Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy

September 2, 2014 Biography, History, Narrative Non-Fiction, non-fiction, Review 21 ★★★★★

Liar, Temptress, Soldier, SpyTitle: Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy
Author: Karen Abbott
Source: from publisher for review
Links: Bookshop (affiliate link) |Goodreads

Summary: Some of the most exciting narrative nonfiction I’ve read. All four stories are brought vividly to life, with great detail and accuracy.

The four women in this book are very different but they also have a lot in common. Two of them were Confederates and two were loyal to the Union. They each had different motivations, from Belle Boyd’s pursuit of notoriety to Emma Edmonds’ desire to provide medical aid to soldiers on the battlefield. However, they all shared common attributes, including their bravery, their dedication to their work, and their ability to influence the outcome of the war.

I can tell you right now that this book is going to be one of my favorite narrative nonfiction books of the year (or that I’ve read ever). The author did an incredible job doing her research and bringing the stories to life. She includes descriptions of weather, scenery, and fascinating details of daily life during the civil war. She also did a fantastic job choosing her subjects. The four women in this book were incredibly impressive people and I loved reading about their adventures. Elizabeth Van Lew was by far my favorite, for her willingness to risk her own life and reputation to end slavery and for the huge impact she had on the war, but all of the women described were incredible.

I expected this book to share the four women’s’ stories one after the other, but instead the author moved forward chronologically and switched between stories as necessary. This format really worked for me. It meant the author didn’t repeat information in each story, but she did cover the same time period from multiple perspectives, giving me more chances to learn about the progress of the Civil War. I loved that the author made it clear when she was believed that the four women had exaggerated their own contributions. I also loved the number of direct quotes the author seamlessly worked into the narrative. This is some of the best narrative nonfiction I’ve read and one of the most interesting stories. Highly recommended!

21 Responses to “Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy”

  1. Shannon @ River City Reading

    I’m so glad to hear this was a good read! I just finished Laird Hunt’s Neverhome, which is a fictional version of a woman joining the Union in the Civil War, and absolutely loved it. Planning to pick this one up soon!

    • DoingDewey

      That sounds fun! I was hoping I could find a fictional story to pair with this since I remembered seeing some reviews for a book on a similar topic recently. I’ll have to check out your review 🙂

  2. Lindsey

    Hooray! I have this one coming up soon so I am thrilled to see that you loved it. Have you read Abbott’s book about Gypsy Rose Lee?

    • DoingDewey

      Yeah, I feel like I’ve seen a few fiction stories about the Civil War reviewed recently, but I haven’t seen many reviews of nonfiction on the civil war, especially about women in the civil war. I really enjoyed it!

    • DoingDewey

      For me, it was not a long read. Even though it’s a bigger book, the story was so engaging, I flew right through, so I would let the size put you off 🙂

      • Aloi (guiltlessreading)

        That’s what I was afraid of — passing on amazing story bec of the length! I didn’t feel like this when I saw Belle Cora which is over 500 pages long. I guess I should stick with my gut feel!

    • DoingDewey

      I think it was about 400 pages, but it really flew by for me because it was so engaging. As an audiobook, that might not be the case though, since it’s going to go by at the same pace no matter how much you’re enjoying it! 🙂

  1. Review: Capital Dames | Doing Dewey

    […] during the Civil War was at least as interesting. Obviously, I have to recommend this to fans of Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy. Although the focus of this book is a little more politics and a little less adventure, I enjoyed […]

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