Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Secrets of Mary Bowser - Book Review

Mary Bowser grows up as a house slave for the wealthy Van Lew family in Richmond, Virginia. Bet Van Lew, the fiery, headstrong daughter, recognizes Mary's great intelligence so Bet sends Mary to Philadelphia for a proper education.

Mary Bowser, free and educated, risks everything to return to Richmond and her family just as the country is heating up to war. Posing as a slave in the Confederate White House, Mary Bowser spies on Jefferson Davis and his cabinet, passing details to the Union.

Based on a true story of the incredible bravery of Mary Bowser, Bet Van Lew and others that worked the Underground Railroad and later as spies during the Civil War, Lois Leveen takes the few known facts and reworks them as the marvelously enjoyable The Secrets of Mary Bowser.

Rich with details of life in Richmond and Philadelphia and a lively dialogue on the very diverse feelings regarding slavery and black people by whites, blacks, slave-owners, abolitionists, free and enslaved, The Secrets of Mary Bowser brings this era to life. Mary Bowser and Bet Van Lew are dynamic characters that demonstrate bravery and determination in the face of horror and sorrow.

The novel is a little lengthy and does drag on a bit during Mary's years in Philadelphia but the paces picks up after Mary moves back to Richmond. While Leveen probably gives a little too much credit to Mary for some things--such as purposely prolonging the war and forcing Lincoln into the Emancipation Proclamation--The Secrets of Mary Bowser tell a marvelously inspiring story of an admirable heroine.

The Secrets of Mary Bowser will be released next week.

**I received a complimentary copy of The Secrets of Mary Bowser in exchange for an honest review. No additional compensation was received.**

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