The Kilbourn Public Library Book Discussion Group is reading Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy by Karen Abbott for the January book selection.
Karen Abbott illuminates one of the most fascinating yet little known aspects of the Civil War: the stories of four courageous women—a socialite, a farmgirl, an abolitionist, and a widow—who were spies. Using a wealth of primary source material and interviews with the spies’ descendants, Abbott seamlessly weaves the adventures of these four heroines throughout the tumultuous years of the war. With a cast of real-life characters including Walt Whitman, Nathaniel Hawthorne, General Stonewall Jackson, detective Allan Pinkerton, Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln, and Emperor Napoleon III, Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy draws you into the war as these daring women lived it.
Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy examines women's roles and how they changed when the men in their lives--fathers, husbands, brothers--enlisted in the Union and Confederate armies. What do you think was the most difficult aspect of being a woman during this time? Do you think most women considered their increased responsibilities a hardship or a freedom?
There are several instances in which the main female characters manipulate or outright defy traditional gender roles. How does each character use her femininity--and society's notions of femininity--to achieve her goals? What did President Lincoln's advisor mean when he lamented the proliferation of "fashionable female spies?"
Emma Edmonds went furthest in upending gender roles, disguising herself as "Frank Thompson" to enlist in the Union army. How do you think Emma (and the other approximate 400 women who enlisted as men) pulled off this spectacular feat? What were some of the daily challenges they endured in living as imposter men among real ones?
Discuss each character's relationship with the men--both familiar and strange--in their lives. How did the women use men to their advantage? Were the women ever used themselves?
Rose's daughter, Little Rose, is a crucial part of her espionage work. Do you think Rose was justified in using her daughter in her missions? What would you have done in her place?
Which spy did you relate to the most, and why? What motivated each of the women? If you had lived during the Civil War, would you have dared to behave as these women did?
Let us know what you think of Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy.
Welcome to the KPL Book Club Blogspot
Welcome to the internet home of the Kilbourn Public Library (KPL) Book Club. The KPL Book Club meets at the library once a month. A book is chosen for each month and then members of the book club meet the last Monday and Wednesday of every month for lively discussion and treats. While we can’t offer you treats via the internet, this KPL Reads blog was designed for those of you who would like to participate in the book club but don’t have time to join us at meetings. Each month KPL staff will post discussion topics and questions to get you “talking”. Join in the discussion by adding a post to the blog. Click on the word comments below the post you want to "talk" about and write your comment. Be sure to check back often to see feedback and comments.