“Lost Love” by George Cooper is a fascinating look at not only a tragic love triangle that comes to a head in the years following the Civil War between a famous war correspondent and a talented actress, but a fascinating work that begs the reader to ponder the age old idea put forth by George Santayana-“Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”
It is a fascinating look at the burgeoning ideas of marriage and the womens’ rights movement and the sanctity of marriage in their day.
(Unfortunately, I was unable to find a good summary of this story online, as I usually do. This is a link to another review that gives a fairly good overview, and this is a GREAT link with many stories written by the victim and includes a short overview of the murder.)
Albert Deane Richardson rose to fame as a well-renowned journalist, journaling his trips to the “new West”, and eventually garnering fame and attention when he was captured by Rebel forces during the Civil War. He spent a year and a half in a Rebel internment camp in Salisbury, North Carolina and eventually escaped with another captured journalist.
It is after these incredible events that he meets Abby Sage MacFarland, who was suffering, in her words, under the wrath of an increasingly abusive husband, Daniel MacFarland.
The paranoid Daniel feared that his wife was behaving unbecoming a wife with his neighbor Richardson, and even shot him in the thigh at one point-Richardson recovered. Meanwhile, Abby had moved to Indiana, where a divorce on the grounds of abuse and drunkeness could be obtained. To obtain residency status, she had to live there for a year.
However, the second time around, Richardson would not be so lucky. MacFarland ambushed him in the front offices of his employer, The New York Tribune. He would die a week later, but not before a deathbed marriage-performed by the notorious Rev. Henry Ward Beecher-to Abby two days before his passing.
In a classic case of “putting the victim on trial”, MacFarland was acquitted after claiming insanity.
This book is everything a historical true crime novel should be. It details the crime and the trial and puts it in perspective with the day to day realities that the characters faced.
At times, I do wonder if Cooper is taking too much the side of the widow-the popular view of the day was to side with MacFarland against his straying wife. This book is very sympathetic to Abby-and probably not undeservedly.
However, that’s made up for by the ease with which Cooper weaves the true words of the players with the narrative. Never once does the reader feel that Cooper is making up words to put in the players’ mouths, as is the case in some historical true crime books. It hearkens back to the classic true crime novel-In Cold Blood.
I would definitely recommend this book to anyone-in particular readers who are not familiar with the genre of true crime and are interested in a wonderful snapshot of the period following the Civil War.