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The Remarkable Millard Fillmore: The Unbelievable Life of a Forgotten President Paperback – 10 Apr 2007

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Product details

  • Paperback: 252 pages
  • Publisher: Three Rivers Press (CA) (10 April 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307339629
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307339621
  • Product Dimensions: 15.5 x 1.5 x 23.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,205,650 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful By J. Bush on 23 Jan. 2008
Format: Paperback
At first I thought this book was going to be an easy and midly humourous read, but very quickly I found myself laughing out loud, both when reading the actual book and also when thinking about some of the lines on the tube - much to the confusion of those around me. It is really is very funny and extremely well written - the pages just flew by and I really looking forward to my commute every day while I was reading it.

It is something someone in the UK would never consider reading i.e. book about a long forgotten US president, but it is exactly that reason why this book is a must - a real breath of fresh air. Buy it right now...
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 41 reviews
20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
"We'll make a woman of you yet, Millard!" 15 Feb. 2008
By CodeMaster Talon - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Wow. How describe this book, let me see. Imagine if Dave Barry suddenly became about thirty IQ points smarter and gleefully devoted himself to concocting a past for the most boring president to ever live, and did so with great affection but without the slightest regard for what are tradionally known as "facts". "The Remarkable Millard Filmore" weaves a surprising amount of actual history with an equal amount of decided lunacy. Millard riding a unicorn on the cover is a tip-off.

We trace Millard's humble beginnings, his pirate ancestors (actually true), his unlikely rise in politics (some more truth) and his wild, previously unknown adventures (probably not true). Millard pops up in the strangest places (Florida, Africa, Japan!) hobbnobbng with the strangest people (The Pope! Queen Victoria! Edgar Allan Poe!) doing very odd things (Brace yourself: Millard Fillmore was really Zorro). Millard himself is not the rather nasty, weak character we read about in the school books, rather he is a beneign, bewildered character always the last to know what's going on (a riot, a massacre, the Civil War). I have to admit I kinda liked him.

Author George Pendle is blessed with a delightful wit, a spectactular vocabulary, a wonderful grasp of real hisory, and deep, deep insanity. (Plus if his picture on the back does him any justice, he's also pretty cute.) He has a positive genuis for writing in period language; everyone sounds and writes exactly as 1800's Americans would have sounded and written, had they all been demented. I dropped one star from the review only because the novel loses steam toward the end; the book could have been cut by 50 pages or so. I'm actually surprised Pendle sustains the joke for as long as he does. This book made me laugh, out loud and often, and then made me run to my sister's room to read her passages so we could laugh together. "Why would George Pendle," I asked her, "write an entire made-up biography of a dour dead guy?"
"Because he's like us," she replied.

I don't know if "The Remarkable Millard Fillmore" will reach a large audience, but we loved it, Mr. Pendle, and I think I can safely say if Millard were alive, he'd be confused. Mission accomplished.

10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
"Depending On The Word's Inflection, N'bugaru Can Also Mean 'He Who Eats Camels.'" 28 Jun. 2008
By Robert I. Hedges - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
George Pendle has penned what is certainly the most entertaining book ever written about Millard Fillmore, one of history's forgotten leaders. The book actually is based on a shell of facts, but is embellished with a truly fevered imagination. It is generally fairly witty: some passages are simply sublime, while some are a bit trifling and fall a tad short of the mark.

Most of the criticism of the book is that it isn't a completely factually correct biography. Well here's a news flash: it isn't supposed to be. Didn't the cover art showing Fillmore riding a unicorn give people a clue? For those who complain that they don't know what is fact from fiction, perhaps reading the rather detailed notes on the subject at the end of the book would be a good idea; better yet, if you want a straight biography of Fillmore, feel free to buy one.

The book was written for an intelligent audience with a knowledge of history and the desire to read a satirized account of an obscure national leader forgotten by almost everyone other than academics. Fillmore is more interesting than is generally recognized, and this book, while clearly not unadulterated historical fact, will probably introduce far more readers to Fillmore than any conventional biography on the market.

