Reader Review: "The Secrets of Mary Bowser"

Posted by Deon Stoltenberg
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Reader Review:

Power Reviewer CarolT

The Civil War as I'd never seen it

It's hard to believe The Secrets of Mary Bowser is Lois Leveen's debut novel. Or that it is a novel at all. Mary and all the other characters - and the period - are so real.

Power Reviewer Dorothy T.

Great historical fiction

This novel drew me in from the start, and kept my interest right through to the end. It deals with real people that I am sure most readers have never heard of; in fact, I was never really aware of the spy ring in the South that assisted the North and ultimately freed the slaves. Mary's courage and strength make her a character to remember. This is definitely one for the book clubs.

Power Reviewer Louise J

A Novel You Won't Soon Forget!!
This is the true story of Mary Bowser, a freed slave who spied for the Union during the Civil War.

This was a well-researched book filled with familiar and imagined historical events. Lois Leveen has written a novel that will grab you in at the beginning and not let you go until the very end. I would highly recommend this book to lovers of historical novels.

Power Reviewer Diane S.

The Secrets of Mary Bowser

I have read many novels about slavery and the Civil War but what sets this novel apart from others is that it encompasses so much and so it so well. That Mary was an actual person and that the letters and newspaper articles were factual just adds to the wonderful telling of the story that unfolds. This novel shows both sides of the slavery issue, what both white and black abolitionists went through as well as how blacks were treated in the Northern states that had already outlawed slavery. Loved the characters of Mary, her mom and Dad and Bets, a white woman who risked much in Virginia, for the abolishment of an institution she found unjust. Loved reading this story and would loved to have met many of these people. (less)

Karla M. (Sicklerville, NJ)

Glad I Kept Reading

I found the first portion of the book a little slow but I'm glad I stuck it out because this was a great book. The story is wonderfully told and all the characters are so full of life you can't help but feel like you are right there with them. I love that Mary Bowser is such a strong woman character; especially for the time period. I could see this book becoming a movie because the plot is so fascinating.

Jan M. (Jenks, OK)

History made easy
I'm not a good history student, so this book was a delightful experience for me. A history lesson made easy! Mary Bowser's "secrets" gave this reader a look at slavery and the civil war from an entirely different perspective. I was appalled by the fact that slaves were forbidden to learn to read. I was aware that many were illiterate, but it just really had not sunk in that they were kept that way intentionally.

The courage and determination of Mary Bowser was no less than heroic. Then to have risked everything to return to servitude was beyond brave. This writer was able to give her readers a look at the horrific events of the civil war from the perspective of one who was living through the difficulties. I realize the actions and conversations were fiction, based on facts, but the writer presented them in such a way that this reader almost felt a part of the story.

A beautifully written book that I will most certainly recommend to my book club.

Kimberli M. (Jessup, MD)

It pulls you in

I would highly recommend The Secrets of Mary Browser. It is written with incredible detail that not only tells you a story, but teaches you about a period of history in the United States that still influences our lives today. Mary was an incredibly courageous woman who risked everything to try to bring freedom to slaves. Great read!

Sylvia J. (Los Angeles, CA)

This is why I love historical fiction!

This book is a classic example of why I love historical fiction. Ms. Leveen was able to fill every page with such rich detail bringing each character to life in such a fully dimensional way and at the same time she was able to show the struggles, suffering and mixed bag that slavery represented. I truly enjoyed being able to see Mary go from young slave girl to the free woman of color who was brilliantly educated and a shrewd spy during the Civil War. I highly recommend this book to everyone but in particular I recommend it to those who enjoy historical fiction.

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