77. Henry and Clara by Thomas Mallon (1994)
Length: 358 pages
Genre: Historical Fiction
Started: 10 September 2012
Finished: 13 September 2012
Where did it come from? From a Library Book Sale
How long has it been on my TBR pile? Since 10 October 2007
Why do I have it? I like historical fiction and Thomas Mallon is a new author for me.
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+!
A+! – (96-100%)
Till we Meet Again, Glow Brightly as Moonlight