A Great Improvisation by Stacy Schiff
Franklin, France, and the Birth of America

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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.


About Stacy Schiff

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Stacy Schiff is the author of Véra (Mrs. Vladimir Nabokov), winner of the Pulitzer Prize; Saint-Exupéry, a Pulitzer Prize finalist; and A Great Improvisation: Franklin, France, and the Birth of America, winner of the George Washington Book Prize and the Ambassador Book Award. Schiff has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Center for Scholars and Writers at the New York Public Library. The recipient of an Academy Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, she lives in New York City.
Published January 10, 2006 by Henry Holt and Co.. 528 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, History, Political & Social Sciences, Travel, War. Non-fiction

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“Four years later, when the British set down their muskets at Yorktown, they surrendered to forces that were nearly equal parts French and American, all of them fed and clothed and paid by France, and protected by de Grasse’s fleet.” Moreover, she adds, the French came up with the equivalent of $...

Jan 15 2005 | Read Full Review of A Great Improvisation: Frankl...

The New York Times

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She provides an impressively researched, fine-grained account of Franklin's Paris years, and his critically important mission to secure French support and French money for the rebellious colonies, a high-risk proposition if ever there was one.

Apr 06 2005 | Read Full Review of A Great Improvisation: Frankl...

Bookmarks Magazine

Schiff, an award-winning biographer, takes a gamble with this behind-the-scenes look at Benjamin Franklin’s political agenda in 18th-century France.

Jan 09 2008 | Read Full Review of A Great Improvisation: Frankl...

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