Review: Wisdom of the Flock by Steve M. Gnatz


1776: Benjamin Franklin sails to Paris, carrying a copy of the Declaration of Independence, freshly signed. His charge: gain the support of France for the unfolding American Revolution. Yet Paris is a city of distractions. Ben’s lover, Marianne Davies, will soon arrive, and he yearns to rekindle his affair with the beautiful musician.

Dr. Franz Mesmer has plans for Marianne too. He has taken Parisian nobility by storm with his discovery of magnétisme animale, a mysterious force claimed to heal the sick. Marianne’s ability to channel Mesmer’s phenomena is key to his success.

A skeptical King Louis XVI appoints Ben to head a commission investigating the astonishing magnétisme animale. By nature, Ben requires proof. Can he scientifically prove that it does not exist? Mesmer will stop at nothing to protect his profitable claim.

The Wisdom of The Flock explores the conflict between science and mysticism in a time rife with revolution, love, spies, and passion.

My Review

If you’re looking for a novel about Franklin’s accomplishments in persuading Louis XVI to help America during the Revolution, this isn’t the one. THE WISDOM OF THE FLOCK is predominately about his love life and, secondarily, his rivalry with Franz Anton Mesmer, both professionally and personally. Mesmer’s claim to cure melancholia and other diverse ailments by harnessing a person’s vital fluids—his magnétisme animale—was contradictory to Franklin’s view of science. It didn’t help that women, including Ben’s lover Marianne—found Mesmer irresistible. How a 70-plus year-old man with gout could be so amorous is a question best left to the novelists, but according to this book Franklin was healthy enough to swim in the Seine on a regular basis. His relationship with the equally elderly Madame Helvétius has been well documented, though the biography I once read depicted it as flirtatious and platonic. Not here!

Ben nearly jumped out of the water. He yelled. Whatever he’d collided with yelled too. His heart was racing. He quickly rubbed the water from his eyes, prepared to defend himself. Instead, Ben found himself face-to-face with a woman. A woman in the middle of the Seine. A woman swimming in the middle of the Seine. A woman swimming nude in the middle of the Seine. Ben was in shock.

Of course, shock turned into fascination then much more. Although Franklin was enamored enough with Madame Helvétius to even propose marriage, that didn’t stop him from sleeping with Marianne as well. He was quite busy in his personal life! The events connected with his assignment in Paris are related in the background, but for the most part don’t interfere with Franklin’s social life. We see the upper echelon of pre-French Revolution society in its hedonistic glory—and we meet some interesting contemporaries along the way. It’s quite an eye-opener.

Amazon UK:
Amazon US:
Amazon CA:
Amazon AU:
Barnes and Noble:

Meet Steve M. Gnatz

Steve Gnatz is a writer, physician, bicyclist, photographer, traveler, and aspiring ukulele player. The son of a history professor and a nurse, it seems that both medicine and history are in his blood. Writing historical fiction came naturally. An undergraduate degree in biology was complemented by a minor in classics. After completing medical school, he embarked on an academic medical career specializing in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. There was little time for writing during those years, other than research papers and a technical primer on electromyography. Now retired from the practice of medicine, he devotes himself to the craft of fiction. The history of science is of particular interest, but also the dynamics of human relationships. People want to be good scientists, but sometimes human nature gets in the way. That makes for interesting stories. When not writing or traveling, he enjoys restoring Italian racing bicycles at home in Chicago with his wife and daughters.

Connect with Steve

Amazon Author Page:

2 thoughts on “Review: Wisdom of the Flock by Steve M. Gnatz”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *