Liar Temptress, Soldier, Spy and Other 2015 Reads

When I was going to school and had the privilege of summer and winter breaks, I read non-stop. After I graduated and joined the full-time workforce, though, I had much less time, and my reading dropped off severely. This was disappointing since I love reading so much, so I made the goal to read two books every month in 2015. Since I've told everyone I know about this goal, it's kept me accountable, and I am happy to report that I have been able to stay true to my goal and have read a total of 14 books so far this year.


My latest read was Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy by Karen Abbott. It's about four women who stepped outside the boundaries of the time's socially-acceptable, lady-like behavior in order to serve their country during the American Civil War. Emma Edmonson posed as a man, Frank Thompson, and served in the Union Army because she felt it was her Christian duty to do so. Belle Boyd served as a messenger and spy for the Confederate Army, wooing many a Unionist and Confederate during her tenure. Elizabeth Van Lew helped hide escaped Union prisoners and ran a spy network, even sending one of her servants into the Confederate White House to gather information for the Union. Rose Greenhow, through her connections with wealthy and powerful Washington, D.C. elites, was able to get Union information to the Confederacy, sometimes using her young daughter as a messenger.

These four women, each in her own way, helped to shape the events of the war. Each faced the threat of death but never lost her dedication to her cause. They all received acclaim and respect for their actions during the war, which pleasantly surprised me. I found this book to be really empowering: the book focuses on how these women relied on their intelligence, strength, & bravery to get the job done. Even though fictional books and film have discussed women's involvement in the war - Melanie Wilkes' time as a nurse in Gone with the Wind or the country savvy of Ruby Thewes in Cold Mountain, for example - we rarely get to hear the story of what real women did during the Civil War, which Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy helps to remedy. I highly recommend this book. Bonus: there are lots of neat Civil War-era photos included, so you get to see what these ladies actually looked like, along with the people they interacted with and the places they lived in and/or visited.

Because I don't want to do a disservice to the other 13 books I've read this year (it's not their fault that I didn't have a blog when I read them), here they are below:

To Marry an English Lord Horns The Help
Z The Giver Paper Towns
The Book Thief The Marrowbone Marble Company Call the Midwife
Hand in Hand: Economic Development in Tupelo Buddhism An Island Called Eden
I Could Pee on This

I still have 10 books left to read this year! What would you recommend I read next? Comment below!

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  1. Niki-
    I just gobbled this book up, and I loved it!!! I've recently been reading a lot of historical fiction about the Civil War era, particularly about women during this time, and one of them happened to focus on Elizabeth Van Lew! It was so cool to read a book about more brave women like herself. The author Jennifer Chiaverini wrote several of the books I read (she also has an extensive series on a quilting guild) focusing on people such as Mary Todd Lincoln, Elizabeth Keckly, a personal modiste for Mrs. Lincoln, and Elizabeth Van Lew.

    I've also got to say, I've read several other books you recommended on instagram and I've loved all of them! Can't wait to see what else you read :)

    1. Caitlin,

      I'm glad you enjoyed the book as well!

      Small world: I went to the Hilltop Book Festival at the Huntington Museum of Art this past weekend and saw a book there about Rose Greenhow. My friend didn't really understand why I pointed to the book and said "I know her!" Which of my "instagram" books have you also read?

      Somehow I've not read a Mary Todd Lincoln book yet, so I'll be on the lookout for the Chiaverini one. Thanks so much! :)




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