Marvin Goodman'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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's review
Apr 07, 2012

it was ok

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.

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Comments (showing 1-3 of 3) (3 new)

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Shauna Your points are well taken. I loved the book, but after reading your review I'm tempted to modify my own comments to reflect that the book isn't an overly scholarly or in-depth look at the man or period. But, for what it was, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Thanks for sharing your insights.

Mike I'm of a similar mind to you...including the part where you give it another star. If every book were a definitive tome, even fewer people would be readers.

With books, as with music and cinema, I find a single rating to be inadequate. I would prefer two separate rating systems - one for how fine a specimen the item is within its species (i.e. how well it is constructed, performs its function, or achieves its goal) and another for how well I, personally, like it. Things being as they are, though, and recognizing the fact that my personal feelings ultimately matter only to myself, I try to weight my ratings in favor of the more objective criteria. By way of analogy, if I found myself acting as a judge at a dog show, I would try not to let my personal preference for big dogs influence how I judged Yorkshire Terriers.

Marvin Goodman Great comment, and I like the dog show analogy. I suspect that I subconsciously round my ratings on most things down a notch, assuming that most are rounding up, and I want to help the average be realistic.

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