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

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

Stacy Schiff / Sep 21, 2019

A Great Improvisation Franklin France and the Birth of America 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 a small boat delivered an old man

  • Title: A Great Improvisation: Franklin, France, and the Birth of America
  • Author: Stacy Schiff
  • ISBN: 9780805080094
  • Page: 448
  • Format: Paperback
  • 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 FrenIn 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 1778 and helped to negotiate the peace of 1783 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 emerges 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.

    A Great Improvisation Franklin, France, and the Birth of A Great Improvisation won the George Washington Book Prize As with her other works, this book is a wonderful telling of the role Benjamin Franklin played in France on behalf of the United States as well as his own interests. A Great Improvisation Franklin, France, and the Birth of Apr , The drawback to this book is the heavy prose that drags on with high amounts of deta A Great Improvisation provides a focus on the time Benjamin Franklin spent as the American envoy to France negotiating treaties with all the European powers A Great Improvisation Franklin, France, and the Birth of 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. A Great Improvisation Stacy Schiff Macmillan Praise for A Great Improvisation 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. A Great Improvisation Penguin Random House About A Great Improvisation In December , 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. A Great Improvisation Analysis eNotes A Great Improvisation Despite getting little guidance from Congress, he improvised an effective foreign policy for the United States, successfully negotiated a treaty of alliance with France, and joined with John Jay and John Adams in securing a very advantageous peace treaty with Great Britain. A Great Improvisation Franklin, France, and the Birth of A GREAT IMPROVISATION Franklin, France, and the Birth of America User Review Kirkus Here s breaking news for the Francophobic freedom fries set without France, there would have been no United States.The majority of the guns fired on the British at Saratoga were French, writes ace A Great Improvisation Our Man in Paris The New York Times Apr , A Great Improvisation Our Man in Paris As a result of the arrangements made by Franklin, the French supplied most of America s guns and nearly all of its gunpowder, and had almost as many troops at the decisive battle of Yorktown as the Americans did. How to Be Good at Improvisation Steps with Pictures Jul , How to Be Good at Improvisation Improvisation is a skill that many amateur and professional actors find it hard to master This is largely because many actors are used to relying on a script to inform dialogue and to set the parameters of a given scene However, almost anyone can master the art of improvisation and have fun doing it. Theater and Improv Games for the Classroom and Beyond Improv games are a great way to loosen up during drama practice or to break the ice at a party Improvisational acting teaches you to think quickly and to read other people as you perform You ll also sharpen your wit as you learn how to react to your audience.

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    About "Stacy Schiff"

      • Stacy Schiff

        Stacy Schiff is the author of V ra Mrs Vladimir Nabokov , winner of the Pulitzer Prize Saint Exup ry, a Pulitzer Prize finalist and A Great Improvisation Franklin, France, and the Birth of America, winner of the George Washington Book Prize, the Ambassador Award in American Studies, and the Gilbert Chinard Prize of the Institut Fran ais d Am rique All three were New York Times Notable Books the Los Angeles Times Book Review, the Chicago Tribune, and The Economist also named A Great Improvisation a Best Book of the Year The biographies have been published in a host of foreign editions.Schiff has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities and was a Director s Fellow at the Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers at the New York Public Library She was awarded a 2006 Academy Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters Schiff has written for The New Yorker, the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, and the Boston Globe, among other publications She lives in New York City.


    1. Despite our own self-serving myths about our war for independence, the American revolution did not reflect the action of a single country coming of age. Rather, the revolution marked the debut of the United States onto the global stage where France and the rest of Europe had already been players. The revolution was not so much as “won” by the colonies as by the aid of the French and the blunders by the British. The foreign aid provided by France during the revolution was essential to the out [...]

    2. This one is densely packed with a lot of information. If I were rating it solely on the meticulous quality of the research, I'd probably give it a 5. I'm used to McCullough and Isaacson though, and styles similar to theirs. I'm sure Ms. Schiff is very bright, but she apparently needs to prove it to her readers, resulting in a densely written book, at least for the first half. Once the war was won, it became much more readable and I really enjoyed the second half of the book. Regarding the audio [...]

    3. A Great Improvisation provides a focus on the time Benjamin Franklin spent as the American envoy to France negotiating treaties with all the European powers and providing American representation in Versailles. From the intrigues of the court, to the social life of Paris, to the intricate negotiations with not only France but peace with Great Britain and commercial treaties with almost everyother power in Europe. The drawback to this book is the heavy prose that drags on with high amounts of deta [...]

    4. In this book, Stacy Schiff covers the trip Benjamin Franklin took to France in order to help America gain its independence from Great Britain. The story is interesting in itself, and needs little for its improvement. However, Schiff is able to use analysis to describe not only what Franklin is doing, but what he is thinking while it is being done. It is an opportunity to meet the man who was so revered in colonial America. As a writer, I was able to learn from Schiff that it is not so much what [...]

