Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy

Book: Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy
Author:Karen Abbott
Edition:eBook on Overdirve from Fresno County Public Library
Read:May 5, 2015
855 pages
Rated: 3 1/2   out of 5

Tells the stories of four women involved in the struggles of the Civil War: Belle Boyd and Rose O'Neal Greenhow on the Confederates side; and Emma Edmonds and Elizabeth Van Lew on the Union. The books traces through their various efforts in a somewhat chronological timeline, with the four women interwoven. But their stories can be told as a thread rather than woven as none of them seem to intersect.

Brutality of the Civil War, I read about the brutality of this war, but the book does bring home how barbaric the war was. It seemed that the generals on both sides did not value their men, only as pawns in the war. So the soldiers were expendable to the cause. What would make a soldier on either side to continue to fight this war?

Mixed Leaning. I sort of assumed that after a few months, those who were leaning towards the South would find their way there and same with the North leaners. But it was obvious that was not true. I was reading where 30% of Washinton DC thought the South had the moral advantage. The border states were really confused about their loyalties. I also thought the borders would have been more solid. But it appears that if you had a good reason and enough boldness, it was pretty easy to go from North to South/South to North.

Both sides seemed to avoid punishing female traitors. Why? The usual punishment was jail time, maybe in some unsavory areas, but still jail time. But then the spy/traitor would be released with the promise not to return.  Some did and still they were not given the same treatment as a male would have.

As the book title indicates, this is about four unusual women who played little known parts in the American Civil War. The title is a bit misleading as you sort of assume that each woman corresponds to a role. In reality, there is a mixture of roles. These are women whom I had not heard of before, so I did not know what to expect. After reading Abbott's book, I agree, these women are worth reading about.

Not a bad book, but I sort of thought it could have been better. Some books will gloss over some really interesting stuff. Abbott tries to bring every detail into play. Up to a point this is ok. But at times you wonder if the writer is going a bit too far. Consequently, towards the end, you are just waiting for the book to end, putting these women and the reader out of their misery. This may be my weakness or just the mode I was reading in.

The other concern was how much was she filling in? Where did she get all of the dialogue and action? How much was she filling in and how much was based upon records? Abbott does have extensive notes and bibliography. So I suspect that the filling in may be at a lower in. Also she writes that all of the dialogue is based upon memoirs and sources.

  Abbott can write, that is not the books weakness. But I do not think it is strong enough to carry the book through the 855 eReader pages  (511 paper pages). Am I glad I read it? Yes. Should others read it, yes, but just be forewarned that you may be tempted to stop reading after awhile.

Good Quotes:
  • First Line:For a period of thirty-three hours, from just before dawn on April 12, 1861, to mid-afternoon the following day, sleep was hard to come by, in both North and South.
  • Last Line: "We must get these flowers through the lines at once", she said, "for General Grant's breakfast table in the morning", and with the push of the wind  she was gone.


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