The Destiny of the Republic by Candice Millard – Book Review

The Destiny of the Republic by Candice Millard
Published by Doubleday, an imprint of Random House

On July 2, 1881 office-seeker Charles J. Guiteau shot President James Garfield at the Baltimore and Potomac Railroad Station in Washington, D.C. Neither the bullet that grazed his shoulder, nor the one that became lodged behind his pancreas immediately killed Garfield, however. For the next two months, Garfield grew steadily sicker, as his doctors – like most American doctors at the time – eschewed Lister’s antisepsis techniques and repeatedly introduced infection into the President’s wounds.

Candice Millard’s The Destiny of the Republic is one of the most stunning works of narrative history I’ve read in some time. “Reads like a novel” is a phrase that gets thrown about too often, but in the case of The Destiny of the Republic, it really is true. Millard weaves together Garfield and Guiteau’s stories, along with those of Alexander Graham Bell, New York politician Roscoe Conkling, and, to a lesser extent, Joseph Lister. She provides just the right amount of background on each of these men and their work and lives; the reader gains a good understanding of how each man or his work interacts in this national tragedy without becoming bogged down by extraneous information.

Throughout The Destiny of the Republic it becomes clear that Garfield was a remarkable man and had the potential to be an incredibly remarkable president. Although he did not get the opportunity to prove his mettle in the presidency, his assassination served to revolutionize the politics, medicine, and other technology of the United States.

Garfield’s story is absolutely fascinating, and Millard relates it flawlessly. Highly recommended.

Buy this book from:
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Source: Publisher, via ShelfAwareness.
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7 comments to The Destiny of the Republic by Candice Millard – Book Review

  • Jen, nice review. I also loved this book, it was far and away one of the best histories I read last year.

  • I saw Millard speak at the Texas Book Festival this year, and I was so incredibly impressed. It was obvious she is passionate about her subject matter, and she made me care about a president I had never given much thought to. I wanted to buy it right then and there, but my book budget doesn’t include hardcover these days, so I’ve been waiting my turn at the library. Cannot wait to read it, and I’m glad you enjoyed it so much.

  • It is so funny – I actually reviewed this over on my blog today too – but the audio version. I LOVED the book! So well written, and as an earlier commenter stated, it really made me care for someone I was not interested in before.

  • Jen-

    Glad to see you loved it too. It’s a neglected period of history, so it felt really fresh and interesting. Plus, Millard can really write. It made my list for Best Nonfiction of 2011. If you haven’t already read the fabulous River of Doubt, you need to put it on your TBR. Along with about 10,000 other books! –M.

  • I’ve had my eye on this one for a while – thanks for letting me know that it’s one that will definitely be worth picking up. I love reading historical non-fiction but some of it can be awfully dry and dull. Glad to know this one isn’t!

  • His treatment and infections sound so tragic, but I will believe you if you say it’s so good. I had to hop over and read your review after seeing that this was your pick of the month. I hadn’t heard of the book prior to your post.