Rachel's Reviews > The Secrets of Mary Bowser

The Secrets of Mary Bowser by Lois Leveen
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's review
Mar 07, 12

really liked it
Read from March 02 to 07, 2012

This is a wonderful tale of an Union spy in President Jefferson Davis' house during the Civil War. Born a slave, freed by the time she was a teenager, Mary Van Lew Bowser, educated in the northern city, Philadelphia, she returns home to see her father, still in the stronghold of slavery's clutches. Once home, she is recruited to spy in the very household of the confederacy leadership.

I really did enjoy this book but there is one problem with it and it was her descriptions of Varna Davis, as a brutish slaveholder. It just doesn't match up with some of the books I've read on her ... because this is the same woman who is very intelligent, with friends in both the North and the South and there is an incident where she rescued a slave boy from a beating. The woman described in this novel is not the one I've read about in other sources. The only conclusion I can derive from this is that the author is combining all of the ugliness of being a slave-holder onto one person.

That is the only beef I have with this book as the story just kept drawing me into the life of Mary Bowser, a strong woman who returned home to help the cause of the Underground Railroad along. It shows a more intimate side of slavery ... just like Mary realized, the different levels of slavery exist, where the more commonly held version is of the slave working in the field. The domestics in cities and working in a blacksmith shop ... and more. It's interesting to read about the different types of slavery.

Other than that one niggling issue I have with this book, I did find this to be a very interesting read and it is definitely unforgettable.

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