Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Book Review: The Spymistress

The SpymistressAuthor: Jennifer Chiaverini
Publication Date: October 1, 2013
Publisher: Dutton Adult

Born to slave-holding aristocracy in Richmond, Virginia, and educated by Northern Quakers, Elizabeth Van Lew was a paradox of her time. When her native state seceded in April 1861, Van Lew’s convictions compelled her to defy the new Confederate regime. Pledging her loyalty to the Lincoln White House, her courage would never waver, even as her wartime actions threatened not only her reputation, but also her life.

Van Lew’s skills in gathering military intelligence were unparalleled. She helped to construct the Richmond Underground and orchestrated escapes from the infamous Confederate Libby Prison under the guise of humanitarian aid. Her spy ring’s reach was vast, from clerks in the Confederate War and Navy Departments to the very home of Confederate President Jefferson Davis.

Although Van Lew was inducted posthumously into the Military Intelligence Hall of Fame, the astonishing scope of her achievements has never been widely known. In Chiaverini’s riveting tale of high-stakes espionage, a great heroine of the Civil War finally gets her due.

No man wanted to seem a coward, and no woman wanted to seem indifferent.

“I’m sure President Lincoln is not on board,” snapped Lizzie. “It’s unfair to accuse him of sneaking.”

“That does not change the nature of the men you seek to nurse,” he pointed out. “They are a very low, rough, violent sort, not worthy or fit for a lady to visit.”

Set in Virginia during the Civil War, this book follows one woman, based on a real person, who did her best to defy the new Confederate regime. Elizabeth Van Lew is our heroine, and she is truly an epitome of the word. She is living on the wrong side of the Civil War, being an abolitionist, supporting President Lincoln, and caring for wounded Union soldiers and stealing Confederate secrets. Having lost the man she loved way too early in life and being without a vote are just a few of the reasons she has for being so brave, determined, and daring. Chiaverini is a master storyteller and does not leave out any detail when it comes to her research. This book will sit on the top of my shelf!

This is my second book by Chiaverini and it only left me wanting another one. I do not often read books written in the Civil War era, but her research surrounding the time period is impeccable. Lincoln is one of my favorite presidents to read about, and she finds the perfect way to incorporate him into each book. This book relays Civil War happenings in a way that makes them interesting and not just a mass pile of facts and figures. Not all of this book is based on fact, but the fiction is so well weaved in with the actual research and facts that it will have readers wanting to find out the difference in the two!

Lizzie was a real person with a real passion. Like I said, all of this book is not fact, but some of the accounts of Lizzie’s life and ambitions are in fact real. She is a truly phenomenal character, and being able to read this book from the perspective of a woman was amazing. What Elizabeth Van Lew did as a supporter for the North is something that you would expect maybe from a man during this time, being that radical, but not from a woman. At least not as open as she was about everything. Her story and her motives were moving and I highly encourage anyone to pick up this book and give it a try! Jennifer Chiaverini has a gift with historical fiction.

***A copy of this book was provided to me by the publishers at Dutton in exchange for my honest review***

1 comment:

  1. Wow! I love reading about women from the old ages, especially since they are rarely highlighted, or the important contributions of women are not even given due. Nice book! :)