Susan's Reviews > Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President

Destiny of the Republic by Candice Millard
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Oct 07, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: arc-edition, based_on_true_crime, history-biography-memoir, u-s-presidents
Recommended for: History buffs
Read from August 08 to 10, 2011 — I own a copy

If the 20th U. S. President, James A. Garfield, had not been so well attended by doctors, he very well might have survived being shot by an assassin. If his doctors, especially the controlling and pompous Dr. Doctor Bliss (no, Dr. Doctor is not a mistype), had been willing to practice Lister's antisepsis techniques, Garfield might have lived. And if the assassin, Guiteau, hadn't been a megalomaniac who thought he was supposed to kill the president, the medical care would never have been needed. As it was, Garfield died slowly and very painfully, and we never were able to benefit from the president he could have been.

As sad as the story is, I loved the telling of it in this book. Author Candice Millard did a wonderful job of tying together the different people most important in this tragedy, and the mood of the times. I would never have known otherwise that Alexander Graham Bell invented a metal detector so that he could try to locate the bullet still in Garfield's body. I needed a bit stronger stomach than I have to read about Garfield's treatment and the progression of his illness. And, 130 years after his death, I am sorry that he did not get the chance to live his full potential as president. I highly recommend this excellent book.

Thank you to the publisher for giving me an advance reader's edition of the book.
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message 3: by Judy (new) - added it

Judy Susan, a nice peak at this book. I'm not much for straight biographies but this may be one I pick up simply because no one says much about Garfield and the look into his (lack of) medical treatment sounds fascinating.


Susan It's not a biography in the strict sense of the word and it was really interesting. I'm glad I didn't live in that time, get wounded, and was able to afford medical care - yikes!


message 1: by Jen (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jen physicians are notorious for black-balling forward thinkers...the physician who discovered that stomach ulcers were caused by bacteria was ostracized by the medical community for years! Eventually the evidence was irrefutable and the nay-sayers had to admit he was correct.


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