    5. Enjoyable read about Franklin's peace treaty work with the French.It's not a rosy picture read, Franklin is definitely presented warts and all, but he was apparently the best man for the job, by a large margin.John Adams is usually my favorite founding father, but he shows to bad advantage as a diplomat to a Monarchy. :)It's amazing that the French to give us as much support as they did.

    6. Had bought this book almost a decade ago. Finally set it free. It covers Franklin's years in France in great detail. The book showcases his ability to deal with the French court with great aplomb and yet struggle in dealing with his own team and Congress. His constant nudging of Vergennes for funding was the bonanza that financed the war of independence and which eventually (and unintentionally) led to the bankruptcy of Louis XVI's France. His taciturnity to the constant distrust, complaining an [...]

    7. It took me a long time to get through this because it was such a fascinating book full of historical facts that the author carefully researched, I didn't want to miss a thing! It's great if you're into American history and want to know what was going on with the American delegates (Franklin, John Jay, John Adams, etc) who were in France trying to get assistance from the French king (Louis XVI) for the American Revolution, while pretending to simply be there on personal vacations (after all, Fran [...]

    8. A gossipy, fun book to read about America's diplomatic outreach to France during the American Revolution. The author reveals the appealing aspects of Benjamin Franklin's character, but also provides evidence of the contradictions in his life and personality. John Adams doesn't appear to be a very appealing man, but you get a sense of his frustration in playing second fiddle to Franklin. You won't learn much about the battles of the Revolution, but will be treated to the development of the U.S. r [...]

    9. An account of Franklins stay in Paris during and after the Revolutionary War. It is common knowledge that he was there, that he worked for American interests with the French court - but the extent of his influence and how much his actions actually effected the outcome of the war is extraordinary. Franklin himself comes alive in this account, and my thanks to Schiff for keeping him human (and not some infallible hero). Franklin's petulance, love of luxury and 'the good life', his indecision and h [...]

    10. Did not finishuly tried to read it alllll the way through! At first I thought maybe I wasn't in the mood for so much history, so I put it down and picked up something light and fun. Picked it up again, but was again put off by how many times I had to check the meaning of the words Ms. Schiff used. Seemed she was trying to impress with difficult words when a common one would have suited much better. Very rarely do I not finish a book I've started. I did struggle to read a quarter of this book, bu [...]

    11. This is a phenomenal book, covering a part of American history that is downright fascinating and at the same time embarrassing. I am disheartened to know that politics has been as irresponsible from the very beginning as it ever has been. But if nothing else, I am very glad Ben Franklin was who he was, when he was, and where he was. I feel incredibly indebted to the old rascal, and wish I were a little more like him in all the best ways. He wasn't perfect, but he was exactly what was needed.

    12. For my first read of this magnitude vis-a-vis American History, I am encouraged to read additional books of similar context. Such writings are on such an elevated plane of thinking, the privilege to have access to such works is an absolute honor. It's unfortunate that a man who seemingly singled handled helped America loosen the grip of Great Britain's stronghold was not given his due appreciation in his lifetime. To that end, there we're other Biblical undertones that were noteworthy. Particula [...]

    13. I love Stacy Schiff, but her style just doesn't work as well for a more complicated series of events like this.

    14. This is a pretty major work. Benjamin Franklin spent nine years in Paris as a US Ambassador during and after the US War Revolutionary War. I always saw that as a footnote, but his roll was fundamental to the success of the war. It was French aid that allowed the US to separate from Britain, and it was French political decisions that allowed the US to then immediately become an independent entity without foreign ties. And yet, poor France not only never benefited from US independence, but spent s [...]

    15. This book tells the tale of Benjamin Franklin’s mission to France after the Declaration of Independence is signed, throughout the Revolution, and beyond. It’s an interesting subject matter, but a mixed bag as a book.Franklin’s mission was hobbled the entire time by the combination of fierce infighting between different American factions, Colonial ambivalence as to how close we should actually get to France, trans-Atlantic communication lags (particularly during wartime), Congressional disa [...]

    16. A history book on the time Ben Franklin was in Paris waiting out the French to jump in and back America for our Independence. Unfortunately seven years of excruciatingly oblique politics does not make for a major pleasure of a read. It seems politics is eternal, you never know what is ever the truth, what of the 1,000 motivations are going to lead, or are ever sure what is behind what is going on; past, present, or future. I am also not sure that you can push history into being a novel. The even [...]

    17. For the past week, each night I have anxiously slipped into the pages of Stacy Schiff's A Great Improvisation: Franklin, France, and the Birth of America (New York: Henry Holt and Son, 2005) and wandered through streets of Paris with Dr. Benjamin Franklin. Spurred by an interest in Franklin in Paris after watching HBO's new mini-series John Adams, Schiff's book on Franklin has allowed me to accompany him as he makes his way through the labyrinthine politics of Versailles, Paris, France and the e [...]

