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The Unexpected President

The Life and Times of Chester A. Arthur
Narrated by: Paul Heitsch
Length: 11 hrs and 22 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (110 ratings)
Regular price: $24.95
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Publisher's Summary

Despite his promising start as a young man, by his early 50s Chester A. Arthur was known as the crooked crony of New York machine boss Roscoe Conkling. For years Arthur had been perceived as unfit to govern, not only by critics and the vast majority of his fellow citizens but by his own conscience. As President James A. Garfield struggled for his life, Arthur knew better than his detractors that he failed to meet the high standard a president must uphold.

And yet, from the moment President Arthur took office, he proved to be not just honest but brave, going up against the very forces that had controlled him for decades. He surprised everyone - and gained many enemies - when he swept house and took on corruption, civil rights for blacks, and issues of land for Native Americans.

A mysterious young woman deserves much of the credit for Arthur's remarkable transformation. Julia Sand, a bedridden New Yorker, wrote Arthur nearly two dozen letters urging him to put country over party, to find "the spark of true nobility" that lay within him. At a time when women were barred from political life, Sand's letters inspired Arthur to transcend his checkered past - and changed the course of American history.

©2017 Scott S. Greenberger (P)2018 Tantor

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unexpectedly great

Some presidential biographies are little difficult to get through when the narrator is too dry, but this narrator was fantastic. The book was also surprisingly interesting and a fascinating study of a fascinating man.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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A Revelation

I've read 100's of presidential biographies. By the end, this book made me come to love Chester A Arthur. Job well done sir

6 of 7 people found this review helpful

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  • Jean
  • Santa Cruz, CA, United States
  • 07-30-18

Exceptional

The presidents that served after the Civil War seem to have been forgotten. Therefore, I enjoyed Greenberger’s new biography of Chester A. Arthur (1829-1886). Arthur was an attorney who was part of Roscoe Conkling’s political machine in New York. Arthur became the vice president for James A. Garfield (1831-1881) and became president on Garfield’s assassination. Arthur served as our 21st president from 1881 to 1885. He was known as a corrupt politician but managed to rise above his reputation and was a successful president. Arthur enacted the first general federal immigration law. He reformed the civil service and modernized the navy. You might say he rose to the standard of the office.

The book is well written and meticulously researched. I am impressed with Greenberger’s research as Arthur is one of the presidents that had little information stored in the archives. The author also had access to Arthur’s papers held in a safe deposit box by a relative. Greenberger paints Arthur in a favorable manner but did not down play the corruption. The author reveals Arthur as a product of his time. I not only learned about Arthur but what life and politics were like at the time. This is an easy to read biography packed with lots of information. This is a great resource to learn about the post-civil war period.

The book is eleven and a half hours. Paul Heitsch does a great job narrating the book. Heitsch is a recording engineer and sound designer as well as an audiobook narrator.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • MT
  • 04-14-18

An excellent look at a forgotten president

Sheds a whole new light on President Arthur, and how becoming president, and a “coach from the people” changed him for the better.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Brings past president to life

I wish there were more biographies of the more obscure presidents. I had a negative view of Chester Arthur until I listened to this book. it gave me a good account of his whole life. it didn't seem sugar coated, but factual. The book kept me interested until the very end of the epilogue. I would recommend it to anyone interested in past presidents, and past American politics.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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An excellent biography badly performed

The author explains that little original source material on Arthur is available, and perhaps this is an advantage because instead of providing dusty details, Greenberger often paints with a broad brush, providing a lively and colorful description of the extraordinary times in which Arthur lived and the context in which he became president. If you think the Republican Party seems fractured today, wait till you read what it was like in the Gilded Age!

Unfortunately, the performance often sounds like it was read by a voice synthesizer, detracting from the author's work.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Overall good

I loved Paul Heitsch's performance. Very easy to listen to, great inflection and pronunciation.

I felt the information was quiet good considering how little is known about Arthur and that the President tried to erase his life from the historical record.

There was one serious issue that I had trouble with. With no apparent cause, Greenberger tries to create suspense and mystery over Garfield's assassin. I am familiar with Garfield and his assassination and was troubled and in fact offended by his repeated labeling of Charles Guiteau as "the preacher".

Charles Julius Guiteau was no preacher. A preacher is one who proclaims a message, most notably the gospel. Guiteau was a cult member, but never held a leadership role. He never proselytized or held religious services. Yes he wrote a plagiarized theology book and he lectered on his insane ideas. Mostly, Guiteau was a drifter and a dreamer who fantasized that God spoke directly to him.

One point I am quite curious about, but may never be know, is whether Chester ever replied to Julia Sand's letters. Greensberg extensively quotes these and they were my favorite part of the story. Her audacity is quite amazing. She shaped American history and has gone completely unnoticed.

I would have appreciated more research on her. Has anyone really explored her relics? Is there a lost trunk filled with letters somewhere? What of the home where she lived?

Sand is easily as interesting as Arthur and perhaps just as important. She fills the role of emotional support (a wife), moral conscience, and political adviser all unsolicited, yet apparently embraced and accepted.

Great read. I recommend to anyone with a love of history and presidents. Arthur is a forgotten President with an interesting story.

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great book

a great book and well read. an Interesting man and lot of history i didn't know about the man who stumbled Into the nation to spot and rose to the occasion

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An Unexpected Treat!!!

This was a wonderful story. My friend said that I am officially a "leading authority on Chester A. Arthur." It was organized, with accurate and complete research.

The author did a nice job of presenting all of the facts and then going deeper than what is most commonly talked about with Arthur, from the Party Boss and "yes man," for Conkling.

It is also a great story of redemption about how Arthur begins to change as the President and considers his legacy and goes above and beyond his own vanity and his own interests.

This is a book that I highly recommend for any person who loves history and loves our presidents.

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Chester A. Arthur and his place

This is a fascinating look at a long ago and mostly forgotten time in America.