Mary Ellen B
- Allegany, NY, USA
- member since September 24, 2009
Michael E reviewed a book.
“I learned a lot of facts from this account of the 1881 Garfield assassination, and I was moved by the plight of good people handicapped by the lack modern advances in presidential security and medical care. But I wasn’t enthralled with how the pieces of the book came together or with the limited...”
“I learned a lot of facts from this account of the 1881 Garfield assassination, and I was moved by the plight of good people handicapped by the lack modern advances in presidential security and medical care. But I wasn’t enthralled with how the pieces of the book came together or with the limited reflections on the big picture.
I liked the foreshadowing method Millard employed near the beginning with a visit to the 1876 science and technology exposition in Chicago. There we get Lister failing to persuade the backward American medical profession to adopt his methods of antisepsis, and we get a view of Alexander Graham Bell demonstrating the telephone for the first time. The lack of sanitary precautions by the doctors caring for Garfield’s bullet wound led to his slow death by infection over the 80 days of his survival. Bell’s inventive genius gets harnessed in story with intensive efforts to create a metal detector which could pinpoint where the bullet was located in Garfield’s body. But we never get much detail on the efforts of more enlightened doctors to wrest control of the case from the dishonest quack Dr. Bliss who took over the case, and the device invented by Bell proved ineffective and would not have helped with Garfield’s care if it was.
A significant portion of the book is devoted to the life and madness of Garfield’s assassin, Charles Guiteau. Because Garfield’s shooting came in the first months of his presidency, there is little sense of the tragedy and import of an interrupted political agenda as with the Lincoln and Kennedy assassinations. All we learn is that Garfield sought to reform the patronage system in the civil service and supported rights for blacks. Because the historical consequences of Garfield death are unclear, the motivations and life trajectory of Guiteau did not fascinate me. The fact that there was virtually no security for the President is an interesting fact that just hangs there. That the Secret Service wasn’t tasked with presidential protection until after McKinley’s assassination 20 years later is another baffling fact. The issue on the insanity defense in Guiteau’s trial did interest me, but all we know is that somehow the jurors were not swayed, and an execution by hanging resulted.
Ultimately, the characters in this history didn’t quite come alive for me, so I wasn’t emotionally engaged at the same level I attain in works by other popular historical writers I love, such as McCullough, Goodwin, Ambrose, and Sides. Still, Millard’s talent in writing, her pacing, weaving of themes, and marshalling of quotes, was impressive, and I look forward to exploring her other work and future books. Her light touch in this book in focusing on highlights serves readers well who are interested in the skeleton of an historical story. Maybe her reticence to jump onto an agenda or take a stand in interpretation makes her a more objective historian than my favored authors, but my pleasure meter is moved more by writers who take a clear stand and go out on a limb in their judgments.
doughgirl5562 rated a book.
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Ellen R reviewed a book.
“Weathy Sera Dubash lives in her comfortable Bombay home with her daughter and son-in-law who will soon become parents as daughter Dinaz's pregnancy nears its end. Sera's long time servant, Bhima, lives in the fetid slums with her orphaned teen-aged granddaughter, Maya. While Sera excitedly awaits...”
“Weathy Sera Dubash lives in her comfortable Bombay home with her daughter and son-in-law who will soon become parents as daughter Dinaz's pregnancy nears its end. Sera's long time servant, Bhima, lives in the fetid slums with her orphaned teen-aged granddaughter, Maya. While Sera excitedly awaits the birth of her grandchild, Bhima despairs over the plight of Maya, a college student who is unmarried and pregnant at only 17. Bhima had hoped for a brighter future for Maya, one that did not include scrubbing other women's floors, washing other family's laudry, and scraping out a meager existence in the Bombay slums. Bhima, herself, can neither read nor write and she knows that an education is Maya's only way out of poverty.
Although Sera's life seems idyllic to Bhima, Sera has a shameful hidden secret; her late husband, Feroz, beat her unmercifully for many years and Feroz' mother is a cruel and hateful woman to Sera. Throughout the years Bhima was aware of the abuse that Sera suffered but was mindful of her place as a lowly servand and was thus unable to comfort her mistress. Bhima's own marriage was marred by tragedy after her husband, Gopal, was injured at his job and was then unable to find employment. He began to drown his sorrows in alcohol and finally left Bhima with their daughter as he took their son and moved back to his home village. Bhima's struggle to support her daughter and, now, her grandaughter are all that is left to her every single day.
I liked both of the women very much but the story was unrelentingly depressing to me. Sera had tried to leave her husband early in her marriage but even her own parents advised her that Sera's place was with Feroz. Shouldn't the fact that their child was afraid and sad have been enough for Sera's parents to not send her back to that situation? Or maybe it is the Indian culture that forced them to do that. Bhima had no options, whatsoever. She was trapped by her poverty and illiteracy. Sera and Bhima seemed to share a deep bond at times but their cultural differences always came first. This is a well-told story but so sad.
Ange reviewed a book.
“Eleanor & Park is the tale of first love, set in the 1980's and beset with the hipster media of its time: comic books and mix tapes. Eleanor is a big girl. Worse than that, her hair is bright red and the kids in her high school have nicknamed her "Big Red." She's also got a troubled family...”
“Eleanor & Park is the tale of first love, set in the 1980's and beset with the hipster media of its time: comic books and mix tapes. Eleanor is a big girl. Worse than that, her hair is bright red and the kids in her high school have nicknamed her "Big Red." She's also got a troubled family life which involves poverty and abuse, and she's got to worry about the chronic bullying and taunts of the kids on the bus. But Eleanor sits next to Park, who is part Asian and although fairly well adjusted to life and high school, he's quiet. He comes from a typical middle-class family, but he's got some quirks of his own. Their story begins with the sharing of a seat on the school bus, and leads us through the pitfalls and peaks of coming of age, falling in love for the first time and dealing with the outside world. It is basically a hipster love story set well before the hipster movement.
Overall, I really enjoyed this novel. Having grown up in the 1980's and having lived through similar situations and events made it all the more digestible. I would definitely read another Rainbow Rowell novel and I think the reading is easy enough and universal enough to recommend to any young adult. I think adults will enjoy this read as well. It's a reminder of what it feels like to be young and finding love for the first time.”
serenity rated a book.
Nicole D (aka Coyotemusic) reviewed a book.
Bridget Jones Diary with children, lice, Twitter and fart jokes.
The narrator was good, though.”
Isabelle S rated a book.
Ellen R rated a book.