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Benjamin Franklin's Bastard

3.78  ·  Rating details ·  1,924 ratings  ·  308 reviews
Benjamin Franklin's Bastard by Sally Cabot is an absorbing and compelling work of literary historical fiction that brings to life a little-known chapter of the American Revolution -- the story of Benjamin Franklin and his bastard son, and the women who loved them both.

William Franklin, the son of Benjamin and his favorite mistress, Anne, is raised by Deborah, Benjamin's wi
Hardcover, 354 pages
Published May 7th 2013 by William Morrow
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Average rating 3.78  · 
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 ·  1,924 ratings  ·  308 reviews

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Jun 06, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: bio, hf, 2015-read, audible, leaders
Spoilers below? Maybe. I have spoken of how I view the author's portrayal of Benjamin Franklin and his relationships with those closest to him. This is the central focus of the book, not historical events.

I am very glad I didn't give up on this book halfway through. I would describe this book as having two very different parts. The first half, which I did not like, focuses upon Benjamin Franklin's early years - his amorous relationships first with his later to be wife (Deborah) and then the moth
May 10, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: first-reads-won
**Received from Goodreads first reads giveaway.

This was a great book. Wonderfully written and compelling. I read this book in 2 days. Everyone has heard of Benjamin Franklin and his many accomplishments: inventor, printer, author, scientist, and Founding father to name a few. With this book, Sally Cabot shows us another side of him - a not so virtuous side. Upon learning that he has an illegitimate son, he asks his common law wife, Deborah, to raise his illegitimate son with him. The entire time
Nov 06, 2015 rated it liked it
I liked the story a lot. Benjamin Franklin was such a cad, but in a drunk uncle kind of way. This was a fun read. I liked the use of real letters in this for the historical accuracy. The setting is obviously set in a turbulent time in Early American history, so I was a little shocked it didn't cover any of that. No war. No fear. No battles. No call to arms. I would think this would have colored Benjamin Franklin's life and that of his son, William, more than was led to believe here.

I liked the w
I absolutely loved this book, and the audio version, too. It kept me interested from the first page to the last and fleshed out my understanding of one of my favorite historical figures, Benjamin Franklin. (I didn't say I'd want to be married to him!)

The setting and characters were, in my opinion, skillfully drawn, although William Franklin's mother's name is unknown. As explained in the Afterword, Anne was the author's creation, and is a character who became real to me as the pages turned.

