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Walter IsaacsonFranklin was an ideal choice for the mission, as Stacy Schiff shows in this meticulously researched and judicious account of his eight years as a diplomatic dazzler and charmer in Paris.
— The New York Times
In A Great Improvisation, Pulitzer Prize winner Stacy Schiff draws from new and little-known sources to illuminate the least-explored part of Franklin's life. From these pages emerge a particularly human and yet fiercely determined Founding Father, as well as a profound sense of how fragile, improvisational, and international was our country's bid for independence.
"This is a book to savor. Every page has some new nugget of insight, or some graceful turn of phrase that generates a verbal airburst over the most psychologically agile American of his time, perhaps of all time. Schiff has given a genuine jolt to the recent surge of interest in Franklin, along the way demonstrating why she is generally regarded as one of the most gifted storytellers writing today."—Joseph J. Ellis, author of Founding Brothers and His Excellency: George Washington
"What a brilliant book. A Great Improvisation pays tribute to the extraordinary love affair between monarchist France and the republican Benjamin Franklin. Their child was America, conceived at home and nurtured into maturity by France. It is a story full of intrigue, jealousy and passion. But ultimately it is a celebration of one American's love for his country. Stacy Schiff has written a masterpiece, capturing a fleeting moment when the stars aligned between Congress and Versailles. "— Amanda Foreman, Author of Georgiana: Duchess of Devonshire
"Stacy Schiff's extensive scholarship, her eye for the colorful detail, and her lively wit combine to bring alive — in full dress and in an absorbing narrative — the cast of statesmen, adventurers, spies, courtiers, patriots and con men who have a part in the story of Benjamin Franklin's negotiations for American independence, and to fix among them America's greatest diplomat, winning his way (and America's) in a style of calculated disarray. An extraordinary book." — Edmund S. Morgan, author of Benjamin Franklin
"This remarkable book breaks new ground. Stacy Schiff has dug deep into the archives of France (no mean feat!) and brought up a motherlode of gems which, polished by her wit, illuminate the doublespeak of the ambassadorial world, as well as the ferocious backbiting among the colonial envoys. From this maelstrom emerges Franklin, inventing the American foreign service as he had figured out electricity, bifocals, a new stove, the glass armonica — step by cautious step." — Claude-Anne Lopez, Author of Mon Cher Papa: Franklin and the Ladies of Paris
All right reserved.
From A Great Improvisation:
Typically after an ocean crossing Franklin's eyes brimmed with tears at the sight of land; he had just withstood the most brutal voyage of his life. For thirty days he had pitched about violently on the wintry Atlantic, in a cramped cabin and under unremittingly dark skies. He was left with barely the strength to stand, but was to cause a sensation. Even his enemies conceded that he touched down in France like a meteor. Among American arrivals, only Charles Lindbergh could be said to have met with equal rapture, the difference being that Lindbergh was not a celebrity until he landed in Paris. At the time he set foot on French soil Benjamin Franklin was among the most famous men in the world. It was his country that was the great unknown. America was six months old; Franklin seventy years her senior. And the fate of that infant republic was, to a significant extent, in his hands.
Excerpted from A Great Improvisation
by Schiff, Stacy
Copyright © 2005 by Schiff, Stacy.
Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided byDial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
|Cast of Characters||xi|
|I||The First Mistake in Public Business Is the Going into It 1776||7|
|II||Half the Truth Is Often a Great Lie 1776-1777||36|
|III||Three Can Keep a Secret, If Two of Them Are Dead 1777||65|
|IV||The Cat in Gloves Catches No Mice 1777-1778||94|
|V||There Is No Such Thing as a Little Enemy 1778||126|
|VI||Admiration Is the Daughter of Ignorance 1778||165|
|VII||Success Has Ruined Many a Man 1779||196|
|VIII||Everyone Has Wisdom Enough to Manage the Affairs of His Neighbors 1780||229|
|IX||The Sting of a Reproach Is the Truth of It 1780-1781||260|
|X||Those Who in Quarrels Interpose May Get Bloody Nose 1782||291|
|XI||The Absent Are Never Without Fault 1783||325|
|XII||Creditors Have Better Memories Than Debtors 1784-1785||359|
Posted February 23, 2009
Posted August 14, 2007
Well researched and well written by someone who clearly loves the subject matter. Benjamin Franklin is portrayed as the man he really was, all his achievements and his foibles are illustrated with the greatest of care. The Franklin here is the man of the people vilified by his own for a service that only he was capable of, The father who gave up his beloved son for a cause whose love of family extended to all save for his own wife and daughter whom he ignored with as much fervor as that with which he brokered alliances with Europe. It was his unique American identity, an identity that was as yet still foreign even to other Americans that made its way to Paris and an uncertain future on the heels of a world changing war. The book itself is a treasure trove of secondary and tertiary information on events and people too often ignored by the histories. From Characters like Chaumont and the Brillons to the secret power brokers 'of which Paris seemingly overflowed with' like the firebrand playwright Beaumarchais whose patriotic passions flamed brighter from the streets of Paris than any to be found in Boston. This books greatest strength is also its weakness. The scope is so expansive that a single book can barely do justice, leaving a book that is overfilled with insights and information that at times give the appearance more of a historical jumble of facts and figures. There are too many characters whose egos alone could fill volumes, to many important dates and events worth note that one is left with a feeling that the whole is less that the parts. Despite this, I recommend the book with regards and with the following advice¿ Read ¿A Great Improvisation¿ along with ¿The Americanization of Benjamin Franklin¿ by Gordon S. Wood to gain a full understanding of this very complicated Promethean figure.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 7, 2009
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