Book of Ages: The Life and Opinions of Jane Franklin

Jill Lepore. Knopf, $27.95 (480p) ISBN 978-0-307-95834-1
Younger sister of the estimable Benjamin, Jane Franklin was born in Boston in 1712 and passed 82 years later. Doting brother Ben tutored the little girl in reading and writing—until he ran away from home at age 17—and she learned housewifery from her mother while getting a primer on the candle-making business from her father. At 15 and possibly already pregnant, Jane married Edward Mecum, a saddler so poor that he moved into the Franklin family home after the wedding. Ben Franklin, busy with the politics of the Revolution, seldom returned to Boston, and Jane, immersed in childrearing, rarely left it. Still, they remained close through correspondence, discussing current events as well as family business. Historian Lepore (The Mansion of Happiness), who has a knack for crafting a beautiful, inventive, and accessible story, has delicately and creatively pieced together a biography of Jane Franklin, despite a lack of surviving letters—Jane wrote little else, except for a small hand-stitched book in which she recorded the births and deaths of her 12 children. Lepore, in revealing the affectionate, respectful relationship between Ben and Jane, provides an invaluable view of the lives men and women led in 18th-century America. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 08/05/2013
Release date: 10/01/2013
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