Reader reviews and comments on The Secrets of Mary Bowser, plus links to write your own review.

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The Secrets of Mary Bowser

by Lois Leveen

The Secrets of Mary Bowser
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    May 2012, 496 pages

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There are currently 24 reader reviews for The Secrets of Mary Bowser
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Laura A. (Jeremiah, KY) (05/04/12)

Well worth reading!
The Secrets of Mary Bowser by Lois Leveen is a true story of a young slave girl in Richmond, VA who spends her life (most of it being done in complete secrecy) fighting for freedom for the slaves. And in doing these things she is risking her own freedom and even life. This book was an amazing and sometimes sad story but definitely one worth reading. Mary was an incredible woman.
DawnEllen J. (Riverside, CA) (05/02/12)

History Comes Alive
Lois Leveen takes a little-known historical figure and makes her come alive in The Secrets of Mary Bowser. Working carefully researched events and other historical figures together with richly nuanced creative details and fictional elements, Leveen weaves a wonderfully engaging tapestry that honors her subject and treats difficult material with sensitivity and honesty. Through Mary's experiences, the reader is compelled to confront the usual ideas about North and South, slave and free, and comes away with a completely different understanding of this complex period of history. This is historical fiction at its best: it teaches, enlightens, delights, challenges, and entertains.
Lisa F. (Newton, MA) (05/01/12)

Well Written Story
Mary Bowser was a real person and this book combined fact with fiction to fill in the gaps. I enjoyed this book very much and learned about the Civil War, the Underground Railroad and how blacks were treated in the Union North, that they really were not allowed to live totally free. Reading about Mary's life was interesting, intriguing and I learned many new things about this time period. A wonderful read! I'm going to choose it for my book club when it's my turn.
Rachel B. (Waynetown, IN) (05/01/12)

Very touching and informative
I have a special place in my heart for historical fiction, and this was a really amazing book. What makes it more inspiring and interesting is the real life and events it was based on. Sometimes I hear people lamenting about the state of things, and I read a book like this and think how nice the world could be if we were all so brave and willing to make the kind of sacrifices and chances Mary did. The events and characters were believable, and I agree with the other readers who have said that they enjoyed the perspective of a city slave. I am also very used to the story of the slaves on the plantations and such, but it was nice to read of the experiences in Richmond, away from the fields. Pacing was a little slow in the middle, but not enough to stop my reading, or be too distracting. Definitely would recommend.
Janice C. (Hayward, CA) (04/28/12)

The Secret's o Mary Bowser
This an exceptional book. Yes, it did slow down a little in the middle. but still held my interest. It was written with such clarity and love. Mary Bowser was brave extremely brave. I think everyone should read this novel (based on a true story). I am going to recommend this book to the History Teacher at the school where I work part- time. I'm going to suggest ordering a class set. This book made me go back and review Civil War history. i also plan to reread Uncle Tom's Cabin.
Linda B. (Sheridan, WY) (04/27/12)

The Secrets of Mary Bowser
The Secrets of Mary Bowser by Lois Leveen is an interesting look on life in Richmond, Virginia, before and during the Civil War. The book is well written and the characters are fully drawn. Learning about Mary El’s childhood and early life as a slave with her mother in the Van Lew household helps us understand the relationship between the slaves and their masters.

I read a nonfiction Civil War book while reading The Secrets of Mary Bowser. This experience was appealing to me as I read what was happening from the point of view of two armies and two presidents while, at the same time, reading about the everyday life of the citizens of Richmond.

Those who enjoy historical fiction will delight in reading this book.
Shirin M. (Beverly Hills, CA) (04/24/12)

The Secrets of Mary Bowser by Lois Leveen
Based on the true story of Mary Bower, born a slave and freed by her owner’s daughter, she returns to slavery to play a pivotal, albeit secret role in the Union victory. Lois Leveen’s story is a panoramic portrayal of a young African-American woman’s life set against the backdrop of the nineteenth century. The author effectively captures the tone and rhythms of the time in the dialogue and descriptions of people and places. Filled with historical facts, realistic characters, and an eye for social and cultural details, this book is a must read for those who enjoy historical fiction and spy novels. From a human perspective, this story illuminates Paul Dunbar’s poem, “We wear the mask”.
Viqui G. (State College, PA) (04/22/12)

The Secrets of Mary Bowser
This was an intriguing historical fiction based loosely on the life of a black woman, Mary Bowser, who was a spy for the Union during the Civil War. I enjoyed learning about Richmond and the life of slaves and free blacks in a city before and during the war. I was familiar with slavery in plantations and in cotton and rice fields, but not in cities. I think readers will be interested in learning how important spies for the Federals were in the overall effort of winning the war. Although the author had little facts to develop Mary's character, she did a good job of creating a believable and well-rounded woman with opinions and strengths. My one criticism is that too much time was spent on Mary's early life in Richmond and Boston. The novel really became interesting in Book Three during the war years.
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