This is the first of a series of 8 novels written to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the US Declaration of Independence.  I love this first volume in John Jakes’ bicentennial series. It provides a fantastic merger of fiction and non-fiction, all the while taking us on a journey through time, shedding light on the struggles, successes, joys and sorrows of the Kent family.

The story starts in France, by the rolling hillsides of Auvergne.  The main character is Phillipe Charboneau, an illegitimate son of an English nobleman.  His mother raises him to have a chip on his shoulder somewhat, being the son of James Amberly, the sixth Duke of Kentland.  Philippe and his mother, Marie, would later depart France for England in a hurry, after learning that the Duke had fallen ill, but not before Phillipe had met and befriended an interesting character called the Marquis de Lafayette.  The latter would later play a very important role in the American Revolution.

Phillipe and Marie would never return to France.  Marie died while in England and Phillipe would later depart for America after a rather turbulent and unproductive stay in England.  While in England though, he would meet Benjamin Franklin.  He would later become Philip Kent, cross the Atlantic, and arrive in America where he would struggle to leave his mark on a forming nation.  He would rise from poverty and obscurity to fame and fortune.  His family would grow, children born, many new names, but not without their share of calamity and misfortune.

I like how John Jakes uses a mix of fictional and non-fictional characters to tell his story.  Phillipe gets to meet the Marquis, Benjamin Franklin, Samuel Adams, and several others who are well known in American history.  He describes historical facts in detail, such as the Boston Tea Party of December 16, 1773, and also finds a way to personalize characters.  For example, he tells us about Phillipe arriving to meet Benjamin Franklin for the very first time, and being quite astonished to find Dr. Franklin happily nude, having an “air bath.”

Any story about a nation’s history is touching to me, even more so if there is some relation to the journey of a family through time.  I personally really liked this beginning to the series, and I’ve worked my way through to series V (The Titans) .  Continue to stay tuned for more from me about this bicentennial series from John Jakes.  Click here to purchase a copy from Amazon.

Please get in touch and let me know if you enjoyed the book just as much as I did.  I’d also like to know if you had any more thoughts.  Happy reading!

About the author:

John Jakes was born in Chicago on March 31, 1932.  He was educated at DePauw, and Ohio State Universities. A prolific writer, he was awarded honorary doctorates  for his contribution to the US bicentennial celebrations.