Tinker, Soldier, Spy
The Civil War comes to life with Kiana Davenport's THE SPY LOVER. The author's graphic telling of a Chinese immigrant who had to escape China to save his life, only to be conscripted from a ship to serve in the Union Army, where he encounters more hatred and prejudice from the troops and officers with whom he serves, is at times hard to read. But Johnny Tom is on a mission; he is searching for his wife and daughter. Davenport's story is one of love: love for one's fellowman, love for family and love for country. The imagery of the most gruesome settings -- field hospitals reverberating with the hum of saws; corpses littering the battlefields and poppy fields of worn women -- creates a vivid landscape. Johnny Tom's wisdom is what carries the book. Davenport has mastered the art of the novel.
Rated of 5
by Rebecca J. (Knoxville, TN)
The spy lover by Kiana Davenport
I had several books to read and was busy with the holidays when I received this book about Chinese immigrants in the Civil War! I was not excited - until I started the book. This is an absolutely beautiful story told by three characters - a Chinese immigrant who is fighting for the North, his long-lost half Chinese/half Indian daughter who is nursing and spying for the North, and a Confederate soldier who is falling in love with the daughter. The character descriptions are exceptional and I learned a lot of historical fact about the Chinese in the Civil War about which I was clueless. If you like historical fiction and/or a cry-your-eyes-out romance, this is the book for you!
Rated of 5
by Carmen S. (Elkins, Arkansas)
Loved this book
I loved this story about the Civil War. The book made me feel I was there, and I felt the characters pain. Just a haunting, beautiful read.
Rated of 5
by Judith M. (San Diego, CA)
Horrifying yet Compelling
This is not your glory depiction of the War Between the States. It is graphic, emotional, introduces unknown to me facts about Chinese fighting in the war and rings true. I have always felt my letters written home by family members at the end of the war and their release from Union prisoner of war camps were sad and poignant, but this book helped me realize what they really went through.
Rated of 5
by Kristen H. (Hagerstown, MD)
Absolutely loved this book!! The author did a great job, her accuracy with the civil war history was tremendous. Her description of the battles that were fought during the civil war was interesting and explained how the soldiers felt and how they dealt with such a brutal war. I would recommend this book to anybody who is a civil war enthusiast - great details but told in a familiar way. At the end one will feel very much a part of Ms. Davenport's family.
Rated of 5
by Lora O. (Antioch, CA)
Beautiful Story from a Unique Perspective, but with a silly title
On this sesquicentennial of the Civil War, I thought no author could come up with anything new, but Ms. Davenport did just that. I have never read about Chinese soldiers, but apparently there many who honorably fought for both sides. This story is heartbreaking, from the point of view of the Chinese father fighting for the north and his daughter, of Chinese and Native American working as a nurse for the south, sharing secrets with the Northerners in order to find her father and avenge her treatment by the confederates who killed her mother, raped her and burned their village. Neither Johnny Tom or Era had any reason for loyalty to any aspect of America, and the cruel treatment of Era, as a non-white continued from coast to coast long after the war ended. The author does not sugarcoat the war, the battles or the horrific conditions in the field hospitals and the book is painful and disturbing to read. The authors depiction of how the war and the act of killing changes a man is especially well wrought in the character of Warren, the confederate soldier that loves Era. The three characters are grievously damaged by their experiences yet the author makes clear that underneath there is still an inner core of honor, decency and even a faint hope of beauty and meaning in the world. There is a wonderful section about Era and other southern women working in poppy fields hidden in the fields to make opium to treat the sick and injured soldiers. I was deeply moved by this story about inhumanity, the purported fight to end slavery, the cost of loyalty, the love and solidarity of soldiers taking care of each other, honor and love.
I do think however that the title is unfortunate. If I hadn't heard of the author, I would never look at a this book, assuming it would be a cheesy romance or Bond type thriller instead of the lovely, profound, moving story that it is.
I think this would be a wonderful book for a discussion.
Rated of 5
by Judith W. (Brooklyn, NY)
Wish I could have read it in one sitting
I couldn't put this book down. Not only were the characters compelling and the plot engrossing, but I learned something new. I was not aware of the Chinese presence in the Union Army. My awareness of their history at that time was limited to the building of the railroads in the far west, so found this a good addition to my fund of knowledge. Will look for other books by this author as I love her writer's voice.
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