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The Spymistress


The Spymistress Cover

ISBN13: 9780142180884
ISBN10: 0142180882
Condition: Standard
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Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

New York Times bestselling author Jennifer Chiaverini is back with another enthralling historical novel set during the Civil War era, this time inspired by the life of “a true Union woman as true as steel” who risked everything by caring for Union prisoners of war — and stealing Confederate secrets.

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 Lews 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 Lews 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 rings 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 Chiaverinis riveting tale of high-stakes espionage, a great heroine of the Civil War finally gets her due.

About the Author

JENNIFER CHIAVERINI is the author of the New York Times bestselling Elm Creek Quilts series and Mrs. Lincolns Dressmaker. A graduate of Notre Dame and the University of Chicago, she lives in Madison, Wisconsin, with her husband and two sons.


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Melinda Ott, May 14, 2014 (view all comments by Melinda Ott)
Why have I never heard of Elizabeth Van Lew before? Chiaverini has chosen quite the woman for this book and, well, I'm now a fan. Here is a plucky, unmarried woman who took on the Confederacy and, frankly, played a measurable role in the Civil War! Chiaverini has done her research and I feel that she truly capture's Van Lew's spirit in this book. She was a woman who knew the danger of her actions, but went ahead and followed her conscious. She is someone I would love to have as a friend, but would be terrified to have as a frenemy. She is part Southern Belle and part steel-cored spy.

Besides the main character, there were many things about this book that I appreciated. Chiaverini does a great job of capturing the ambiance of war-time Richmond. When she describes the oppressive summer air, I could almost feel it--and it made me homesick for my days in Virginia. While not overt, Chiaverini also does something that rarely happens in wartime historical novels--she acknowledges that both good and evil can be found on both sides of the battle lines. Just due to the nature of this book, the sins of the Confederacy are on the display. However, there are mentions not only of the good among the Confederacy, but also the fact that the Union is guilty of some of the same sins as the Confederacy.

While this is a very history-heavy book, it is more novel-like than Chiaverini's Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker and, because of that, I found this to book to have a wider appeal. That being said, a reader will have to work through loads of historical details--which can be a positive or negative depending on the reader.

I do heartily recommend this book, but I would probably be a bit careful about who I would recommend this to. If you are a historical fiction fan, this book is for you!
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Product Details

Chiaverini, Jennifer
Plume Books
Literature-A to Z
Edition Description:
Paperback / softback
Publication Date:
Grade Level:
from 12
8 x 5.31 in 0.61 lb
Age Level:
from 18

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The Spymistress Used Trade Paper
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Product details 384 pages Plume Books - English 9780142180884 Reviews:
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