A biographical novel with an overly reverential tone but filled with intriguing historical tidbits.



Welch’s (Why the Monkees Matter, 2016, etc.) historical novel pays tribute to the real-life Filippo Mazzei, an Italian surgeon, merchant, revolutionary, and writer who was friends with Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson.

Mazzei is born on Christmas Day, 1730, in the small Tuscan town of Poggio a Caiano, the third son of a mother whose love and devotion were reserved for her firstborn, Jacopo. Fortunately, Mazzei’s paternal grandfather is a kind, generous role model through his first seven years. And the sting of his mother’s favoritism for Jacopo, a manipulative thief, serves Mazzei well, propelling him into a life of adventure and accomplishment: “I will spend the rest of my life proving you have given all your love to the wrong son,” he tells his mother. He studies medicine in Florence, then moves to the port city of Livorno to practice. Even as a child, he’d begun questioning the injustices in life, but in Livorno, he begins interacting with a wide circle of intellectuals with whom he debates history and philosophy. Eventually, he moves to London and opens a shop in 1764, establishing himself as a successful importer. More critically, he meets Benjamin Franklin; it’s a connection that leads to Mazzei’s 1773 voyage to the American Colonies, where he builds his new home adjacent to that of Thomas Jefferson—just in time for the American Revolution. Welch’s volume rests somewhere between novel and biography, lacking the dramatic passion of the former and the cited source material of the latter. Still, she offers an unusual, if at times hagiographic, portrait of a man whose importance to the founding of the United States has indeed been generally overlooked. Most intriguing are the sections detailing Mazzei’s close friendship with Jefferson, which led the two to work together on the text of the Declaration of Independence. Their wide-ranging conversations, as depicted by Welch, reveal as much about Jefferson as they do about Mazzei; they include the latter’s long-held belief in equality and justice as well as their shared interests in agriculture, architecture, language, and religion.

A biographical novel with an overly reverential tone but filled with intriguing historical tidbits.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-947431-07-2

Page Count: 260

Publisher: Barbera Foundation

Review Posted Online: March 24, 2018

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A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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