A Great Improvisation

  • by Stacy Schiff
  • Narrated by Jason Culp
  • 9 hrs and 53 mins
  • Abridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

"In December 1776, a small boat delivered an old man to France." So begins a dazzling narrative account of Benjamin Franklin's French mission, the most exacting, and momentous, eight years of his life. When Franklin embarked, the colonies were without money, munitions, gunpowder, or common cause; like all adolescents, they were to discover that there was a difference between declaring independence and achieving it. To close that gap Franklin was dispatched to Paris, amid great secrecy, across a winter sea thick with enemy cruisers. He was 70 years old, without any diplomatic training, and possessed of the most rudimentary French. He was also among the most famous men in the world. Franklin well understood that he was off on the greatest gamble of his career. But despite minimal direction from Congress he was soon outwitting the British secret service and stirring passion for a republic in an absolute monarchy. In A Great Improvisation Pulitzer Prize winner Stacy Schiff offers an utterly fresh and thrilling account of Franklin's Parisian adventure and of America's debut on the world stage. Schiff weaves her tale of international intrigue from new and little-known primary sources, working from a host of diplomatic archives, family papers, and intelligence reports. From her pages emerges a particularly human Founding Father, as well as a vivid sense of how fragile, improvisational, and international was our country's bid for independence.


What the Critics Say

George Washington Book Prize Winner, 2006
"An impressively researched, fine-grained account of Franklin's Paris years." (The New York Times)


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Why abridged history

This is an important book. It is extrordinarily well researched and a departure from the boiler plate Franklin observations. Am I alone, as a fan of history, in wanting to hear the whole story? Don't people who take the time to listen to such a work want to hear it all? I find myself searching for an unabridged version on Amazon or Apple every time one of these abridgements is put up alone, with no sign there will be a full version to come.
This work deserves to be heard in its entirity.
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- D. Court

Excellent companion to the print version

For Christmas I recieved the print version, over 460 pages plus a huge bibliography, index, notes etc. The audio version is an excellent abridgment, providing plenty of the story without bogging down in details.

This is my second Benjamin Franklin bio (listen to his Autobiography as well). AGI relied upon lots of letters, even some which were un-sent, to re-construct Franklin's life in France.

I've already started listening a second time, as I usually do with books I feel are important and enlightening.
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- R. Hilton

Book Details

  • Release Date: 03-21-2005
  • Publisher: Random House Audio