FICTION

Thomas Paine: Crusader for Liberty

176p. further reading. index. notes. photos. reprods. websites. Knopf. Nov. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780375866746; lib. ed. $20.99. ISBN 9780375966743; ebk. $10.99. ISBN 9780385386050.
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Gr 8 Up—Paine penned words more than 200 years ago that still resonate today, and acclaimed author Marrin documents this Founding Father's life and influence, using images, excerpts from primary source materials, and other resources. Within five hefty chapters, Marrin also introduces readers to class conflict, the Enlightenment, the American and French Revolutions, and slavery. Marrin's writing is uneven at times. He engages readers with the discussion of the Reign of Terror and what happened to Paine's body after his death. Elsewhere, the writing is textbooklike, and some statements, such as his comments about American exceptionalism and the Vietnam War, add little to his discussion of Paine. Each image is captioned and given a date, but at least one contains incorrect information. For instance, the caption for a poster that features a picture of Eugene Debs claims that it was used for Debs's campaign. The poster, which is partially cut off, was in fact created in the 1970s, decades after Debs's death in 1926. The author includes an extensive notes section, without image credits, and a suggested reading list of adult titles. Though Marrin is a well-regarded author and historian, this is not his best work.—Hilary Writt, Sullivan University, Lexington, KY
Marrin shows the evolution of Paine's opinions and the impact of his writing on both his contemporaries and on future generations. From Common Sense that united the American revolutionaries to The Age of Reason that opened up discussion of organized religion and Deism, careful contextualizing gives readers the opportunity to consider the philosophical beliefs that drove historical events. Reading list, websites. Ind.
Marrin provides an overview of his subject's life while also showing the evolution of Paine's opinions and the impact of his writing on both his contemporaries and on future generations. After some career dithering, Paine declared that his mission in life would be as a "farmer of thoughts." From the stirring words of Common Sense that united the American revolutionaries, to the call to arms in The American Crisis that invigorated soldiers in the winter of 1776, to Rights of Man that optimistically defended the French Revolution, and, finally, to The Age of Reason that opened up discussion of organized religion and Deism, these thoughts are powerful indeed. Marrin's careful contextualizing gives readers the opportunity to consider the philosophical beliefs that drove historical events. By interjecting Edmund Burke's intellectual feud with Paine into the account, Marrin shows how the effects of both men's writings serve as the foundation for political discourse and labels today: liberal and conservative, right-wingers and left-wingers, and a much-debated definition of American exceptionalism in which the country should serve as a "model for the rest of humanity." Occasionally, Marrin's explanations of such ideas turn wordy, as when discussing Paine's influence on the American labor movement, but overall they provide a clear discussion of political ideologies and realities both then and now. Appended with documentation, recommended readings, and an index. betty carter

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