    18. This is more what I expected of Schiff after all the acclaim for her other books. An excellent book, both in a captivating novelistic writing style that captures beauty of language etc. and a well-developed, well-documented scholarly delivery of history. While Cleopatra seemed to focus at least equally--if not more than equally--focused on Marc Antony, This book focuses clearly on its titular subjects, Franklin, and his role throughout the revolution as minister in plenipotentiary to the court o [...]

    19. Sometimes plodding account of Ben Franklin's role as commissioner to France from 1776 to 1786 shows the great debt we owe Franklin for our independence, the great difficulties of diplomacy in an era when communication between continents took months, and the great difficulty of negotiating personalities and cultures in a climate of fear and uncertainty. Throughout, Franklin acted always honorably, though not without fault, and with more success than any of his American peers sent to replace, augm [...]

    20. : First Secretary of State, an opportunistic envoy from the land of opportunity, open mindedness is an ability to debate either side of an issue, mental algebra to evaluate options, Ben's son William disagreed with Ben his entire life and was not sorry or ashamed, Ben may have took mercury for boils and lost 3 teeth, Voltaire and common sense/liberty, do not send a letter when bitter--wait till better disposition, beliefs of religion--God created-worship-do good-immortal soul-vice punished & [...]

    21. A detailed political account of Franklin's diplomatic voyage to France that reveals much about the man himself that was never taught in grade school history classes. A very enjoyable telling of history that could have been condensed perhaps by a third less material, and have yet been very thoroughly covered. This has its advantages though, in that the source materials are vetted extensively. Franklin has always been an extremely likeable American, and is even the more so once he is revealed from [...]

    22. Very well-written and excruciatingly researched, this book does a fantastic job of transporting the reader into 18th century France and into the thick of the diplomatic challenges facing Franklin at the time.Serious students of the Revolutionary War will find it fascinating and informative. It is not, though, for the casual reader. While I thoroughly enjoyed it, I found it to be about one hundred pages too long and too often straying far afield from the main story. Ms. Schiff, in her drive to be [...]

    23. There is an enormous, biblical amount of historical scholarship to be found in this book, and its examination of Franklin in Paris revealed many new facts and events that I was unaware of prior to this reading (the history teacher equivalent of winning a lottery). However, I can't say that wading through this massive amount of information made for an absorbing & relaxing read. Stacy Schiff's "Cleopatra" was a breeze by comparison; although I hate resorting to the phrase "too much information [...]

    24. Schiff has written a tome on the life of Franklin in Paris during and after the US Revolution. Much more information than I needed but it was very worthwhile. I read it as a "audiobook" but checked out the hardcover from the library to see the picture layouts. I am glad that I read it. I learned a lot. The role of the French in the US Revolution is very much understated. The French only got an empty treasury, which was another straw leading to their revolution, in return. I would recommend it as [...]

    25. This will be a great read. Schiff is a superb writer!Well, let me correct that. This was NOT a great read! I couldn't finish it. However, the problem was the subject, not the writer. I still think Schiff is a marvelous writer. I found interesting and clever turns of phrases throughout the book. I just couldn't find the endless negotiations with the French and the endless bickering among the Americans to be of interest. I'll likely give other books by Schiff a try but only on subjects I find inte [...]

    26. Good biography of Franklin's years in France. Detailed information of his relationships with French benefactors, friends and fans. Often funny, and staunchly supportive of Franklin's many gifts as a diplomat. Does not overlook or minimalize Franklin's slights and occassional cruelty to his wife and daughter, while he delighted and enjoyed the company of many female friends. Explores his complex relationship with his Tory illegitimate son, adored illegitimate grandson, and tolerated grandson, who [...]

    27. Made history fun to readdidn't hurt that it was my favorite period in history. Ms. Schiff gets down to the nitty-gritty of a fledgling nation struggling to make a name for itself in a world and country that is older than itself and has its own ideas for the future of the American colonies. She skillfully weaves her masterful tale of an old man playing the ultimate power game in the prime of his life with humor and truth. Wonderful book, definitely recommend it for anyone who wants to delve more [...]

    28. Wonderfully written account of Franklin's years in Paris during the American Revolution. In many ways it's a story of dysfunction: between Franklin and his own family; between Franklin and the other American representatives in Europe like the Lees, Silas Deane, and John Adams; and between France and America itself, in spite of the former's considerable financial and material support for the states during their struggle for independence.

    29. Here you have absolutely everything little detail of Benjamin Franklin's years as a minister plenipotentiary in France. I must admit I was fascinated, even as Franklin himself was fascinated with every small detail of life, love and science. This is a book for people who are interested in Franklin, his contemporaries in France and Franco-American relations. John Adams comes through as a boor (perhaps unfairly).

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