Reading Roundup: Bealeton Book Club Discusses The Spymistress

Posted by Aaron on

The Spymistress book cover

The Spymistress by Jennifer Chiaverini is a fascinating historical fiction account of Elizabeth “Lizzie” Van Lew, a wealthy spinster in Richmond, Virginia during the Civil War. Her convictions as both an abolitionist and as a Unionist spurred her toward activities that could endanger her and her family in a deeply divided South. She helped create the Richmond Underground and became a “spymistress” for the Union. Most of her work involved nursing and providing food for wounded and imprisoned soldiers at Libby Prison.

The book club members enjoyed this easy, but thought-provoking historical fiction novel. Lizzie was a strong character, oftentimes annoying and manipulative. Her amazing ability to have a seemingly innocent reason for all she did while committing “treason” against the Confederacy was especially noted. We could not believe what she was able to do and how bold she was in her endeavors. She sometimes put her own family in extreme danger while pursuing her own agendas. The book club members discussed economic and political causes the Civil War, including slavery, states’ rights and industrialism. The members especially enjoyed that the novel was set locally, with historical vignettes of Manassas / Bull Run, Fredericksburg, Richmond and other places and events, in the form of newspaper articles read by Lizzie or told to her by prisoners at Libby Prison.

Suggested Titles:

Civil War Espionage
A Yankee Spy in Richmond: the Civil War Diary of “Crazy Bet” Van Lew
Southern Lady, Yankee Spy: The True Story of Elizabeth Van Lew, a Union Agent in the Heart of the Confederacy
Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy
The Rebel and the Rose: James A. Semple, Julia Gardiner Tyler, and the Lost Confederate Gold
Our Man in Charleston: Britain’s Secret Agent in the Civil War South

The Underground Railroad
The Underground Railroad: Authentic Narratives and First-Hand Accounts
Gateway to Freedom
Roots of Resistance (DVD)
Bound for Canaan
Hidden in Plain View: A Secret Story of Quilts and the Underground Railroad
Union Quilters
His Promised Land
The Mapmaker’s Children
The Last Runaway
The Quaker and the Rebel

The Invention of Wings
Mightier Than the Sword: Uncle Tom’s Cabin and the Battle for America
Midnight Rising: John Brown and the Raid that Sparked the Civil War
Lift Up Thy Voice: the Grimke Family’s Journey from Slaveholders to Civil Rights Leaders
The Abolitionists (DVD)

Virginia in the Civil War
Spy of Richmond
Hell or Richmond
Virginia at War
Richmond Burning
Ashes of Glory: Richmond at War
Escape from Libby Prison
Libby Life
The Richmond Howitzers
The Beleaguered City: Richmond, 1861-1865
The Years of Anguish: Fauquier County, Virginia, 1861-1865
The Civil War in Fauquier County, Virginia

Civil War Causes
1861: The Civil War Awakening
The Causes of the Civil War
The Approaching Fury: Voices of the Storm, 1820-1861
In the Presence of Mine Enemies: War in the Heart of America, 1859-1863
The Road to Disunion
What Caused the Civil War?

Civil War Diaries and Letters
Southern Woman’s Story
A Woman’s War
No Soap, No Pay, Diarrhea, Dysentery, and Desertion
Send Me a Pair of Old Boots and Kiss My Little Girls
Mama: I Am Yet Still Alive
A Diary from Dixie
Dark Days in our Beloved Country: The Civil War Diary of Catherine Hopkins Broun
In the Shadow of the Enemy: the Civil War Journal of Ida Powell Dulany
‘My Heart Is So Rebellious’: the Caldwell Letters, 1861-1865
Journals of Amanda Virginia Edmonds: Lass of the Mosby Confederacy, 1857-1867
The Women of the Debatable Land

Book Club Meetings:
The Bealeton Book Clubs meet once per month. If you would like to join us, please check our schedule for dates, times and reading selections.
Bealeton Evening Book Club,  usually the 3rd Monday of the month, 7:30 p.m.
(PLEASE NOTE: Starting in September, the Bealeton Evening Book Club will meet on a Wednesday at 7:30 p.m.)
Bealeton Afternoon Book Club,  usually the 3rd Thursday of the month, 2:30 p.m.

Happy Reading!

Mary Sue, Adult Reference, Bealeton branch library

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