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Book-of-the-Month Club News
May 1943

Citizen Tom Paine

by Howard Fast
price $2.75.

Here is another study by Howard Fast of the personalities and events of our American Revolution. Linguists say that after three or four languages are learned, the others are easily and naturally acquired. Something of the same thing is true when a writer of fiction takes as his special field either a region or period of history. The more he studies and writes about it, the wider, deeper, and truer his understanding of its inner meaning. Mr. Fast's portrait of Tom Paine is of richer quality and more varied texture than his recent first study of George Washington in The Unvanquished. The personality of the author of the famous "These are the times that try men's souls" is much less attractive and admirable than that of the justly revered Father of our Country, but much more complex and hence, perhaps, more interesting both to a novel writer and to his readers. Mr. Fast has made a striking novel out of the strange eccentricities and contradictions of the famous pamphleteer, the long confused desperate adventure which was his whole life, the fact that he might, perhaps, be called the first "professional revolutionary," and the dark, stormy background in England, in America, in France -- against which Paine played his vivid role. The book is certainly far more a piece of fiction than a piece of history. Very little is known by historians about parts of Paine's life. Mr. Fast fills up these gaps with a bold uninhibited use of his imagination which will probably distress scholars. But no fault will be found with this by general readers wanting to know more about the human side of our great national epic.

Dorothy Canfield