Karen Abbott, the New York Times best-selling author of Sin in the Second City and "pioneer of sizzle history" (USA Today), tells the spellbinding true story of four women who risked everything to become spies during the Civil War.
Karen Abbott illuminates one of the most fascinating yet little-known aspects of the Civil War: The stories of four courageous women - a socialite, a farmgirl, an abolitionist, and a widow - who were spies.
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.
©2014 Karen Abbott (P)2014 HarperCollins Publishers
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"Shockingly Bad Narrator"
A different narrator would have helped a great deal. It's hard to understand how this style of narration could have been permitted. She reads in an artificially stilted cadence presumably meant to evoke a serious tone, and perhaps to signify direct quotations in the text. It is awful and completely distracting from the story.
A different narrator. It was often hard to follow the content due to the problems noted above with the narrator.
What a freaking thrill ride. Karen Abbott found four of the most interesting and well-documented women in the Civil War and took off like a shot. One narcissist, two socialites, one cross-dresser, all spies.
I'm relatively knowledgeable about the American Civil War thanks to my father and the constant rehashing of the history from 4th grade through high school. Never before have I read something that gets so perfectly in depth about what the hell happened in Richmond. The microfocus on this particular city lends more depth and humanity to each person we meet--whether that's Pinkerton (mhmm, how did you think they started?) or Stonewall Jackson (yeah, he's there, too.)
It was a great look at how thoroughly incompetent some of the Union Generals were. This is less a history-written-by-the-winners... there's a lot of facepalming over McClellan.
Anyway, give it a listen.
The narrator, Karen White, was not great. 3 of 5 stars for her. She has the tendency to read in a stilted, serious "this is nonfiction" pattern, rather give way to the delightful narrative flow Abbott provided.
"Good book ruined by narrator!"
I couldn't even finish it because narrator was horrible.
A different narrator.
She can't figure out what tone of voice to use it changes from one minute to the next. Horrible!
Why doesn't audible screen these narrators better? It so irritating when a good book is ruined by one. There are so many great ones, be more selective!
I enjoyed this book as it provided another aspect of the Civil War that one rarely hears about. Abbott provides an alternate view of the Civil War by featuring previously untold stories of the impact women and civilians had on the war effort. She brings these individuals fully to life with passion for their causes. The subjects of Karen Abbott’s engrossing book are four women who worked undercover in the Civil War. Belle Boyd and Rose O’Neal Greenhow worked for the confederacy and Elizabeth Van Lew and Emma Edmondson worked for the Union. Boyd was 17 years old in 1861, known as “The Secesh Cleopatra” and La Bella Rebelle” she flirted and spied never making pronounced efforts to conceal her espionage activities. Emma Edmondson born in 1841 from Flint Michigan, by way of Canada, worked as a nurse and also infiltrated enemy terrain to gather intelligence. She masqueraded herself in various disguises to do this. She even disguised herself as a man and fought with the 2nd Michigan Infantry. Greenhow ran a spy ring out of Washington D.C. she also learned cipher and Morse code. In 2012 I read “Wild Rose” by Ann Blackman which gave an in-depth history of Greenhow’s life. Elizabeth Van Lew was of Richmond society. Her father was a prominent businessman and slave owner. She was one of Richmond’s wealthiest citizens. She had been educated in Philadelphia by an abolitionist governess. She ran a spy ring, learned to cipher and Morse code. Van Lew’s most impressive agent was Mary Jane Bower, her black servant.
Abbott did meticulous research for the book and it is smoothly written and structured (chronologically) so as a certain amount of suspense is built in. The author’s research included letters, diaries and news accounts of the time. Abbott claims that as many as four hundred women both North and South were posing and fighting as men. The author also stated women were capable not only of significant acts of treason, but of executing them more deftly than men. Karen Abbott is a well known history author and a graduate of Villanova University.
If you enjoy history and true stories of adventure and courage you will find this is just the book for you. I read this as an audio book with the use of “whispersync” so I could take advantage of the photographs in the book. Karen White did a good job narrating the book.
"Extraordinary Women of the Civil War"
Story was fascinating. Narration was average. Characters well developed. Learned a lot. Worth the listen.
"Narrator difficult to get past, I gave up"
No, unfortunately the narrator was tough for me to get used to. Her pattern and emphasis seemed unnatural to me, an American born person.
"History They Don't Teach You In School"
This is a fascinating glimpse into the lives of four women during the Civil War. It's a good 'survey' book in that it's a good overview of these women's lives and deeds.
"Great Historical Story!"
This book was so interesting and informative. What amazing Women who were so passionate in their beliefs. If you enjoy history, I would recommend this highly.
I'm not sure if the story was good or not since the narration was awful. It was like listening to an automated voice, like the kind that guides you through prompts when calling your credit card company
Really enjoyed hearing a woman's perspective of the Civil War from women who put themselves at risk just as much as the men. The narrator did a great job as well.
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