THE WAGES OF FAME by Thomas Fleming

THE WAGES OF FAME

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Bestselling historian and novelist Fleming (Liberty! The American Revolution; Remember the Morning, both 1997; etc.) treats the period leading up to the Civil War in a story as stale and unappetizing as a month-old crumpet. When Jeremy Biddle arrives at the dock to meet his beautiful cousin Caroline Kemble, freshly arrived from Ohio, he brings along his two best friends: the large, affable George Stapleton and sardonic, tormented John Sladen. Both fall head over heels for Caroline and immediately become rivals for her affection. John has his brilliant anguish and unconventional political views to offer; George has money—lots of it—and poetry. Caroline ultimately chooses George, largely because of his wily old grandfather, who suggests to her the kind of power she might have if she were to become the wife of a politician. John Sladen takes his loss hard and begins drinking and threatening to flunk out of Columbia, where he, George, and Jeremy were classmates. Out of pity, Caroline begins a brief and clandestine affair with him, all the while planning her wedding to George. (When she has a son, seven months later, she has no doubt who the real father is.) But Jeremy discovers this illicit connection and pays Sladen off to leave town. Caroline and George marry, and George embarks on his political career: first traveling out west to meet Andrew Jackson; becoming a Democrat and winning a seat in Congress as New Jersey’s senator; attempting to navigate the treacherous waters of slavery and its profound affect on American life and politics; and finally making an unsuccessful bid for the Presidency. Meantime, Caroline is his political puppeteer, pulling the strings behind the scenes and making her own evil bargains with the fame and power that are her true loves. Compelling historical events are rendered dreary by utterly ho-hum writing and flat, cartoonish characterizations. Maybe the TV mini-series this is sure to spark will be livelier. ($100,000 ad/promo)

Pub Date: Sept. 25th, 1998
ISBN: 0-312-86309-8
Page count: 464pp
Publisher: Forge
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1st, 1998




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