08 May 2012

The Secrets of Mary Bowser; Lois Leveen


The Secrets of Mary Bowser: A NovelThe Secrets of Mary Bowserl by Lois Leveen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was an interesting look at slavery and raised some issues that I think many readers won't have thought about before.  Example?  How realistic was Uncle Tom's Cabin (or any slave narrative)?  That Lewis was allowed to "live out" may surprise readers, as might the difference in how slaves were treated in Richmond (it's not the plantation slave experience we assume all had).  With luck, this will give readers a broader understanding of slavery, particularly at the time of the Civil War.  Reading about Lincoln's reasons for issuing the Emancipation Proclamation was also interesting, and may be information that most readers don't have.  It's unfortunate that there isn't more of a bibliography for those looking to learn more about these aspects of our history.

Because Mary got an education, the writing is occasionally a bit over the top - it's as though using big words will convey the depth of her learning.  The other problem I had was the introduction of the Orthodox/Hicksite split in Quakerism without much explanation (it felt as though the author included it only to show that not all Quakers were warm and welcoming, rather than coming organically from the plot).

ARC provided by publisher.

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