Sunday, September 30, 2012

Snapshot: I miss letters...

Book review: Destiny of the Republic by Candice Millard

I just finished Destiny of the Republic by Candice Millard and found it to be a most seamlessly written, interesting, informative and surprisingly moving book. Highly recommended. 

From Goodreads: 
James A. Garfield was one of the most extraordinary men 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. Book reviews excerpted below.

President James Garfield
Garfield was a brilliant man who was born into extreme poverty and ended up putting himself through college. His first year at college, he was a carpenter and a janitor. By the second year, he was made a professor of literature and ancient languages. And by the time he was 26, he was the university President. Garfield never had what he called 'Presidential fever.'" He traveled to the Republican convention in 1880 to give the nominating address for someone else. But his speech was so good that at one point during it, when he uttered "What do we want?" someone shouted, "Garfield!" and people started essentially writing him in to vote for him.
In this book the reader learns about Alexander Bell as well.
Alexander Bell
Excerpts from book reviews: 
"In her brilliant and absorbing new book, Destiny of the Republic, Candice Millard makes a persuasive case for elevating a third martyred president—America's 20th—to the pantheon long reserved for Lincoln and Kennedy. . . . As in her best-selling River of Doubt, which took readers deep inside Teddy Roosevelt's harrowing journey into the Amazon, Millard settles here on a story all but lost in the cavernous house of presidential history. Equal parts political and medical thriller—indeed, a dazzling cross between the best of Robert Caro and Robin Cook—Destiny of the Republic offers a bristling account of the dramatic struggle to save Garfield's life. A struggle, Millard explains, inextricably bound up with larger, fiery contests over America's post–Civil War future and over the trajectory of modern science and medicine." - The Daily Beast

"Millard…creates a vivid portrait of the times, a vulnerable nation, political hardball, nightmarish decision-making and the eloquent Garfield, who's a footnote for generations of high school students. She covers topics as diverse as the fiefdom of New York senator and patronage dispenser Roscoe Conkling, and the mind of Alexander Graham Bell, working on an electrical device to find the bullet lodged in Garfield's back. Millardseamlessly unfolds multiple tales....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." - Erie Times

"[An] engaging, elegantly written and insightful look at the political and scientific developments of late-19th century America…" - The Washington Times