Eager reader of history, mystery, classics, biographies, steampunk, lit fic, science, scifi, and etc. My reviews are mostly positive--I rarely finish or write about books I don't enjoy. My TBR is too high for that.
I first learned about Jane “Jenny” Franklin in an earlier book by Jill Lepore, The Whites of Their Eyes, and though there isn’t more than a few pages on her I was so moved and taken by her story that it’s my strongest memory of that book and I was left wanting to know more. Jill Lepore’s mother must have felt the same way because, as I read in Lepore’s recent New Yorker article, she kept urging Lepore to write Jane Franklin’s biography. But there was a problem. Jane was not famous like her brother Ben, so information about her, though tantalizing, is not abundant. I’m very glad Lepore persevered anyway because it’s Jane’s everywoman commonness that makes her story so fascinating. She was her brother’s equal--smart, inquisitive, innovative, and hardworking--but being female she wasn’t educated, she married young to a ne'er-do-well husband, and she had a dozen children, most of whom she outlived, so her life was very different from Ben’s. In spite of their disparate circumstances “Benny” and “Jenny” were close all of their lives and she was as caught up in the struggles for independence as he was.
Lepore has managed to weave together a haunting, intriguing, sometimes exciting biography by digging into many sources, and learning about Jane’s life made the history of her time vivid for me in ways that the lives of great men never have. I was on the edge of my seat reading about the events leading up to the American Revolution through her eyes. Along with thousands of others Jane had to flee her home in Boston when the British occupied the city. She was 63 years old and the roads were jammed with people, many of whom were not sure exactly where they were going to go. She locked her house before she left, but knew the soldiers would break in, take what they wanted, and destroy the rest (she was right.) Using the cunning she shared with her brother, she did manage to smuggle out some of her possessions, right under the noses of officials who were meant to stop such activity.
Lepore’s writings always dig deep, making you think and engaging your emotions. She has a way with words so reading her is a pleasure. In Book of Ages she’s rescued a worthy woman from obscurity--I couldn’t put this book down.