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A Great Improvisation: Franklin, France, and the Birth of America


A Great Improvisation: Franklin, France, and the Birth of America Cover

ISBN13: 9780805066333
ISBN10: 0805066330
Condition: Standard
Dustjacket: Standard
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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.

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Stephanie Patterson, July 2, 2009 (view all comments by Stephanie Patterson)
This is a wonderful book It's a rendering of history that is particularly light on its feet. This is not your usual everything but the kitchen sink account in which the author gives you masses of facts without art or interpretation. It is as much about 18th century Paris and it is about Dr Franklin and it is smart and witty about everything
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Product Details

Franklin, France, and the Birth of America
Schiff, Stacy
Henry Holt and Co.
Europe - France
United states
United States - Revolutionary War
International Relations - General
United States / Revolutionary Period (1775-1800)
Publication Date:
April 2, 2005
Electronic book text in proprietary or open standard format
Grade Level:
2 8-pg insert
8.27 x 5.49 x 0.91 in

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Related Subjects

History and Social Science » US History » 18th Century
History and Social Science » US History » Franklin, Benjamin
History and Social Science » US History » Revolution and Constitution Era

A Great Improvisation: Franklin, France, and the Birth of America Used Hardcover
0 stars - 0 reviews
$9.95 In Stock
Product details 512 pages Henry Holt & Company - English 9780805066333 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "Numerous bestselling volumes have been written recently on the man one biography called 'the first American.' Pulitzer Prize-winner Schiff (for Véra (Mrs. Vladimir Nabokov)) eloquently adds to our understanding of Benjamin Franklin with a graceful, sly and smart look at his seven-year sojourn in France in his quasi-secret quest to secure American independence by procuring an alliance with the French. Drawing on newly available sources, Schiff brilliantly chronicles the international intrigues and the political backbiting that surrounded Franklin during his mission. 'A master of the oblique approach, a dabbler in shades of gray,' she writes, 'Franklin was a natural diplomat, genial and ruthless.' She deftly recreates the glittering and gossipy late 18th-century Paris in which Franklin moved, and she brings to life such enigmatic French leaders as Jacques-Donatien Chaumont, Franklin's closest adviser and chief supplier of American aid, and Charles Vergennes, the French minister of foreign affairs, who helped Franklin write the French-American Alliance of 1778. Franklin also negotiated the peace of 1783 that led not only to the independence of the colonies from Britain but also to a bond between France and America that, Schiff says, lasted until WWII. Schiff's sure-handed historical research and her majestic prose offer glimpses into a little-explored chapter of Franklin's life and American history. Agent, Lois Wallace. (Apr. 2)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Review A Day" by , "Schiff, the author of a Pulitzer Prize-winning biography of Vera Nabokov, writes the kind of shimmering prose in which nearly every sentence contains a clever aside. She is more than equal to the task of resurrecting the brilliant, corpulent Franklin, turning this sensitive and difficult final act of his career into a thrilling story. 'It was all a great improvisation,' Schiff writes, 'He was inventing foreign policy out of whole cloth, [and] teaching himself diplomacy on the job.'" (read the entire Esquire review)
"Review" by , "Here's breaking news for the Francophobic freedom-fries set: without France, there would have been no United States....A lively, well-written, and most timely study of diplomacy in action."
"Review" by , "This is an outstanding chronicle of an American icon peforming perhaps his greatest service to his country."
"Review" by , "Each phrase is polished to a high gloss....The highly wrought prose grows tiresome over the course of 400 pages and makes the complicated diplomatic maneuverings Ms. Schiff describes even harder to follow."
"Review" by , "[Schiff's] research is so convincing and her feel for the subject so profound that A Great Improvisation becomes both an enjoyable narrative and the most important recent addition to original Franklin scholarship."
"Review" by , "[A]n entertaining story, bringing alive a cast of colorful characters, strange plot twists and bizarre anecdotes, which sometimes reads like a movie script replete with intrigues, ultimatums, cabals, swindles and vendettas."
"Review" by , "Schiff has such command of tempo that she sends shivers down a reader's spine..."
"Review" by , "In sparkling prose, burnished to a high gloss, Stacy Schiff tells the tale of Benjamin Franklin in Paris with piquant humor, outrageous anecdotes worthy of the finest French farce, and a wealth of lapidary observations. Her Paris unfolds as a glittering carnival of spies, rogues, frauds, and flawed reformers, eccentric nobility and perpetually squabbling American diplomats. Towering above all is the protean figure of Franklin, an improbable compound of wit, cunning, hypocrisy, courage, and tireless devotion to his country. C'est magnifique!"
"Review" by , "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."
"Review" by , "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."
"Review" by , "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."
"Review" by , "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."
"Synopsis" by ,
In this dazzling work of history, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author follows Benjamin Franklin to France for the crowning achievement of his career

In December of 1776 a small boat delivered an old man to France." So begins an enthralling narrative account of how Benjamin Franklin-seventy years old, without any diplomatic training, and possessed of the most rudimentary French-convinced France, an absolute monarchy, to underwrite America's experiment in democracy.

When Franklin stepped onto French soil, he well understood he was embarking on the greatest gamble of his career. By virtue of fame, charisma, and ingenuity, Franklin outmaneuvered British spies, French informers, and hostile colleagues; engineered the Franco-American alliance of l778; and helped to negotiate the peace of l783. The eight-year French mission stands not only as Franklin's most vital service to his country but as the most revealing of the man.

In A Great Improvisation, Stacy Schiff draws from new and little-known sources to illuminate the least-explored part of Franklin's life. Here is an unfamiliar, unforgettable chapter of the Revolution, a rousing tale of American infighting, and the treacherous backroom dealings at Versailles that would propel George Washington from near decimation at Valley Forge to victory at Yorktown. 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.

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