John Adams told Thomas Jefferson that “history is to ascribe the American Revolution to Thomas Paine.” Thomas Edison called him “the equal of Washington in making American liberty possible.” He was a founder of both the United States and the French Revolution. He invented the phrase, “The United States of America.” He rose from abject poverty in working-class England to the highest levels of the era’s intellectual elite. And yet, by the end of his life, Thomas Paine was almost universally reviled. He had run afoul of Washington, broke with Robespierre and narrowly escaped the guillotine, and was all but exiled from his native England.
©2006 Craig Nelson (P)2006 Recorded Books, LLC
An enlightening biography, it started well, and became increasingly better. It is a book that one might call a "tour de force," as it is not only a fascinating biography of a fascinating life of Thomas Paine, but it is also highly informative about his times, serving as a valuable guide to the European enlightenment, the American and French Revolutions and the controversies of the day, and also the evolution of democracy in England. There are times when in listening to a historical biography that one feels one is getting distracted by personal minutiae which would be better not to know. But that wasn't the case in this book because the relevant history of the period was so adroitly integrated into the personal narrative of Thomas Paine. It is certainly a book worth listening to again. The narration was superb.
Craig Nelson knows how to tell a story. There are passages and scenes that are so riveting you almost think they are made up for dramatic effect. Why did my professors in college not mention this man?
Seems like bad PR followed Thomas Paine's name up until the present time. Nelson does a fine job at explaining why and how this happened, and for anyone who wants to get the whole story about the American Revolution, they simply must listen/read this book. You won't regret it! Then download Common Sense.
Two significant problems, one with the source material (the book) and the other with the narrator. The book itself is poorly suited to being turned into audio-book format. It does not present a clear narrative line, but often includes long stretches of only partially relevant quote from original sources. It also frequently goes off on a tangent to follow secondary characters influencing Paine's life. These may work in print, but disrupt the narrative flow in audio format.
To add to those problems, the narrator frequently pauses at the wrong point, separating sentences where there is no separation. At many points I had to post-analyze what had been said to figure out what had been meant.
Overall, this audio-book is not so bad that I won't finish listening, but it is a major disappointment compared to other history books I have heard.
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