [readers] will no doubt walk away even more emotionally affected by Garfield’s tragedy.”
—The Kansas City Star
“Blends science, medicine, and politics in a crime story that grabs tight and it does not let go until the very last page. . . . A remarkable book. It is crisply written and riveting.”
"Millard finds the ironies of history throughout this stirring narrative, one that's full of suspense even though you know what's coming. She makes you a witness, not a reader."
“Destiny of the Republic is popular history at its best—accessible, educational and entertaining—and Millard renders it with grace, power and sympathy.”
“Make[s] for compulsive reading. Superb American history."
—Kirkus, starred review
"Splendidly insightful. . . . stands securely at the crossroads of popular and professional history."
—Booklist, starred review
“Sparklingly alive. . . [Millard] brings to life a moment in the nation’s history when access to the president was easy, politics bitter, and medical knowledge slight. Under Millard’s pen, it’s hard to imagine its being better told.”
“Historian Candice Millard’s Destiny of the Republic is first-rate history, political intrigue, and a true-crime story all rolled into one. . . . An epic must-read!”
—Douglas Brinkley, author of The Wilderness Warrior
“In this brilliant and riveting work, Candice Millard demonstrates the power of narrative nonfiction. Through exhaustive research and flawless storytelling, she has brought to life one of the most harrowing and fascinating sagas in American history. . . . This is a book that is impossible to put down.”
—David Grann, author of The Lost City of Z
“Candice Millard has done it again: She’s turned the sometimes stodgy realm of presidential history on its head with a gripping tale of high danger and stoic endurance, a tale that had nearly completely vanished from public memory. What an exceptional man and what an exciting era Millard has brought to elegant life on the page!”
—Hampton Sides, author of Hellhound on His Trail
“In President Garfield’s assassination, Candice Millard has rediscovered one of the great forgotten stories in American history. Millard has turned Garfield’s story into a crackling tale of suspense and a panoramic picture of a fascinating but forgotten era.”
—Debby Applegate, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for The Most Famous Man in America
“As she did in The River of Doubt, Candice Millard has written another riveting narrative. . . . She has skillfully allowed us to share this traumatic moment.”
About the Author
Candice Millard, the New York Times-bestselling author of The River of Doubt, is a former editor and contributing writer at National Geographic magazine. She lives in Kansas City with her husband and children.
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Robert A. Hall
Author: The Coming Collapse of the American Republic
Other historians have published excellent overall histories, Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States being among the very best as far as the U.S. is concerned. Candice Millard, however, has chosen to select specific events from history and to seek out the details that explicate them. She then relates those details to us in a fascinatingly readable style. No fiction writer can create interest in a story any better than Millard does with actual history. I suggest that, if you care little (or nothing) about James A. Garfield or Charles Guiteau, it is only because you know more or less nothing about them, and I do believe that Millard's Destiny of the Republic will go far in introducing you to two persons (and more) who played a part in forming the American experience.
Top international reviews
Millard sets out with excellent structure and presents the research of the life of her characters so they're no longer names in history, but real people, ramping up the tension gradually towards the tragic end.
I bought this as a Christmas present for somebody else and read it in 4 days straight. Hopefully the receiver will enjoy it as much as the giver did!
Credit to The Tim Ferriss Show for illuminating me.
The book focuses on Garfield's ascension to the Presidency, his assassination, and the medical catastrophe that caused his death. Along the way we learn about Guiteau, his troubled life and psychological problems, and even Alexander Graham Bell's attempt to help save Garfield's life. Unfortunately, we get only a cursory biography of Garfield and little background information regarding the political issues of the day. I would have liked to know a little more about the history of the issues facing the candidates in the election of 1880 and more details on Garfield's political career and the aftermath of his death. Also, I found some things confusing, particularly when she mentions Tom Platt, who she says was a "stalwart who had, months earlier, promised to confirm any appointment Garfield made in exchange for help in winning a senate seat." This seems as if Garfield, himself, was at times involved in some shady political deals. More historical background would have greatly improved the book and given it more depth. Millard's main point, however, seems not to be political, as much as medical. She spends a great deal of time stressing how medical missinformation of the past actually caused President Garfield's death. Had they left him alone or, as she writes, had he been shot fifteen years later, he most likely would have survived. An unfortunate tragedy and why she ends the book with a salute to Joseph Lister.
As most Americans know, studying American history in school tends to focus on the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, sometimes a little President Jackson and Reconstruction, but rarely do we focus on the Presidents who served between Grant and McKinley. This was a refreshing look at American history, covering a little known, but actually fascinating, era and President. Candice Millard is a good writer, tells a great story, and keeps you interested until the last page. I'm so glad I read this book and highly recommend it.
Ms. Millard writes about the conditions which placed Garfield in the White House in spite of his apparent lack of desire for the job, and about his political battle with New York Senator and political boss Roscoe Conklin and his Stalwart faction as the ethical president sought to replace the spoils system with one in which important government positions are obtained based on merit.
We are treated to a glimpse of what it must have been like in Washington on July 2, 1881 to observe the shooting of President Garfield as he sought to board a train with the members of his cabinet. Millard describes the mood of the city and of the nation as they learn of the shooting. The book goes on to describe in interesting detail several aspects of this historical event: the path of the mentally unbalanced assassin Charles Guiteau both before and after the shooting, the medical incompetence of the doctors who treated Garfield (especially the egotistical and controlling "Dr. Doctor Bliss"), Roscoe Conklin's fall from political grace and the resulting humiliation, the conversion of Vice-President Chester Alan Arthur from sycophantic Stalwart to independent reformer, the story of inventor Alexander Graham Bell's effort to invent a device to locate the bullet lodged inside of Garfield, and the rejection of Dr. Joseph Lister's discovery of sterilization and its subsequent vindication. Most importantly, she captures the mood of the nation as it suffers collectively along with its suffering leader, and how north and south set aside past grievances to mourn for their slain President.
What makes this book so enjoyable and readable is both the story itself, and its telling. In the acknowledgement section at the end of the book, we get an insight into the author's research and the passion that she put into the writing of this book. Reading this book is a pleasure whether the reader is a history geek or someone who simply enjoys the telling of a fascinating historical tale masterfully told.