Reviewer Janet Walker: Janet is the author of Colour To Die For, first of the Fee Weston Mystery Series. Janet lives in Australia and when she is not writing about P.I. Fee Weston's fight for truth, justice and a livable cash flow, she writes articles for magazines and fund raises for Australia's wildlife carers - heroes of the bush. For more about Janet and Fee visit Janet's WEBSITE
Author: Tom Fitzgerald
Poor Richard’s Lament by Tom Fitzgerald could be described as being in the genre of magic realism or faction; events in the life of an historical figure interwoven by fantasy flashbacks and interpolation of a real life figure into modern day events. The historical character is eighteenth century politician and inventor, Benjamin Franklin. As some of the problems which bedevil American life today are reminiscent of the historical events in which Ben Franklin played a significant part; the creation of an independent American nation, Tom Fitzgerald’s book sub-title of: A Timely Tale is indeed apt.
As a non US citizen before reading Poor Richard’s Lament I knew little about the life and achievements of Benjamin Franklin other than the electrical connection (no pun intended). Top marks to the author for providing a comprehensive list of the milestones of Franklin’s life. As with all good historical ‘faction’ I am now busily searching for factual accounts of this remarkable man’s influence on eighteenth century America.
At over 600 pages this is
a long book and although well written; the author’s interleaving of
eighteenth century and modern day language, certainly wonderful in
clarity and use of creative phrasing, for me, the text would have
been improved by the judicious use of an independent editor to cut
back on some of the descriptive situational pieces and minor
characters surrounding the main protagonists. However, this is my
only quibble and may not occur to other readers.
The story begins by outlining Ben Franklin’s current predicament; since leaving the earthly plain he’s been stuck for two hundred years in his Celestial Chamber awaiting for his case to be reviewed in The Supreme Celestial Court of Petitions. His interrogators are John Adams, the Rev. William Smith and solicitor general, Alexander Wedderburn. The interrogators, not a little touched by envy and jealousy at Franklin’s genius and the wide ranging skills it encompassed; inventions, writing, political influence and the arts generally, attempt to depict him as a hypocrite whose sole aim was the pursuit of financial gain and public prominence.
Sure, Benjamin Franklin
was flawed. Know any prominent past politi4cal figure who in the light
of modern day opinion can’t be found unsound at times? He was a
’ladies man’, something he had in common with modern day
political figures, not the best of fathers or husbands and his record
on slavery and other political situations besetting eighteenth
century America were at times hypocritical. He was though, a tireless
worker for the citizens of early America and modern day citizens have
much to thank him for in terms of the creation of an independent
The story jumps between Franklin’s interrogation and a current day political scenario which outlines an incumbent President’s re-election campaign. Dirty tricks abound and I was appalled at the apparent disregard for a five letter word: TRUTH exercised by either party in the presidential campaign. Franklin, released from the Celestial Chamber by his interrogators is sent on a mission: time travel to twenty first century America to see what can be done to get America back on track to realize the dreams of the founding fathers: build an honest, hardworking, compassionate society.
The state of the United States of America concerns not just it citizens, but all peoples of the world and as such Poor Richard’s Lament is an important book. The exploration of how far the American dream has gone astray is chillingly resonant of the last days of the Roman Empire. Read this book by Tom Fitzgerald; it’s well worth an investment of your time.
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