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The Spy Lover Paperback – August 28, 2012
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Starred Review-In her blog post from April 11, 2012, Davenport asserts, “You have to write from the heart. You have to have one big, true thing you are dying to tell the world.” In her newest novel, that one big, true thing concerns the lives of men and women during the Civil War, real people who followed their own moral beliefs. The depth of the author’s affection for her characters shines through as they pick their way amid the horrors of war and the conflicting loyalties of social, political, and personal responsibility. Remiscent of Dara Horn’s All Other Night (2009) and Dave Eggers’ What Is the What(2006), Johnny Tom, a Chinese immigrant in Mississippi, is kidnapped and forced to fight for the Confederacy, then escapes to fight for the Union. His daughter, Era, a nurse, is a Northern spy saving Southern soldiers. Her unwitting lover, Warren Petticomb, wounded at Shiloh, holds Era’s heart. Giving resonance and impact to this story are the compelling characters who tap readers’ emotions; the stark realities of battle; and the heroic men and women on both sides who persevered despite horrific conditions. Davenport, author of House of Many Gods (2006), writes from the heart, and yours will be moved. —Jen Baker
"...A great story told with such beautiful prose I am hoping The Spy Lover will be picked up by Ang Lee or Steven Spielberg. Kiana Davenport is a brilliant writer. [Based] on her ancestors from the American South and global East, The Spy Lover takes the incredibly difficult...topics of race, gender, slavery and war and artfully weaves them into a specific story. Davenport is genius at capturing complex times, and complications of the heart. It's been a long time since I cried while reading a novel, and that happened several times while reading The Spy Lover...I couldn't wait to finish the story, but grieved when it ended. That's exactly how I felt when I finished reading Gone With The Wind so many years go. If you need a holiday escape...or want to spend time in a different world read... The Spy Lover!" - Ellen Snortland for The Huffington Post
"A beautifully written tale...filled with the horrors of war...and the anguish of loss...as we follow the characters on their journeys to find peace and redemption. The prose is magnificent. You will come away fulfilled. If you read one Civil War novel this year, make this the one." - Joseph A. Truglio, from Civil War News
"Beautiful writing...a page turner one could not lay down. The novel emanates from Davenport's own family history, ancestors who fought in the War...as she tells the story of a woman and her lover, the conflict between love, conscience and determination...I have no hesitation in recommending 'The Spy Lover' to anyone who enjoys stories of the Civil War as well as of genuine conflicts, love and dedication...It will go into a special niche of historical fiction and ...likely become a classic like 'Cold Mountain.' " - Martha Boltz of The Washington Times
"A powerful love story and serious historical tribute to the many under-recognized minority soldiers... Kiana Davenport is simply ingenious in the way she writes and tells her story based on two ancestors who fought on opposite sides of the War. A piercing, glorious and unsettling novel you are unlikely to ever forget. I recommend The Spy Lover as one of the best war stories I have ever encountered." -- Melanie Smith, Book Reporter
"...Memorable [in] her depiction of the lives of women during the [Civil] War, as well as those of mixed race...Like the best historical fiction the book's deep research is felt in every line and authenticates every character. The Spy Lover easily joins, and even surpasses Cold Mountain." - Don Wallace, HONOLULU WEEKLY
"A page turner, like Davenport's other fiction, The Spy Lover is full of suspense, yet it also plunges deep. With compassion toward all her characters, whether they fight for the North or the South, Davenport dramatizes the agony of divided loyalties and the brutalities of war...High drama, high tension, high romance." - Alix Kates Shulman, Bestselling author of Memoirs of an Ex-Prom Queen, and Menage
“This author does a fantastic job presenting the scenery, pain, and depth of the Civil War and how it truly split loved ones apart. Sometimes in horrific detail, especially the battle of Gettysburg, this author makes it feel as if the reader is actually on that field experiencing every death. Having these characters based on the very real souls of the author’s own ancestors who came to America during the 1800s, made the story even more compelling, and is highly recommended.”- Amy Lignor, author of Tallent & Lowery - 13 for Suspense Magazine "
