I read the book on the recommendation of a friend, and am very glad that I did. I'm very grateful to the author for writing it, and my friend for recommending it, because I'm always delighted to chip away at my vast ignorance, and I learned a bit about a bunch of things that I knew almost nothing about, including:
- Garfield's life
- Garfield's all-too-short Presidency and assassination
- Charles Guiteau, the assassin
- The "Stalwarts" and the Republican party divide during the post-war reconstruction/reconciliation period
- Political Boss Roscoe Conkling
The information in the book was good, assuming that it's accurate (for how would I know, given my already professed ignorance?), but the analysis and background felt very shallow to me. The book was very short (265 pages) so an in-depth treatment probably isn't feasible, and I suppose the author wanted to make something short enough that people wouldn't be put off at the prospect of reading such a long book. I can understand and respect that, certainly. After all, I'm easily the slowest reader I know, and even I was able to finish this book in little more than a week.
So, I probably need to give it another star, because it accomplished its mission for me, and, I suspect, many other readers. But I guess I was looking for something with a bit more depth in describing some of the peripheral characters, a bit more perspective on the historical trends, and even some tempting associations to the current turmoil in the Republican party.