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The Treason of Mary Louvestre by My Haley: A Book Review

The Treason of Mary Louvestre
Author: My Haley
Genre:  Historical Fiction
Publisher: Koehler Books
Release Date: 2013
Pages: 338
Source: This book was given to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Synopsis: From the widow and collaborator of Alex Haley, award-winning author of Roots, comes a new American epic from the Civil War. The Treason of Mary Louvestre is based on the true story of a seamstress slave from the Confederate town of Norfolk, Virginia. When her owner gets involved with modifications to the ironclad CSS Virginia, Mary copies the plans and sets out to commit treason against the South. Facing certain death as a spy if caught, she treks two hundred miles during the bitter winter of 1862 to reach the office of Union Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles, where she hands over the plans. Mary's act of bravery is ably told by Haley, using a rich narrative and characters drawn from that pinnacle era of American history. First there was Roots, now there is The Treason of Mary Louvestre.

     My Review: Mary Louvestre, mostly known in history as Mary Touvestre, is famous for being a spy for the Union and for aiding the Union’s navy. She was a freed slave in Norfolk who worked as a housekeeper to an engineer and listened in on his plans of the building of the newest Confederate ship the CSS Virginia. After stealing the plans of the new ship she then fled to Washington to give the plans to Secretary of the Navy, Gideon Welles. My Haley has re-imagined Mary Louvestre’s dangerous epic journey of her quest to help aid the Union.

     Mary has been a slave for the Louvestre’s ever since she was twelve years old. Even though she is a slave, she is living a life of luxury. She has a nice four-poster bed in a mansion. She enjoys good food from talented cooks. She has been educated to read and write from her masters. She has made friends, and her masters seem to give her everything she has ever asked for. She is also on the rise to fame for being a fashion designer. However, Mary eventually learns that her seemingly perfect life is a facade.

     For in Southern society, she is still a slave, and is regarded even by her masters as being three-fifths human. She is treated as a pet and nothing more. The author provides a good motivation for why Mary had to commit treason for the South. At first, she wants the South to win, until she realizes how she and the slaves are being viewed and treated by the Southerners finally hits home. She realizes that by being in the South she can never have the respect she deserves because they view her as property rather than a human being. She does love the South, but she believes that by aiding the north, than not only will other slaves be better treated, but that the South will be a better place for whites and coloreds.

     Overall, this is a beautiful novel that is filled with friendship, romance, and adventure. It is about a brave woman that embarks on a dangerous journey because she believes that is the right thing to do. The only thing that I did not like about the novel is that the villains are one-dimensional. They are pure evil and there is nothing good in them. This novel takes its place alongside Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin, and Toni Morrison’s Beloved.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars


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