Wednesday, September 23, 2015

My take on: Liar Temptress Soldier Spy

Narrative non-fiction is usually a tough one for me. I've given it a try many times only to not finish. Thankfully, that's not the case here. Liar Temptress Soldier Spy by Karen Abbott is the tale of four women, each of whom played a pivotal role in the Civil War.

Teenager Belle Boyd boldly shot a Union soldier, eventually becoming a spy for the Confederate army.

Emma Edmonds became a master of disguise, enlisting as a Union soldier named Frank Thompson.

Widowed Rose O'Neal Greenhow was a well-connected Southerner who used her own daughter to deliver messages to the Confederate army.

Elizabeth Van Lew is so repulsed by slavery, she's become a staunch abolitionist--even against the beliefs of her some of her family members.

The Civil War was not America at it's finest. I find books on this time period to be dry and boring. But Karen Abbott manages to make this topic interesting with a hint of mystery. I found Emma's story the most compelling. I'm not trying to be mean, but she didn't look overly feminine or overly masculine. I can see how she managed to fool people. Imagine trying to keep a secret like that. President Lincoln put out the call for volunteers. Emma felt it was not just her patriotic duty but her religious duty to serve. She believed in helping others. No mission was too big or too small, even becoming a Pinkerton spy.

This whole book reads like fiction. Each chapter you want to know more. Each chapter you want to know how these women inserted themselves into history. At the time, they were doing things that went against what was considered normal for women. Rather than being ladies of leisure, they become ladies of espionage. Rather than waiting for the men to come home from war, they jumped into the fray. Rose openly hide coded messages in her home, clothing, and many other places. Even in prison, still found a way to spy on her Union captors--using her daughter as a courier. Elizabeth built a large network of spies, even planting a former slave, who could read, at the Southern White House. She proved to be a valuable piece, relaying information from top secret documents. Each woman played a part. Whether they were right or wrong, each of these women were very passionate about their causes and that shines through in Karen Abbott's engrossing narrative.

Rating: Superb

Note: I received a copy of the book from the publisher (Harper Perennial) as part of a blog tour with TLC Book Tours.

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