Enjoy this author's writing very much, and this story of the American Civil War was no exception.
This historical novel is based on the U.S. Civil War experiences of the real-life Elizabeth Van Lew. In her forties, a spinster, with her fiance dying of a fever two decades earlier, Lizzie is dedicated to her family and good works. She and her mother would have freed their slaves following her father's death, but his will expressly denied them the ability to do so. Instead, they pay them like they were free men and treat them well. As Virginia votes to secede from the Union, Lizzie is appalled and determined to do what she can for the Union cause. As Union troops are captured, she works hard to get permission to visit them, bringing them food, medical assistance and comfort. She walks a fine line in the community to not be arrested and taken for treason, but she works carefully, and with the support of her family and the guidance of like-minded friends, makes headway. Eventually she became a reliable source of information for the North, sending them coded messages, assisting escaped prisoners to make their way north and helping place others in strategic positions where they can learn useful information and help those in need.
Lizzie's sister-in-law is on the Confederate side, and life becomes easier for Lizzie when her brother's family moves to their own home. To cover her activities, she also supports charity and assistance for Confederates in need from time to time, evening opening her home to Confederate officers when they are waiting for housing.
This is an interesting story of Richmond, Virginia during the war, the influx of prisoners and wounded men to the city, its effect on the common people, and the availability of those goods needed to survive, and the ultimate abandonment by the South, resulting in terrible destruction. It is also the story of a strong woman, who went on to a career as the postmaster of Richmond under President Grant, proving herself as a good businesswoman as well as a good spy.
A very good book. I would recommend this book for all to read.
After Mrs Lincoln's Dressmaker I had high hopes for The Spymistress.I knew the story of Elizabeth Van Lew.The genre of historical fiction dealing with real life characters and what actually happened within the time frame of historical events is a difficult one.Biography? Not quite.Novel? Not quite.There is no plot; just the storyline of events during the Civil War in America in secessionist Virginia Although it was informative and accurate,with a good portrayal of a remarkable woman, the spark was lacking inspite of the fires.Was it successful? Not quite.
I found the overall pace in this novel to be slow, too slow a lot of the time, which made it boring for me. The story itself was interesting, so I skimmed a lot and slowed down to read when my attention was caught again. I prefer Chiaverini's Elm Quilt books.
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