Friday, July 12, 2013
The Secrets of Mary Bowser
A unique aspect of this book is the details of what life is like for free and educated black people during the time of the Civil War. Contrasts and parallels are made with the life of those free in the North and in the South, with the life of black servants, and with the life of black slaves. The details of Mary's life - where she lives, her food, her clothes, what she reads, her romances - all serve to immerse us in a time and place similar to what we have read in other Civil War novels, but with many specifics which may be new to us.
In the novel, Mary, a child, is freed by Miss Bet, the daughter of her owners, and taken to Philadelphia for school and to begin a new life. When Mary is 20, she defies the law which forbids freed slaves from returning to Virginia, to go back to Richmond to care for her father. While in Richmond, working with Miss Bet and others, she acts as a servant in the household of Jefferson Davis in order to spy for the Union.
Leveen's writing drew me into the story - the history, the mysteries of escaping slaves and of spying, the romances of Mary and her parents, and the ideas and ideals of family, courage, and freedom.
Check our catalog