A New York Times notable book, this book is actually very well written and is ambitious; a good book for readers interested in historical fiction, especially historical fiction based around "suburbia" in 1865.
Wonderful historical fiction, surrounding the assassination of President Lincoln at Ford's Theatre. The author's style is eminently readable and narrative, and he has teased from history two minor players in the drama that night at Ford's Theatre and shared with us an imagined picture of their lives both before and after. They are a wealthy society couple from Albany, with access to the highest social levels of the time, and he paints a picture of their young lives, their courtship throughout the Civil War, their presence with the Lincolns that fateful night....and most engagingly and disturbingly, the subtle ripples of the consequences of that night to their lives. Uniquely imagined and exceedingly well told--historically accurate fiction that is truly a pleasure to read.
A historical novel centering on the tale of a young couple's fateful encounter with history and destiny when they are present in Lincoln's theater box the night Lincoln is assassinated. It follows their lives and gives a glimpse of Victorian America.
Henry Rathbone and Clara Harris were recently engaged to be married, when they were invited to share the Presidential box with the Lincolns at Ford's Theater on the evening of Good Friday, 1865. Henry Rathbone - the son of the mayor of Albany, Jared L. Rathbone - had joined the Union Army in 1861 and fought in the Civil War, attaining the rank of Major very quickly.
Clara Harris - a wealthy socialite from Albany, New York - was a personal friend of Mary Todd Lincoln and the daughter of Senator Ira Harris of New York. By an unusual familial inter-connection, Clara was actually Henry's stepsister - as her father had married Henry's widowed mother, Pauline.
Henry Rathbone was sitting with Clara, next to the President and Mrs. Lincoln, when John Wilkes Booth entered the box and fatally shot the President. Henry immediately attempted to stop the assassin, but was stabbed in the arm during John Wilkes Booth's escape. Although he eventually recovered from his wound, Henry was mentally never the same.
He and Clara married on July 11, 1867 and had three children together. Their life together started out rather well and when Grover Cleveland became president, Henry was appointed the consul to Germany. His mental state had been precarious ever since he had returned from the Civil War; however, perhaps magnified by being present at the President's assassination, he was prone to fits of profound melancholia, hallucinations and delusions that people were trying to kill him.
Clara was beside herself. As her husband's mental health continued to deteriorate, she attempted to cover for his frequent mental lapses. She totally adored Henry and nourished her dream that with the proper help, he would eventually recover and they could resume their happy lives.
I really did enjoy this book, but I have to say that if I had one problem with the story, it would be that it covered the politics of the times. I found that I couldn't really keep all the characters straight in my mind. I truly felt sorry for Clara, Henry and their children because their lives were so horribly impacted by mental illness. I give this book an A+!
HENRY RATHBONE& CLARA hARRIS WERE ENGAGED TO BE MARRIED, WHEN THEY WERE INVITED TO SHARE THE PRESIDENTAL BOX WITH THE LINCOLNS AT FORD'S THEATRE ON THE EVENING OF GOOD FRIDAY, 1865. WHEN JOHN WILKES BOOTH CREPT INTO THE BOX, THE YOUNG COUPLE BECAME WITNESSES TO A CENTRAL TRAGEDY IN AMERICAN HISTORY. LINCOLNS ASSASSINATION IS ONLY ONE PART OF THIS NOVEL. WHILE RESEARCHING THE LIVES OF TIS COUPLE, THOMAS MALLON UNCOVERED EVEN MORE DRAMINIC STORY OF PASSION, SCANDAL, HEROISM, MURDER AND MADNESS.