May 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book. I've always been fascinated by Ben Franklin, and this book gives you a sneak peek into his private, personal life. It doesn't glamorize him, but shows him as a flawed human being trying to do the right thing. I picked up the book on a Sunday afternoon and "fell into it." Many hours later, I reached the end, looked up, and realized that I was actually in the 21st century. I couldn't stop reading and stayed up way too late. Wonderful subject matter, wonderful writing, and wonder ...more
This is the 4th book of Sally Gunning (Sally Cabot) that I have read and am struck on how well she tells a tale of historical fiction based on true events and real people...Sally has a gift for making historical figures come alive and makes us wonder about the circumstances and fates of those secondary people in the background whose actions affected the prominent historical figures..There are consequences for every action and responsibility for every choice we make and Sally's book on Ben Frankl ...more
Diane S ☔
Dec 19, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: roadrallyteamb
What sets this one apart from other Franklin books is that it is almost entirely about his personal life. Only the last third of the book centers on his other activities, although they are lightly touched on in other parts. The last part of the book explains what was true and what was made up, I liked that many of the conversations were taken from letters and other Franklin source material. I have to say that after reading this, I did not see what kept Franklin with Deborah. Although I felt sorr ...more
Jan 03, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobook
Loving historical fiction, and becoming completely swept into the lives of Franklin's family, was delightful. I'm sorry the story drew to an end... The author did a wonderful job of twisting history with fiction. ...more
Jemima Ravenclaw
Completely unnecessary fiction of amoral amorous adventures of Williams mother. Yuck. Given she is a completely fictional character and I read this to get some understanding of Franklin and his family. I’m not going to finish this. It’s getting worse not better 15% in.
Stephanie Ward
'Benjamin Franklin's Bastard' is a captivating historical fiction novel that tells the story of William Franklin - the son of Benjamin Franklin and his mistress, Anne. This illegitimate son is raised by Benjamin's wife, Deborah. The novel takes place around the time of the American Revolution and tells the story of a man and his son torn apart by differing political views. William is a loyalist and his father and he can't seem to come to any sort of even ground between their political views. Sin ...more
Apr 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Born and raised in the poverty of Eades Alley, sixteen-year old Anne is happy to find employment as a serving girl at the Penny Pot tavern. She quickly realizes there is more than one way to earn money there. When she meets the young printer Benjamin Franklin, she has met someone who not only adds to her finances, but to her mind. When she becomes pregnant with his child, he is not free to marry her because of his previous commitment to Deborah Read, his common-law wife. Franklin convinces Anne ...more
Aug 10, 2015 rated it liked it
I read this after reading Sally Cabot Gunning's Cape Cod trilogy (Widow's War, Bound and The Rebellion of Jane Clarke) and I loved loved loved those stories and her writing in those stories. I had high expectations for this book, and it fell short. Ben Franklin was an amazing person - inventor, politician, creator, free thinker, intelligent, among other things. According to this telling, he was also quite the ladies man. Lots of sex, lots of relationship drama, lots of historical references to s ...more
Kim Overstreet
Jun 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Cabot's newest novel offers insight into the lives of Ben Franklin and William, his illegitimate son. Told through the stories of Ben's mistress Anne and common-law wife Deborah, this highly readable novel sent me to the encyclopedia again and again to learn even more about the people and places involved. I found the novel to be well researched and riveting.

I have lately become a big fan of this genre of stories - fictionalized accounts of actual historic characters. Recent favorites include Mr
Gerri LeClerc
Jul 15, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Meet Benjamin Franklin. Not the pudgy, spectacled, balding, founding father, but a dynamic, tall, handsome, virile man with a most exciting personality. His story is told through the two main women in his life, and later in the novel, his illegitimate son.
The book takes place in Quaker Philadelphia and London, spanning the years from 1723 to 1777.
Ms. Cabot pulls you into the time frame of dirty, drudgery, class conscious eighteenth century. The author seamlessly feeds us Franklin's accomplishme
Susan Albert
Excellent use of three points of view (Franklin's wife, mistress, illegitimate son) to create a character study of Franklin. Outstanding historical detail, setting--and a reminder that flawed characters shown in their various realities are more interesting than the "perfect" characters that are too often offered to in school. ...more
Aug 24, 2013 rated it really liked it
At first I was unconvinced about this one, but then my opinion changed and I couldn't put it down. Great historical fiction. Can't wait to go fact check everything. The authors note didn't cover all of my questions. ...more
I've read over half the book, and I'm going to call it. The characters are flat - even Benjamin Franklin seems dull and plodding - and the story lacks tension and vibrancy. In short, I'm bored, and I can't muster enough interest to finish this one, so...moving on. ...more
Aug 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  (Review from the author)
Five stars, of course!
Feb 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I liked it. Actually, I've liked every book that Sally Cabot Gunning has written. Her research is impeccable. Her story and creative visualizations take be right back to the century.
I find it most interesting that in all her books she points out the unjust action taken again women in the particular era, treating them like a scarlet letter or back mark. And yet, here we are another 300 years later and finally, the truth comes to power by a group of Hollywood women sho shine the light on sexual h
May 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
This was a fictional story based on true events and documentation about Benjamin Franklin and his eldest son. It was interesting, and sad about the struggle women had to endure during that time period. It is hard to come to terms with these great historical figures being actually human and prone to poor decision making.
This is one of my favorite books so far this year. It's a spectacular spin on Ben Franklin's illegitimate son and the fictionalized story engulfing his mother's and his life.
This is the 2nd book that I've read by this author.....She's phenomenal and knows her history!
If you enjoy historical fiction or a moving, event-filled story of family relationships; then this is the book for you!
Peggy A. Miller
Jul 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I missed this part of history. I was not aware Benjamin Franklin had a bastard son, tho I cannot say I was surprised. The story is base on history.

