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Unlikely Allies

3.72 of 5 stars 3.72  ·  rating details  ·  194 ratings  ·  50 reviews
Silas Deane, a Connecticut merchant and member of the Continental Congress, went to France to persuade the king to support the colonists in their struggle with Britain. Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais was a playwright who had access to the arms and ammunition that Deane needed. And the Chevalier d'Éon was a diplomat and sometime spy for the French king who ignited a ...more
416 pages
Published (first published 2009)
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(showing 1-30 of 432)
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Jerome
An incredible tale of espionage, intrigue, hypocrisy, deception, and betrayal. Still, the characters never really seemed to come alive. You get to know facts, but they remain enigmatic and remote. With that aside, this is quite an interesting story. The story is so wacky that I actually had to fact-check some of this stuff to make sure it wasn’t some big joke. An insane story that is all the more insane because it actually happened.

To fight the British, America needed supplies. Incredibly, at th
...more
Tim Schaffer
Hmmmm... On one hand, the book offers wonderful biography of figures usually overlooked by history. It's very much worth reading for the sake of their stories. However, the book doesn't deliver on what the subtitle promises. The spy, although pivotal in the life of the playwright's political career and arguably the best story of the three, is never allied with the other two in any way. In fact (unless I missed something) the spy never even met the merchant or expressed any interest in the Americ ...more
Bruce
"It is left to history to correct the popular judgment. Reading history teaches us to doubt, to question, and, if we're lucky, to discover new heroes." Thus read the last two sentences of Paul's book. It shows that greed and vengeance nearly derailed the American Revolution. The Founding Fathers were factious and class driven. However, that is only part of the story. Self interest drove others to help the American colonies and their actions, both before and during the Revolution provided assista ...more
Dorothy
I loved every minute of reading this book. Paul notes that "human frailty is part of our heritage" and virtuous men were capable of despicable behavior while hypocrites could do good. History, he points out, is often as not the child of chance and good behavior the result of noble and ignoble impulses, service to the greater common good and service to self.

The three protagonists of this fascinating story were eminently human, emotionally febrile, variable in their virtue and fascinating by all m
...more
Megan
I really enjoyed this book and would have given it a higher rating (in reality I think it deserves a 3.5 :) if Dr. Paul's personal bias hadn't shown up so much. While the bias towards Deane was a bit thick at times, I would still recommend this book to anyone interested in the American Revolution. I think eveyone should read this book if only for the parts about Beaumarchis and D'Eon. It was a quick read, which I appreciated, and I think overall it was well-researched and cohesive. The parts abo ...more
Annie Oosterwyk
This book was a wonderful way to learn some unorthodox and hidden American history. I am now a big Silas Deane fan whereas before I knew nothing about him. It makes me think about how we teach history in our schools with such a limited perspective. I look forward to reading more unbiased stories and hearing what was happening in the rest of the world as the US was created.
It also reminds me that there are endless untold and not yet investigated stories in the world. It is an exciting impetus to
...more
Shelley
This is a vindication of Silas Deane, a man who--if he's mentioned at all--is reported as a proto-Franco-American diplomat who came under some sort of scandalous cloud. It's about the dirty politicking that went on during the Revolution. (It's less about Beaumarchais and d'Eon, although they figure in the story as the playwright and the spy. They are necessary characters, but more sideshow.)

As an attorney, I like to read histories by attorneys. There are some gems about Lord Mansfield that may
...more
Marie Carmean
There is so much we aren't taught in school...things one may not even come across in extensive reading on the subject of our country's history. There are some surprises in store for the reader of this fascinating book. Well researched and well-written, this look at the "behind the scenes" actions that created the atmosphere necessary for the United States of America to become the fledgling country it so wanted to be, is a must-read for anyone who cares about our country and its history! There is ...more
Liz
I read this book to conduct research on Silas Deane, the first envoy from the United States to France. There are few books about Deane out there even though his tale is filled with intrigue, jealousy, cunning, and patriotism.

