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The Secrets of Mary Bowser
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Group Reads: Post-1980 > Initial Impressions: The Secrets of Mary Bowser - June 2017

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message 1: by Tom, "Big Daddy" (new)

Tom Mathews | 2460 comments Mod
Please post your comments and impressions about this book here. Be careful to avoid revealing spoilers.


message 2: by Diane, "Miss Scarlett" (new) - rated it 3 stars

Diane Barnes | 3821 comments Mod
I have started this one, and so far it's very good. I really like the way the author juxtaposes the treatment of black slaves in Virginia with free blacks in Philadelphia. Prejudice was rampant up north, without the reason for it in the south. The author does not make the south complete hell, or the North complete heaven.


message 3: by Diane, "Miss Scarlett" (new) - rated it 3 stars

Diane Barnes | 3821 comments Mod
I finished this one today, I guess I'm the first piggy at the trough here. I found it to be a fairly well researched novel, given the scarcity of facts about the real Mary Bowser. I liked her depiction of both Philadelphia before the war broke out, and Richmond before and during the war. One thing that surprised me was the difference in the way slaves were treated in Richmond versus the "deep south". I live in the Charleston, SC area, and slaves here could not leave the grounds of their owners homes in the city without passes from their masters. The Richmond slaves seemed to be much more trusted and given much more freedom to come and go.
Anyway, for anyone on the fence about reading this book, give it a try. It's quite interesting, and a good story to boot.


message 4: by LeAnne: (new) - added it

LeAnne: GeezerMom | 1310 comments Interesting!! In New Orleans, free people of color had their own balls, debutantes, etc while slaves were still harvesting sugar cane. One of the nations first portrait photographers was a Nola free man of color, and he entered homes via the front door - not the back.

Ive got this one holding in audio format from the library. Looking forward to it!


message 5: by Diane, "Miss Scarlett" (new) - rated it 3 stars

Diane Barnes | 3821 comments Mod
The Richmond slaves were terrified of being sold to Louisiana or Alabama, considered deep south, and known for inhumane and cruel practices. In Richmond, slaves could live off the property in their own homes, as long as they were in time for their duties every day. It's interesting that every community had their own rules of treatment and behavior. Virginia was on the fence about secession til the last minute.


message 6: by Diane, "Miss Scarlett" (new) - rated it 3 stars

Diane Barnes | 3821 comments Mod
When others get around to reading this, does anyone know from historical records whether Varina Davis was really the witch she was portrayed as in this book?


Tina  | 485 comments Just finished Book 1. Can't imagine going to live that far away from my parents at the age of 12 like Mary El and not knowing if I would ever see them again.


message 8: by Diane, "Miss Scarlett" (new) - rated it 3 stars

Diane Barnes | 3821 comments Mod
I know, Tina. And from the parent's perspective, letting her go so that she could live as a free black and get an education. What a choice to have to make. Especially her mother, who could have gone with her if she had chosen to.


message 9: by Sue (new) - rated it 3 stars

Sue | 653 comments I finished this book a few days ago. I did think the book was well written and exciting to read, but I felt a sort of general discomfort almost the entire time I was reading it. I believe that's because this was really more fiction than fact. So much of Mary Bowser's life is totally unknown and "a life" was created to fill in the sparse details known. Of course I realize that was typical for almost any black person in the South of that time, but it did bother me.

Here's a link to my review: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...


message 10: by Laura, "The Tall Woman" (new) - added it

Laura | 1901 comments Mod
Following along....I hope to get to this one but someone please tell me where has June gone?


message 11: by Sue (new) - rated it 3 stars

Sue | 653 comments Laura, I can't believe 2017 is almost half over. Ridiculously fast. And so many books to read. I've read few of the books I planned to read. Hopefully I will get to some of them in the second half of the year.


message 12: by Kim (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kim Kaso | 590 comments I've been thinking about the swift passage of the year, as well, Laura.


Tina  | 485 comments Does anyone else think it is sad that we have never heard of Mary Bowser or some of the other Union spies from the South?

There is some interesting info about Mary Bowser in this article.
http://www.americancivilwarstory.com/...


message 14: by Diane, "Miss Scarlett" (new) - rated it 3 stars

Diane Barnes | 3821 comments Mod
Great article. But I think this author was more interested in a good story than a strict adherance to facts.


message 15: by Sue (new) - rated it 3 stars

Sue | 653 comments Thanks for this article, Tina. I agree with Diane's comment re: the author's apparent intent with this book. It is too bad that we aren't taught, at least generally, that people like Mary Bowser existed. It's an important part of American history.


Tina  | 485 comments Diane wrote: "Great article. But I think this author was more interested in a good story than a strict adherance to facts."

I agree Diane.


message 17: by Diane, "Miss Scarlett" (new) - rated it 3 stars

Diane Barnes | 3821 comments Mod
The assumption that black people were stupid and ignorant may be what defeated the South in the end. What arrogance. If they had only acknowledged the slaves intelligence and contributions, how much richer they would have been, and what a different history they would have had.


message 18: by Sue (new) - rated it 3 stars

Sue | 653 comments Diane wrote: "The assumption that black people were stupid and ignorant may be what defeated the South in the end. What arrogance. If they had only acknowledged the slaves intelligence and contributions, how muc..."

So much truth there Diane.


message 19: by Kathleen (new)

Kathleen Askins More like a story some told themselves in order to justify owning people


Tina  | 485 comments I did not see a "final impressions" thread for this book. Did I miss it?


message 21: by Diane, "Miss Scarlett" (new) - rated it 3 stars

Diane Barnes | 3821 comments Mod
We didn't get a final impressions thread up last month. Sorry.


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