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Publisher's Summary

There have been numerous biographies of Benjamin Franklin, including his own notorious autobiography. This is the most charming and captivating account of all. Every chapter is a bewitching gem, and Franklin lives and breathes on every page. This is the last book in Catherine Drinker Bowen's brilliant career. With this, she did not intend to write a full narrative biography. Instead she proposed to write "only what interested me about this most consistently entertaining biographical subject". Thus the book focuses on specific scenes in Franklin's colorful life, including his youthful discoveries with electricity, activity in the Albany Congress of 1754, nine years in London and, of course, his part in America's revolutionary plans.
©1974 Allan Crawford (P)1990 Blackstone Audiobooks
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Critic Reviews

"Franklin, a charmer in his time, charms across the centuries....The book, like the man, is astute and delightful." (The New Yorker)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
2 out of 5 stars
By Michael on 08-20-08

Did this need to be written?

There are several very good Franklin biographies which are both enjoyable and informative. This volume does not claim to be a biography, it seems like a bunch of unconnected notes with little theme or coherency put into a book form. . If you haven't read a Franklin biography, this would not be a good introduction, if you have read one or more good Franklin biographies, this would be unnecessary and unsatisfying.

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4 of 6 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By Keith Pyne-Howarth on 07-02-18

A unique, highly engaging perspective spiced by bright, restrained opinion

The Author, Catherine Bowen, was we are informed completing this book while in her own dying process. Unfamiliar as her other work is to me, I can't speculate on whether or what effect her circumstances may have had on her authorship, but something unique and worthwhile was lost on her passing, and that quality is conveyed in nearly every sentence of this book.

This is not intended as a comprehensive overview of Franklin's life. Instead, Bowen selects episodes from his many experiences and enriches them with details I've found nowhere else, and in a manner steeped with acumen, warmth, and insight. It's worth stressing how different this approach is to the typical biography. Bowen seems possessed of a particularly exercised perception. She applies this power many times though the chapters, breathing light and life into dusty yesterdays, saturating Franklin with a far greater depth of personage, of relatable personality, than any other historian has captured or conveyed.

Not every conclusion or, perhaps, not every doubt benefited, rings as perfect and true. But the whole of her thesis and the great bulk of her insights widen the eye to the Great Man as few others have. The last few chapters and afterward are, in particular, riveting, illuminating, powerful, and deeply poignant. Read this book. You will not see Franklin or his life and times quite the same again. It's just that good.

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