"(In) The Spy Lover, (Davenport) pulls from her Alabama-born father’s family history to tell a gripping Civil War story about three complicated, suffering people—a nurse who’s spying for the Union behind enemy lines, a Chinese immigrant who escapes his conscription into the Confederacy to fight for the Union instead, and a wounded Confederate cavalryman. Davenport doesn’t buffer the brutality of war, presenting a stark portrayal of its horrors and the damage it can inflict on body and soul in her well-researched tale." —Bookpage
“Davenport delivers a surprisingly heartwarming ending, which will please readers. Civil War buffs will also appreciate and be impressed by the author’s intricate depiction of the conflict.” —Bookloons.com
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This particular novel takes place during and right after the American Civil War, weaving around people on both sides and none. With a deft strokes, she brings alive and to the forefront those people who should have been on the sidelines - Chinese immigrants, Native tribespeople, European observers caught in the melee. She lingers until we understand their lives. People cross lines we have been taught are sacrosanct - but Davenport shows that such lines are lies, that human needs prevail over cultural ones. She takes us into new areas of action - not just the field hospitals, but the Southern women who raised opium poppies, the Chinese immigrants who were conscripted willy-nilly, kidnapped tribal people used in the South and West to breed slaves, a European photographer who worked both sides. The most unique and wonderful character is Johnny Tom, a Chinese angel of wit and mercy. Nearly as compelling is his daughter, Era Tom, a nurse at the front, both North and South. The man and his daughter and their participation in this American war is the stuff of Tolstoy, Dickens, Melville, in a manner worthy of those past greats who wrote in a time, not of "genre" novels, but free to broadly portray the richest human fabric, without "PR" folks tugging for a label through which to "sell." The wounded Confederate cavalry officer who becomes Era's lover is disturbingly real, but less interesting at least to me than are the others. He is probably the "lover" of the title, while Era is the "spy." Or not. The title is the book's only flaw, because while there are all manners of love in it, it is not a love story. Thank the gods, though, for the presence of those loves, because the Civil War was mostly blood and horror and despair. I think I might have called this book "The Nurse," because no one would have survived this conflagration except for other people, even just a few, who dared to be kind, to work to save lives, to value the concept of "heart." A better title still might have been: "The Spirit of Johnny Tom," because indeed his spirit, his life, and his fate wash through and across the whole canvas of this wonderful story, affecting everyone in it. This is a grand tale for long winter nights and for rereading, for joy and for agony, and, finally, for the relief that, however bent and bloodied, the last human gift, hope, is never really lost.
While the story is similar to "Cold Mountain" through time and backdrop, I never felt comfortable reading "Cold Mountain" as I did reading the "Spy Lover."
Davenport's prose draws you in, weaving a magic that somehow transports you into the soul of the characters, each presented separately throughout and back and f forth as the war, and each character's contribution to it's outcome progresses.
For some readers, the carnage of war will be disturbing. Davenport does not hide behind euphemisms. The reader is dragged through the blood, guts, gore and mud alongside the characters. But the reader who turns away from this honesty will lose the message of human survival demonstrated by these magnificently drawn characters.
There was a balance of sweet and tragic combined with a lot of real history that made the characters all the more real.
If you're looking for a typical romance, this might not be the best book. There are realistic depictions of injuries and the sickness the plagued both armies during the war and a good deal of politics.
Strictly about the book on tape, Todd Haberkorn did a wonderful job when telling this story. The characters had identifiable voices and he even did an alarmingly perfect job with the female cast in the novel. He did the story justice.
for the opposing side, and last a soldier who has lost his arm in battle and is being nursed back to health
by our main character. These 3 characters stayed with me for days after I finished the book. Hard to read
through some of the battle scenes, because they were were just so realistic and that the love of these three
people keeps them pushing on through hell, in hopes of one day being reunited with their loved ones. If you
have never read any of Kiana Davenports books I think this just became my favorite, although she has many
many great books.