On balance, the book isn't perfect, but was an enjoyable read and made me interested in learning more about the last Whig President in American history.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
The joke was on me 16 Mar. 2008
By Pugwash - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I consider myself an amateur historian, and was anxious to learn something about our thirteenth president, whom I knew little about. From this perspective reading this book was a failure. I felt like the last guy on the block to get the joke, as I didn't realize this was a spoof until I got about fifteen pages into the book.

But the author doesn't stop at miligning only Fillmore. He chooses a large array of targets, and the early 1800's are one of the funniest. He describes life in that time in such a way, that I often was laughing out loud.

The footnotes were often hilarious. In talking about the electoral college, he raposts "the fact that classes ...convene only once every four years has led to its reputation as a party school."

Or a hamlet-"To qualify as a hamlet a community had to have at least one unique superstition founded on either sneezing animals, the consumption of meat before sleeping, or the flight of sparrows on a windy day."

Or Fillmore himself-"It has largely been suggestedby presidential psychiatrists that Fillmore suffered from the verbal phenomenon known as 'cognitive ignorance'".

The author brings Fillmore to life in much the same way as a creation between the historical soldier Flashman and Forest Gump.

Opening Chapter 7, the author quotes Fillmore "Buffalo in the springtime, is as I imagine heaven to be, although with more precipitation and fewer cherubs."

This hilarious and often inane depiction of our 13th president kept me laughing. He intersperses his imagination of what the anti-hero is really like with the historical events of his times.

Interestingly enough, revisionist historians now take a much more moderate view of Fillmore. He is considered to be a temperate president who took a studied conciliation between the abolitionists and the pro-slavery factions, and averted an earlier civil war.

This book is often cruel to Fillmore, even maligning his wife's death, the day after he left office. While the events that Fillmore encountered are for most part factual, the author makes some bizarre interpretations. If they are read in good fun, it is worth the read.

It is worth a perusal, but read it when your mind is clear, so you can fully appreciate the bizarre humor of this author.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Realize this is NOT historically accurate 4 July 2008
By P. Shockley - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a fun book to read and it is well written. Make sure you realize that this book is NOT historically accurate. It is satire. There is some history, but it mainly plays on the fact that Millard is not well known and that there are many myths and legends about him.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Who knew Millard Fillmore had such an amazing life? 24 Feb. 2014
By HaloBall - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
First, if you're looking for a serious, accurate biography of Millard Fillmore and/or have no sense of humor, stay far away from this book. If, on the other hand, you love American history (or Millard Fillmore in particular) and also enjoy a laugh, this book might be for you.

The premise of this book is hilarious. An aspiring biographer is mocked at the Biographer's Club for wanting to write a biography of a relatively un-noteworthy president. Fortuitously, he acquires several long-lost journals of Fillmore's, and the rest is history...or history-ish. It turns out the president met an incredible number of famous people and inadvertently caused (or failed to notice) some of the most important events of his day. Who knew?!

The book does get a little dry in some places--I guess even satire can't make Millard Fillmore THAT interesting--but for the most part, it's an amusing read. (Be sure to read the footnotes, too. There are some real gems in there.)

Another reviewer mentioned Dave Barry, and that's probably a good point of reference. While "Dave Barry Slept Here" (which I love, BTW) intentionally reads like a humor book with obvious punchlines and a more slapstick feel, "The Remarkable Millard Fillmore" reads like a real biography...that just happens to include some very implausible situations. The humor is more understated and nuanced. Even the more slapstick scenes are presented in a scholarly deadpan.

The end of the book does include notes detailing parts of the story that really did happen. (Or, as it were, events that can be corroborated by other sources and don't necessarily preclude the other events the author claims happened...)

As background, I read non-fiction almost exclusively, mostly histories. I have a BA in American History, and although Millard Fillmore doesn't fit into my favorite eras, I have an affinity for presidents in general. I take history very seriously, but not so seriously that I can't enjoy a good parody.
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