Joel Richard Paul's book tells the story of Silas Deane, Beaumarchais, and the Chavalier D'Eon. His title, Unlikely Allies, comes from the fact that these 3 men all played pivotal roles in forwarding the Continental Army much needed supplies and coaxing King Louis XVI to ent
...more
Ann Canann
It was the subtitle, “How a Merchant, a Playwright, and a Spy Saved the American Revolution,”
(especially the playwright part) that drew me to this history about some very human people who were very much involved in the founding of our country..

Mr. Paul is a professor in international and constitutional law and associate Dean at U.C. Hastings Law School. Yes, he writes here of George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, John Jay, Tom Paine, and other luminaries of the war, but he focuses on three impor
...more
Ernie
I enjoy reading history and history often focuses on the central figures. For the American Revolution this is usually Adams, Franklin, Jefferson, Washington... among others. This is a book about the American Revolution that focuses on more minor characters and their pivotal roles in making possible the heroic achievements of the better known. This book is about the ambassador to France who preceded Franklin, Adams and Jefferson. It is about a playwright who engineered the aid from France to Amer ...more
Dan
For seven years, my office was on the "Silas Deane Highway," but I never thought much about Silas Deane was. Years ago, I did the tour of his Wethersfield home, and I knew that he was a colonial era merchant. I knew he played some minor role. This book makes a strong case that his role was much greater than history credits him.

What I really like best about this book is the way that it makes me rethink the whole subject of history. In the Acknowledgements, the author states that he was researchi
...more
Michelle
What fun this book was! I had read in another book this year about Caron de Beaumarchais and the Chevalier d'Eon and their roles in the American revolution, but the treatment had been short and I was left wondering about the details. Well, no more. This well-researched book answered (nearly!) all my questions about the matter, except for the pesky "why?" questions. :-) In addition, this book makes a very solid case for a re-appraisal of Silas Deane and his contributions to the Revolution. The au ...more
Linda
Many Americans are familiar with the fact that Benjamin Franklin, that wildly popular old patriot, spent years in France convincing the powers that were to support the Americans in their dispute with King George III. Most, however, are unaware that the role played by Silas Deane was even more important, and those who are, know that Deane was vilified as a embezzler of public funds, a traitor to the American cause, or both. At long last, someone has written the truth about the enormous service pe ...more
David R.
Paul investigates a lost corner of the American Revolution: the story of Silas Deane and the birth of the Franco-American Alliance of 1778. Silas Deane is the centerpiece of the book, although several other figures (Beaumarchais, A.Lee, Franklin, Vergennes, etc.) receive handsome coverage. Paul doesn't hesitate to take sides and excoriates the so-called Adams-Lee Junto in Congress while giving Deane every consideration, but this generally aligns with most scholarship and can be forgiven. The boo ...more
Rebecca
This was an interesting story about the American Revolution, and some behind the scene stuff that happened to help with the end result of America gaining our independence from Britain. I know God's hand was in that war and that the outcome was no chance, but listening to this story you certainly have to wonder at the people used for His purpose. Good story, flowed easily enough, and was interesting enough to not be bored, maybe a little depressing. History is not one of my favorite subjects unle ...more
Chris
A very entertaining read about some lesser known but very important events of the American Revolution. The part about the spy and the look at gender issues was one of the most interesting parts of the book but did not really need to be included, as the chevalier had no real direct dealings with the revolution.
As in most things, our revolution fares up better in the abstract than under close scrutiny. It just goes to show that there never was a golden age of politics where everyone worked togethe
...more
Jennifer
Nov 01, 2010 Jennifer rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommended to Jennifer by: KQED's Forum
Shelves: 2010
The book was very slow to start. I'm amused that the book jacket describes the book as an "edge of your seat story", as I found myself struggling to stay with it for the first half. About halfway through, things finally started to come together. I'm glad I finished it.

