Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy - Karen Abbott

Title: Liar, Temptress, Four Women Undercover in the Civil War
Author: Karen Abbott
Pages: 515
Published: 2014
Genre: Non-fiction
Edition: Hardcover
Source: Library

Description: After shooting a Union soldier in her front hall with a pocket pistol, Belle Boyd became a courier and spy for the Confederate army, using her charms to seduce men on both sides. Emma Edmonds cut off her hair and assumed the identity of a man to enlist as a Union private, witnessing the bloodiest battles of the Civil War. The beautiful widow, Rose O’Neale Greenhow, engaged in affairs with powerful Northern politicians to gather intelligence for the Confederacy, and used her young daughter to send information to Southern generals. Elizabeth Van Lew, a wealthy Richmond abolitionist, hid behind her proper Southern manners as she orchestrated a far-reaching espionage ring, right under the noses of suspicious rebel detectives.

Using a wealth of primary source material and interviews with the spies’ descendants, Abbott seamlessly weaves the adventures of these four heroines throughout the tumultuous years of the war. With a cast of real-life characters including Walt Whitman, Nathaniel Hawthorne, General Stonewall Jackson, detective Allan Pinkerton, Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln, and Emperor Napoleon III, Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy draws you into the war as these daring women lived it. (via Goodreads)

Thoughts:  I had high expectations for this book, since I had seen pretty good reviews for the book and it also looked interesting, but sadly, the expectations for the book didn't pan out for me.  While the topic was fascinating enough to keep me going, including reading about the fates of each of the four women that were followed in the book, the writing tended to be long-winded at best and it seemed to get bogged down in some of the details about the women.  It seemed to me at least that the author seemed to focus on certain women more than others, particularly the Temptress.  But I can understand why, especially if there as more documentation on her than on the others.

Bottom line: It was a fascinating look at these four women, who were involved on either the Union or Confederate side of the war.  The book would likely appeal to those interested in the American Civil War and the roles that women played in it.

Rating: 3/5


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