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Benjamin Franklin's Bastard: A Novel Hardcover – May 7, 2013


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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Genial Founding Father and revered statesman Benjamin Franklin was a man of large appetites, and this affecting first novel fictionalizes a little-known story. Anne is a young servant girl in a tavern who is lured into prostitution by a charming young Benjamin Franklin. When she becomes pregnant with their child, he talks her into giving the baby up so that he might have a chance for a respectable life. But Benjamin’s wife, asked to raise the bastard child, William, as her own, struggles with suspicions of her husband’s infidelity, especially when they lose their own child to smallpox. Forever seeking the affections of his stepmother and the approval of his father, William finally comes into his own but lands on the wrong side of history and becomes locked in a bitter feud with his father over the Revolution. Cabot laces her assured novel with Shakespearean overtones as the characters continually misconstrue one another’s motives. From Franklin’s intense intellectual curiosity to Anne’s stubborn insistence on leading an independent life, this memorable cast makes for spellbinding reading. --Joanne Wilkinson

Review

“This is a superb novel. Don’t miss it.” (William Martin, New York Times bestselling author of Cape Cod and The Lincoln Letter)

“Cabot laces her assured novel with Shakespearan overtones as the characters continually misconstrue one another’s motives. From Franklin’s intense intellectual curiosity to Anne’s stubborn insistence on leading an independent life, this memorable cast makes for spellbinding reading.” (Booklist)

“[A] poignant take of love, survival, loyalty, and the meaning of family.” 4.5 stars–Fantastic (RT Book Reviews)

“An enticing read for history buffs...genuinely heart-wrenching.” (Publishers Weekly)

“Unforgettable.” (Shelf Awareness)

“[F]or all Franklin’s genius, fortune, and increasing stature, he is not spared the trials of women, concerns for children, or the struggles between a father and son with political differences…. [Cabot is] a gifted writer.” (Providence Journal)
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow (May 7, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0062241923
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062241924
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (81 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #261,366 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Sally Cabot Gunning lives with her husband in Brewster on Cape Cod, Massachusetts, where her roots go back over three centuries. She came to writing at a young age, driven to it in desperation one rainy day when she ran out of books. Today Gunning focuses on digging out the back story to the history that we thought we knew but didn't, and giving it a human face. She is the author of three historical novels set in New England during the tempestuous years that led up to the American Revolution: The Widow's War, Bound, The Rebellion of Jane Clarke, and writing as Sally Cabot, Benjamin Franklin's Bastard.

Customer Reviews

This is historical fiction at its best.
Guest Hollow
All of the characters were very well written, especially those of William, Benjamin, and Deborah.
Stephanie Ward
The pages held me in their grip until the last word!
A. Reader

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Guest Hollow on May 31, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Benjamin Franklin's Bastard is a novel I couldn't put down. We all know the story of Benjamin Franklin - the Founding Father, the author, printer, scientist, postmaster, politician. Yet how many of us have delved into his personal life and known him as a husband, lover, father? What of the women he loved and the children he raised?

I must admit the novel didn't draw me in at first. However, after continuing on, it grasped me and never let go until the last page. I was loathe for it to end because the author Sally Cabot wraps you up in the lives of characters you care about as she takes you on a journey through history, tragedy, triumph, mistakes, heartbreak and love from a number of different angles.

The novel covers several perspectives and is mainly told through the eyes of Deborah, Franklin's wife, Anne, Franklin's rejected mistress and William, Franklin's bastard son. All throughout these 3 stories Franklin is woven and made a touchable and knowable person instead of some distant historical figure.

Anne was the strongest and most likeable character for me. Although no one really knows the true identity of William's mother, Sally Cabot sifted through rumors that flew around Philadelphia and other places at the time, discarding the ones she believed were politically motivated or highly improbable. What she came up with was a wonderful imagining of what might have been - a sixteen year old girl born into poverty, struggling to survive and finding a new way to procure an extra bit of food beyond her job as a serving girl at the Penny Pot Inn. After being wooed by a young Franklin she finds herself pregnant, out of a job and in an even worse and desperate situation then before.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Kim Overstreet on June 13, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Cabot's newest novel offers insight into the lives of Ben Franklin and William, his illegitimate son. Told through the stories of Ben's mistress Anne and common-law wife Deborah, this highly readable novel sent me to the encyclopedia again and again to learn even more about the people and places involved. I found the novel to be well researched and riveting.

I have lately become a big fan of this genre of stories - fictionalized accounts of actual historic characters. Recent favorites include Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker, The Paris Wife, The Aviator's Wife, Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald, and Above All Things. Readers who enjoy any of these stories should love this one. Recommended highly for readers of women's historical fiction!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Martyxyz on July 20, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This truly was a fascinating if not sad story of how one of our famous founding fathers dealt with difficulties within his personal life which affected those closest to him. Having read Sally Cabot's (Gunning) earlier books, "The Widow"s War" and its sequel "Bound", I was anxious to read this one. While on some level, I preferred her previous novels, this story definitely has a different kind of appeal.

The story develops around BF, his illegitimate son, William, his common law wife, Deborah and finally Anne, the catalyst who brings the story full swing. The fictional character, Anne was probably developed to support ( and obviously embellish the story) the theory that a tavern girl turned prostitute gave birth to BF's son, William. For me, however, too much emphasis was given to this fictional character.

As I read this book, I had to remind myself to look at it, not through a modern day lens, but through the reading glasses that BF invented during their colonial time period. In no way, does this reflect the author's writing, which was wonderful, it is my own tendency. For example, as the story progressed, I felt little sympathy for Anne as she continued her prostitution practices even after BF hooked her up with a job at Mr. Grissom"s shop. Of course Anne continues to struggle to contrive circumstances to view her growing son. Meanwhile, BF's common law wife, Deborah seemed to me to be portrayed at the very least as a shrew and quite often as a neurotic especially after the death of hers and BF's son. Imagine also her extreme disappointment when BF sent for his partner to watch over his shop (and not her) when he is set to embark on yet another extended trip to England, aah, such were those good ol colonial days.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By L. A. Bullock on August 29, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I loved the book. I'm not a book snob, so my review is based on enjoyment. I love Ben Franklin (I'm a teacher) and I thought this book gave me an interesting look at the man, and how women were treated during this time.
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Misty Mama on February 25, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I'm glad I read some of this novel, most notably, the last few chapters. In the beginning, the author spent a significant amount of time describing (in great detail) the sexual encounters of almost every character... time which would have been better spent on character and relationship development. I almost threw the book in the trash at one point. Then I continued reading with the intention of glossing over the sexual content (it's easy to tell when things are "heating up") and get to the heart of the story which I found interesting and worthy of my time. I realize that to understand Benjamin Franklin as a womanizer was important, but I strongly believe the point could have been made without the graphic details. I did enjoy the rest of the book and understanding the impact the father/mother/son dynamic potentially had on our country. This book is NOT for young readers.
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