The historical story is fascinating, and has quite a bit of information about the American revolution that I was never taught about in school. Unfortunately, the writing style wavers between historical fiction ("he gingerly eased
...more
Eric
Almost done with this book and am quite impressed!
I remember years ago listening to a radio program called "The Rest of the Story" where Paul Harvey would tell a familiar story from a new or unique perspective. Inevitably, the result was a story that felt completely new and that left the listener feeling that he/she really hadn’t known the story to begin with! This book gave me that same feeling about a story I thought I knew…the American Revolution!
While there are brief moments where it reads
...more
Dede Derosa
I picked up this book because I like historical non-fiction and I live in Wethersfield CT where the Silas Deane name is prominent. I never knew much of anything about the man so enjoyed reading about his role in the revolution. I think I was expecting something slightly different from the title but the book is well researched and well written. Glad to know this slice of history finally!
Miranda Haley
Fascinating and unique perspective of the American Revolution. This is my favorite area of history to study and yet I had never heard most of this information. Well researched and presented
Michael Drum
A well told story about the complications and tragedies of some of the heroes of the American Revolution. This further documents how our revolution, though creating something new and wonderful, had a traumatic birth, even for some of the most patriotic rebels.

My only complaint is that the "spy" in the title, had nothing to do with the American Revolution. D'Eon's only role was in helping to renew the King's faith in Beaumarchais. However, d'Eon's story is most intriguing. Someone should make a m
...more
Ilene
The title of the book makes a promise that the content just doesn't live up to, and in that respect the book was a disappointment. There were also tangents I found unnecessary--an entire chapter of background information when a paragraph would be sufficient. The last chapter also bothered me because it often expressed opinions and personal judgments, rather than sound conclusions based on the evidence in the text. As a work of entertainment, this story had some enjoyable moments. As a work of hi ...more
Jonathan Hause
I enjoyed this book. It held my interest strongly for the first half. After that, the story moved away from feeling like I was living vicariously in the main characters lives and much more like I was reading a text book. Despite this, the book was full of useful information, and a great book for pleasure reading or for if you are interested in the American revolution. The book does a great job of expressing the individual personality of the three main characters, although they tend to go in and ...more
Erik Orrantia
Very interesting book, well researched and written. There were so many names that sometimes they got confusing. Also, intriguing conclusion. It is true that many of our founding fathers have been idealized, and this book reveals how many individuals' personalities and ambitions guide decisions and, in the end, create the future. Not that much has changed in the world of politics. I recommend this book for anyone interested in the true events of the American Revolution.
Janis
Unlikely Allies tells the story of Silas Deane, successful merchant and member of the Continental Congress, and his struggles to gain support from France during the American Revolution, and of two French citizens (one the author of The Barber of Seville, the other a spy of shifting identity) and their role in his task. Hypocrisy, jealousy, and treachery abound – as well as monumental sacrifice. It is a fascinating and complicated story, well-researched and well-told.
Michael
Jul 13, 2010 Michael rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone interested in the History of the American Revolution
Recommended to Michael by: The History Book Club
The first book I read in its entirety this year when I was in a bit of a slump as to finishing books. That says something about its intrinsic interest. The intrigues involving the sainted Founders doesn't surprise me at all. I find them much more admirable as fallible human beings than demigods. Would be that present-day America good see its truly public-spirited poltical figures in the same light.
Walter
Other reviewers seem to have liked this book, so I should admit that I am not a history buff and so perhaps my giving it only 2 stars is harsh.

Parts of this book were interesting -- even titillating - but in general I found it hard to follow and it seemed that the author was drawing conclusions based on speculation rather than facts. It seemed to be equal parts gossip and history.
Natalie
I found this book a fun way to learn history. Although some it it seemed more like speculation (based on whatever information was available, which was often rumors) most of it seemed to be factual. I gained a lot of insight into the plotting, spying, scheming, and egotism of those who wanted to enlist the French in helping the colonists win independence and those who did not.
Goat Girl
Great book about American revolution. It shows the other side of the the revolution. I have never heard of Silas Dean yet he was so important to winning to revolution. Not boring the book kept coming up with surprises and exciting news. Can you believe this actually happened! History can not be more exciting than tjhis!!
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