James A. Garfield may have been the most extraordinary man ever elected president. Born into abject poverty, he rose to become a wunderkind scholar, a Civil War hero, and a renowned and admired reformist congressman. Nominated for president against his will, he engaged in a fierce battle with the corrupt political establishment. But four months after his inauguration, a deranged office seeker tracked Garfield down and shot him in the back.
But the shot didn’t kill Garfield. The drama of what happened subsequently is a powerful story of a nation in turmoil. The unhinged assassin’s half-delivered strike shattered the fragile national mood of a country so recently fractured by civil war, and left the wounded president as the object of a bitter behind-the-scenes struggle for power—over his administration, over the nation’s future, and, hauntingly, over his medical care. A team of physicians administered shockingly archaic treatments, to disastrous effect. As his condition worsened, Garfield received help: Alexander Graham Bell, the inventor of the telephone, worked around the clock to invent a new device capable of finding the bullet.
Meticulously researched, epic in scope, and pulsating with an intimate human focus and high-velocity narrative drive, The Destiny of the Republic will stand alongside The Devil in the White City and The Professor and the Madman as a classic of narrative history.
From the Hardcover edition.
©2011 Candice Millard (P)2011 Random House Audio
"[Millard demonstrates] the power of expert storytelling to wonderfully animate even the simplest facts....make[s] for compulsive reading. Superb American history." (Kirkus)
"Splendidly insightful....stands securely at the crossroads of popular and professional history" (Booklist)
“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.” (Publishers Weekly)
I love learning about Presidents, but I never learned a thing about President Garfield. I absolutely love the story, now I want to learn more!
It was not my cup of tea
It was ok.I thought it was a little cheesy when he would stop to read quotes in a different tone.
Very interesting story, full of villains and heroes. After a few hours the facts seem to be just a little too accurate for such a long time ago. The story unnecessarily drags on.
The story lost credibility by the time of the assassination. Again too many facts that are conveniently woven into the narrative. I did not need to know that Garfield's father in law was with the presidents children at the time of that assassination. Move along!
Ya, maybe the detailed story about Garfield's undertaker and how he had the worlds most complete used stamp collection.
I was somewhat disappointed in this book, as all the rave reviews made me think it must be great. Though it is a competently written story of a period that is probably obscure to most of the modern audience, I found it somewhat ponderous and unable to live up to its ambitious title: Destiny of the Republic. After finishing it, I was left wondering what part of the story was supposed to shed light on the destiny of the republic.
It does inform us about Garfield, an admirable individual who pursued education ardently, accomplished much as a scholar, achieved respect as a youthful Civil War general, and became president without coveting the position (so unlike all our modern candidates). It is also informative about the woeful state of medicine in the United States in the 1880s. (However, that topic has been much better dealt with in
Reflecting on the many worthwhile components of this book, I am left wondering why I was ultimately underwhelmed. I think it is a combination of several things--1) the story is predictable: there was Garfield the Good, Guiteau the Dangerous Nut, A. Bell the obsessive inventor, Conkling the Crooked Politician, etc. I think the only one who deviates from the script is Arthur, who certainly does change his character (though a cynic might conclude that he could afford to do that once president because he did not need Conkling anymore). The rest of them plod along in predictable ways to a predictable conclusion. 2) This is not really a profound story in terms of historical importance. Garfield served three months, and while he might have become a good or great president, he was just a momentary blip in the White House. Bell's invention did not have the great impact of his other invention--the telephone. Guiteau was a small man with a small personality, unlike the dramatically malevolent J. Wilkes Booth and his crew of ruffians. He was intrinsically no more important to history than a mosquito that causes a great personage to die of malaria or yellow fever. 3) The narrator is talented in terms of voices, but narrates the story with no appreciation of the incongruity of his rapid switching back and forth between the falsetto of a young female and the deep baritone of Garfield or Dr. Bliss. My wife and I were listening to this on a long drive in Virginia, and at several points we could not refrain from laughing.
With all due respect to my Audible listening colleagues who loved this book, I dissent. At the same time, it is enlightening as to a worthwhile but obscure president and as to the innocence of an age when the American public thought of the president as like a member of the family.
One of the best books I have listened to.
This is a great book for anyone who has an appreciation for history and loves a little-known story.
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