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The Spy

3.53 of 5 stars 3.53  ·  rating details  ·  534 ratings  ·  52 reviews
James Fenimore Cooper wrote The Spy in 1821 intending the novel to preserve both the memory and the meaning of the American Revolution. Inspired by accusations of venality leveled at the men who captured Major Andre (Benedict Arnold's co-conspirator executed for espionage in 1780), the novel centers on Harry Birch, a common man wrongly suspected by well-born Patriots of be ...more
Paperback, Penguin Classics, 412 pages
Published October 1st 1997 by Penguin (first published 1821)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,154)
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Henry Avila
The neutral ground, Westchester County, just north of the British held New York City, time 1780, the American Revolution is in its 5th year, but the endless conflict continues, cavalry patrols by both sides keep the blood flowing, irregulars, the skinners for the U.S. and cow- boys, their opposite number, for England, do much burning, killing and looting, essentially common criminals, but with a pretense for the cause, doesn't matter which side. Harvey Birch, peddler, suspected spy for the King, ...more
Who am I to review a book that was written 190 years ago? I really enjoyed the book. It’s full of action, adventure and colorful characters. The hero is a master of disguise. (Fortunately for him, people in the 18th Century were easily duped by donning women’s clothing and fashioning wigs out of sheep’s wool.) As in most of Cooper’s novels, there is an old widower who has two diametrically opposed daughters. There is also a conniving housekeeper, a happy-go-lucky slave and a circumlocutory surge ...more
Donna Dozier
I laughed and cried. "The Spy" story is 193 years old! Even better is learning about the author. I am just getting started there are some 40 novels written by this author. Overall excellent story, good character development and "The Spy" was the author's second novel. James Fenimore Cooper is my American Jane Austen. If Jane had been a man she would have been James Fenimore Cooper. I am learning that the older books are way better then the authors of 2014. It is a pity when you think of the all ...more
It's important to remember the time period that a book was written in when delving into a work of classical literature. For example, The Spy came out in 1821 when American novelists were still focused on telling stories about their brethren over the pond. It was quite revolutionary (pun sooo intended) to focus a story on American soil. The story is set during the American Revolution and opens at the end of 1780. Slavery clearly still practiced and attitudes about the slaves themselves were not a ...more
A book I read during the Jamestown 400 treasure hunt. It's fiction, of course, but Cooper paints a remarkable portrait of life in early America. Very interesting.
This book was an awesome spy novel that addressed way more complex themes and motivations than I expected, and had some very compelling characters. Definitely not a story of the glamorous spy: this spy is more the precursor of "The Spy Who Came In From the Cold" or other such reviled, tortured, unhappy characters.

Some of the prose gets tiresome, some of the ideals are simplistic, some of the characterizations are flat stereotypes. But ultimately this is a lively little plot with sympathetic cha
Arlene Richards
I always wanted to read n American Classic from the time period of the American Revolution. I was quite surprised to read in the prelude that James Fenimore Cooper was not a particularly good writer. He did not write this book for public consumption but as a way of passing time productively. These comments proved to be true. I did find some of the military tactics quite unbelievable. People of wealth who declared neutrality were able the lavishly entertain both the Southern and Northern officers ...more
I'd really give it 3.5 stars as it was a great book. I like historical fiction and this was a painless way of learning some about the Revolutionary War. The language in it was a little hard to read and slowed me down a bit but that's probably because I like to read every word in a book. I can see why this is a classic and this is the type of book that if required to read in high school might make history more palatable. It's certainly not anymore fiction than history books are anyway.
My absolute favorite JFC book, and one of my favorite books of all time.
Listened to the ( podcast. Great site for downloading books to listen to while walking the dog.

Enjoyed 'The Spy'. Great to read/listen about fictional historical events by an author who lived nearer the time period. Got a good feel for the language and customs of the period.

(view spoiler)

New York State, 1778. Henry Wharton, a young soldier for the British in the American War of Independence, creeps into no-man's land to spend an evening with his family. But the happy reunion is cut short when American troops surround the house. Can the mysterious pe
Perhaps the original American novel. Harvey Birch, a peddler by trade, leads a dangerous life as a suspected spy for the English during the American Revolution. Florid and overwritten, in the style of the times, but noteworthy not only for being the first of its kind, but for the fairness of its depiction of the conditions and conflicting loyalties existing in what is now Westchester County in New York during the Revolutionary War, and for the fidelity of some of the action scenes. A great peri ...more
Greg Nichols

Even though written in the manner of the 18th century, this book is a grand slam. I came across it by complete accident, and the price was right: free. It is, quite obviously, a much lesser known Cooper work, why I cannot fathom. The story is gripping, and will hold interest, even though quite a lengthy tome. It provides a window into the greatest period in our history, told by an author in a position to know it intimately, by virtue of the age in which he lived. I could not more strongly
Jamie Barringer (Ravenmount)
Mark Twain was right about James Fenimore Cooper- he is not the best writer, and I really wished while reading this book that Cooper had had a stubborn and talented editor to help him polish his writing. The Spy is a great story, but told with a lack of grace that leaves the reader feeling a bit lost, disconnected and dissatisfied. Still, there are many modern authors who write just about as badly and become bestsellers, so there are always readers who will enjoy the story and not mind the poor ...more
Evan Brandt
Jul 01, 2009 Evan Brandt rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Those interested in early American history
Interesting most immediately to me, because it takes place in my old stomping grounds of the Hudson Valley. But as one of America's first novels, it has two particular values.
The first is it explores, somewhat heavy handidly, the idea of patriotism at all levels of society, not just in the upper crust as British literature had up until this point. And it is a particular form of selfless patriotism honored in other European nations at the timie of its publication which Cooper obviously wanted to
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Bob Price
The title sort of gives it away, but James Fennimore Cooper's book is about...well...a spy.

Set against the backdrop of the American Revolution's little known 'Neutral Ground,' The Spy is filled with action packed adventure and somewhat lackluster romance. The main characters all have agnozing choices to make in a brief amount of time in order to survive the events recorded.

This book does provide critical insight into a significant event in American history. The Neutral Ground was an area whi
James Fenimore Cooper captured my imagination when I found a copy of his exciting (and occasionally violent) "Last of the Mohicans" while cleaning out the car. Years later I came across "The Spy: A Tale of the Neutral Ground" in a list of important books to read. This time the annotated copy was also helpful in introducing me to the author, who began writing almost as a lark, before becoming America"s first classic novelist.

It is fortunate that write he did, as his novels provide first hand ins
Patrick Sprunger
Mar 16, 2010 Patrick Sprunger rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: squares, nerds
Shelves: fiction
The Spy is reputedly based on a tale told to the author by either John Jay or Gouverneur Morris. Likely it is an amalgam or generic idea based partly in fact and partly in 19th century romance for the American Revolution.

The Spy is a typical early 19th century novel, complete with period theatricality and melodrama. There is actually very little spying until the last fifth of the book. However, that final fifth contains the swashbuckling, Mohicanesque action readers expect.

Readers interested i
I was hoping for story that followed an interesting character, i.e. a spy, of the time that was based on a true story, but what I got was a narrative about a family. The tale was interesting; the family's loyalties were split and they had to house wounded officers for both sides at the same time at one point and it was a good illustration of the civilities and courtesies extended even to one's enemies during this time period. Howevere I found the title to be somewhat misleading as the spy himsel ...more
Apr 17, 2007 karenology rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: romance and civil war novel enthusiasts
Shelves: detested
Without a doubt, the second worst book I've ever had to read. I read this for a class, of course. Stay away, unless you enjoy reading pages-long paragraphs describing a woman in the process of fainting. It's not even enjoyable to read for the purposes of mocking, as there is so much dull prose to wade through to get to the truly ridiculous parts. James Fenimore Cooper's presence in American literature is only redeemed by the fact that Mark Twain made fun of him so well: ...more
The best book ever!!!!
I am pretty sure this took me a year to finally finish. Okay that is maybe not true, but I did get distracted a lot by other books. Unfortunately it came to me at a time when I was reading several other exciting books so it kept getting pushed aside.

BUT, I ended up really loving this book! I loved the way it looked at the Revolutionary War and the real people behind it (even if it was fiction, it gives you a feel for it!)
Edward Waverley
Jul 17, 2013 Edward Waverley marked it as to-read
Shelves: rushdoony
[Otto Scott] And the thing about "The Spy" that got me was that throughout you were encouraged to look down on him until at the very end when he was captured, you remember, and he was hanged by the British.
There was a note in his pocket from George Washington thanking him for his faithful services to the cause. And that hit me from when I was very young with a realization that things are not always what they seem.
Stunning book. It would probably help a reader to have learned Cooper's style before reading this one. It has Cooper's trademark superlatives making this less historical novel and more American fairytale. The plot advances like parade floats, with premises both quaint and preposterous, but for sheer mythical storytelling this is one of the best books I've ever read. I loved this.
Indranil Banerjie
Lots of characters, action and drama in this great American classic. The novel's focus is as its title suggests, a spy called Harvey Birch.
William Durkee
I don´t know. I´ve read most of Coopers books. This one was tedious until the final 3 chapters. I loved the final chapter. I wouldn´t have guessed that the book ended on the Niagara Frontier, at the time of Lundy´s Lane. That would´ve made a great start for the book, and held my attention.
This was a good classic read. Sometimes, with classics, the language is just way too difficult and abstract and the story is not...capturing ...but I liked the story, I liked the descriptions of battle and the 'mystery' of the spy. There was a little romance, a little suspense. It was a great book.
My all time favorite Cooper book. It is set in the time of the Revolutionary War. I spent the whole time trying to figure out which character was the spy and which side they where spying on. Can't say more or I'd spoil the ending.
Susan Daniel
This fantastic book was written in older style but still gripping and entertaining to read. Espionage is a dirty, but essential, job...this book shows that while also taking you on a fictional ride through the Revolutionary War.
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James Fenimore Cooper was a popular and prolific American writer. He is best known for his historical novel The Last of the Mohicans, one of the Leatherstocking Tales stories, and he also wrote political fiction, maritime fiction, travelogues, and essays on the American politics of the time. His daughter Susan Fenimore Cooper was also a writer.

* The Leatherstocking Tales
* The Littlepage Man
More about James Fenimore Cooper...
The Last of the Mohicans (The Leatherstocking Tales #2) The Deerslayer (The Leatherstocking Tales, #1) The Pathfinder (Leatherstocking Tales, #3) The Pioneers The Prairie

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