I really enjoyed this book. I enjoy reading historical novels because I really learn a great deal about the period the story takes place in, and in an entertaining manner. I was drawn to this book because Benjamin Franklin was such an interesting person, and so intelligent.
Jul 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I began this book with no idea of how historically accurate it was. Then I wandered over to Wikipedia to find out that yes, Benjamin Franklin did indeed have an illegitimate son (mother unknown, so the character of Anne is totally fictitious) that he asked his common-law wife, Deborah Read, to help him raise. I was quite surprised that his wife was one of common law, though I do understand the circumstances that demanded it.

I find it quite amazing that William Franklin followed so much in his fa
Feb 10, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: on-my-reader
This was an interesting book. The time period that this book takes place in is one that I really enjoy and provides a wonderful backdrop to the story. Franklin, Deborah and Anne are interesting characters and the circumstances that brings them together and keeps bringing them together is Franklin and Ann's son William. It is fun seeing these characters grow and to see them try to survive their circumstances. Through the good and the bad. I think that what I take away most from this book is the f ...more
Jul 24, 2013 rated it really liked it
will the real ben franklin please step forward. now that we know the reality of the lives of jefferson and franklin, our founding fathers, we know how truly human they were. this is a good work of historical fiction drawing on real facts concerning franklin's illegitimate child william and the surrounding circumstances of founding a new country. cabot weaves the story in and around the smells and sights of a new american port city; in her description of tavern life with all the soot and grease a ...more
Aug 08, 2013 rated it liked it
I would have named this book "Three Franklin Bastards". I had known that Ben and his son (as NJ Governor) were on different sides of the revolution. What I had not known of was the womanizing and how it affected his poor women who had to scrabble for a living. Benjamin's common law wife certainly was no match for his intellect but was a drain on his life Anne could have encouraged Ben's curiosity if she had been the one he married. The book is engaging and fulfills it's promise to be true to his ...more
Serena Gulledge
Jul 04, 2015 rated it really liked it
Benjamin Franklin was one of America's early celebrities. An inventor, politician, ambassador, and, perhaps more famously now, a lover of women. Specifically, two.

Benjamin Franklin's Bastard tells us the story of Deborah Reed, who would go on to become Franklin's common law wife, and Anne, a poor tavern wench who gives birth to his bastard, William. Circumstances force Anne to surrender William to Franklin, and while Deborah loathes raising a child not her own, William soon becomes as much her
Anne Ipsen
Apr 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a fascinating historical novel about the early years of America's first outstanding scientist, inventor, shrewd businessman, and political genius. The story is told mostly from the point of view of his mistress as she describes the curiosity of this imposing intellect and his path to fame. Despite the title, most of the plot revolves around the father, though the reader also learns about his acknowledged son, William Franklin, the eventual royal governor of Colonial New Jersey.

The plot
Jennie Rosenblum
May 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing
It is rare that I give a book 5 stars as I believe that signifies close to perfection - this book earned it easily. From the first page you are drawn back in time into Benjamin Franklin's world. I have read a lot of history from this time and several biographies of our founding fathers but this was definitely the most entertaining book. The characters were all engaging and the take on the personalities, that history only gives us a glimpse of, was intriguing. I really hope this author has someth ...more
Jul 18, 2013 rated it really liked it
This is a very interesting look into two important women(Anne and Debby) to Benjamin Franklin and his illegitimate son (William). The author deftly demonstrates how the decisions each made determined the kind of person they became. The intermingling of their stories was extremely well handled. The narrative drew this reader in and kept me interested till the very last page. Benjamin Franklin obviously was an intelligent, charismatic personage but did not seem to be gifted in considering how his ...more
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