Another men's book club read, and a very good one for American Presidential history and background. Ms. Millard is a terrific writer and her other book, River of Doubt, also was a book club selection. At about 260 pages, along with an extensive Notes and Bibliography (44 and 26 pages respectively), this book simply brims with extensive and fascinating information and background.
"Boss" Conklin, the political kingmaker at the time looms throughout this account. He tried to exert control over Garfield, who was nominated after the convention was unable to agree on a selection. Conklin wanted to (literally) select Garfield's cabinet. As Garfield quickly rose to the occasion and the office and its challenges, Conklin was pushed more and more to the side. The book makes it clear that the loss of Garfield was a true loss of a potentially first-rate President, who could have contributed in a major way to the healing after the American Civil War.
The assassin who shot Garfield was a head case, delusional and self-important, a truly a grifter. The fatal wound, unfortunately, was created by unsanitary dressings and medical care, as the bullet itself missed the critical elements and would have self-isolated itself in Garfield's body. The resulting infection would have been contained routinely by modern medicine, but it ravaged and killed the President.
The book contains some interesting sidenotes about Alexander Graham Bell and Joseph Lister, although not central to the tragedy, who were creating some of the incredible inventions in wide use today.