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The Spymistress by Jennifer Chiaverini
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The Spymistress (edition 2013)

by Jennifer Chiaverini

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3061552,964 (3.8)7
Member:abbie.c.west
Title:The Spymistress
Authors:Jennifer Chiaverini
Info:Dutton Adult (2013), Edition: First Edition, Hardcover, 368 pages
Collections:Your library
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The Spymistress by Jennifer Chiaverini

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Showing 1-5 of 15 (next | show all)
Based on the true life of female civil war spy Elizabeth Van Lew, Jennifer Chiaverini's The Spymistress is an eye-opening detailed account of the United States Civil War. Although at times a bit dry and overly detailed, the author does do a fabulous job of giving the reader an excellent condensed account of the four year events that encompassed the war between the states in entirety. Not knowing much about the civil war myself, I learned a lot through the eyes of Lizzie Van Lew who spied for the Union while living in Richmond, the Capitol of the rebel Confederate States. Lizzie Van Lew was brave, tireless in her mission, and fought long and hard for what she believed in. Through one bloody massacre after another, she kept her head held high and refused to back down no matter the danger for her life and her family. Spying was dangerous business for anyone, never mind for a genteel lady of prominence as herself. Her ability to act and charm the players in high places to thwart the enemy was nothing short of astounding while never knowing if her endeavors would be rewarded. Throughout the story you will meet a lot of very famous people, while at the same time getting a great feel for the various opinions from all sides of the war. The Spymistress is part of the author's series on the civil war, each novel focusing on a different character so the reader get's all sides of North and South, Union and Confederates, politicians and Presidents, Slaves and Freed Blacks. I am now anxious to read them all to get a better well-rounded view of this nonsensical war full of bloodshed, famine, abolitionists and slaveholders, politicians and military strategists, that all fought desperately to either reunite the United States or secede on their own keeping slavery alive. ( )
  vernefan | Feb 22, 2017 |
The Spymistress by Jennifer Chiaverini
355 pages

This is a fictional account of the real-life woman, Lizzie Van Hew. During the Civil War, Lizzie was a Union sympathizer living in Virginia, so she did what she could and would become the leader of a spy ring against the Confederates. This book is loosely based off her actions and times during the war.

I randomly picked this book off the library shelf. It looked interesting. I love reading about the Civil War (although I tend to read most non-fiction on the subject than fiction) and had heard good things of the author, so why not? It wasn’t bad but it definitely wasn’t one of the best things I have read. I felt as if the characters were just out of my reach. Something was missing and the connection was just not there. I felt nothing for the characters, including the main ones, and that is a big no-no to me. Also, the story has a habit of just meandering. I became bored in sections and this book took me way longer to read than it should have. It was the kind of book that I could only read in some segments before becoming bored. On the bright side, the last third of the book did become more interesting and the author did well at description. It piqued my interest to want to know more information Lizzie Van Hew and I hope to read a non-fiction account on her soon. Not great but interesting enough that I may attempt her more popular book, Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker….eventually.
( )
  UberButter | Feb 9, 2016 |
It's evident that the author did her research. This book is packed with historical detail and ambiance. You're almost literally dumped into Civil War Richmond and experience the passion of the Confederates, the explosions of the shells from nearby battlefields, and the misery of the prisoners in Libby Prison and on Belle Island. I commend the author for being able to pack this much information into a fictional novelization of the events.

That being said, there are times where the historical facts given overshadow the story itself. At times, I felt distant from what our heroine and her spy ring were going through. The endless flow of facts and figures seemed to slow the action and drama of Lizzie's struggle for the Union. This didn't completely kill the book for me, as evidenced by how quickly I gobbled it up. But more balance between story and world building might have gone over better.

The character of Lizzie was a completely new world to me. I'd never heard of this woman and what a crime is that?! She's a strong and intelligent woman not afraid to stand up to vigilantes, the Confederate army, nor members of her own family for her beliefs. I especially admired her pluck when facing the vigilantes. With some of the features described, they sound like the beginnings of the KKK. And they were some scary peoples! Lizzie's the kind of girl I'd love to know and talk to; I'm sure she has some dang good stories to tell.

Despite some balances issues with detailing historical facts and the drama of the story telling, I felt this book was a great novel set in the Civil War. It brings to life a woman who stood up for herself and others in a time when that was dangerous as heck. I enjoyed dreading about her exploits along with her spy ring. Definitely a book to check out if you enjoy Civil War fiction. ( )
  Sarah_Gruwell | Jan 12, 2016 |
THE SPYMISTRESS by Jennifer Chiaverini
A Civil War story with very little about battles, soldiers or Generals.
Elizabeth Van Lew is a Southern lady who owns slaves, is a secret abolitionist, supports the Union (secretly), loves Virginia and is a Union spy. Van Lew, a real person, was inducted into the Military Intelligence Hall of Fame in 1993. Throughout the war she aided the cause of the Union at great risk to herself, her family and friends. Her cleverness in remaining without suspicion is the conflict and plot of THE SPYMISTRESS.
Chiaverini has written a book that makes Van Lew live again. The risks she took to aid Union prisoners held in deplorable Confederate prisons, especially Libby Prison, are clearly set forth. The way she came to be one of the most useful spies for the Union Army is stated so well that the reader, like Van Lew herself, is completely involved before realizing exactly what a dangerous endeavor she has undertaken. Those Virginians who supported the Union and were part of Van Lew’s network of spies are woven into the storyline.
Chiaverini has clearly done her research into the life and times of a heroic woman. The book covers only the war years, but does include an author’s note to tell the reader what happened after the war.
5 of 5 stars ( )
  beckyhaase | Aug 10, 2015 |
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To Marty, Nick, and Michael,
with love and gratitude
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April 1861

The Van Lew mansion in Richmond's fashionable Church Hill neighborhood had not hosted a wedding gala in many a year, and if the bride-to-be did not emerge from her attic bedroom soon, Lizzie feared it might not that day either.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0525953620, Hardcover)

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 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.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:21:22 -0400)

Pledging her loyalty to the North at the risk of her life when her native Virginia secedes, Quaker-educated aristocrat Elizabeth Van Lew uses her innate skills for gathering military intelligence to help construct the Richmond underground and orchestrate escapes from the infamous Confederate Libby Prison.… (more)

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