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Customer Review

33 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fine and moving historical novel., 2 Aug. 2012
This review is from: The Spy Lover (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I initially overlooked this book as its title suggested some soppy romance; even after reading the book description, I wasn't sure it wouldn't be some crinoline rustler - but no, this is an excellent, moving and thoroughly well-researched novel.

The triple-stranded story tells of Johnny Tom, a Chinese man who eventually finds himself fighting in the Union Army against the Confederate South, hoping to gain citizenship and be re-united with his wife and daughter. Meanwhile his daughter, Era Tom, has become a nurse, using the neutrality of her position to spy for the Union. She did not, however, expect to fall in love with one of her Confederate patients...

Davenport presents a wonderfully sweeping account of her character's lives and experiences; Johnny's escape from the hardships of China only to encounter the brutal racial prejudices and cruelties of slavery in America; the glittering and horrific spectacles of the Civil War and the torturous psychological dilemmas Era faces in spying for one side but living and sharing the hardships of the other.
The author`s prose is at times lyrical and beautifully descriptive; her grasp of the historical setting impressive; she clearly and accurately relates the facts of the military engagements her characters are party and witness to; even relatively minor details in the grand order of these massive historical events - like the fate of the hundreds of thousands of wartime photographic plates; the South's clandestine poppy fields used for opium production, the care required for the overwhelming numbers of disabled after the war - all are factually-based elements woven into her narrative.
Davenport subtly lays bare the global nature of intolerance and slavery, from China and Eastern Europe to the "freedom" of the new United States of America and the need for minorities to trust one another as they slowly begin the process of becoming part of it; perhaps it is the third character, Warren Petticomb, the battle-damaged young cavalryman who falls for Era, and his difficult odyssey through the war and the country's peacetime reconstruction who delivers the author`s message of hope, acceptance and faith in humanity - you will have to read the book to find that out for yourself.

This is a book that pulls no punches; it is visceral in the descriptions of battle and the evils that mankind is capable of; at its heart there is both a love story and a moving tale of the resilience of the human spirit.
I can only recommend such a fine and emotionally powerful novel with a five star rating.
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Showing 1-4 of 4 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 15 Aug 2012 03:14:06 BDT
ISBN-10:1612183417 ISBN-13:978-1612183411. Dear J. McDonald, thank you for your splendidly perceptive review of my novel, THE SPY LOVER. The book is based on my ancestors, a Confederate, and a Chinese, who fought on opposing sides of the American Civil War. It was a huge undertaking over the course of five laborious years. You seemed to understand every gesture, every nuance I was striving for in depicting this horrendous war and its victims. I thank you again, and wish I knew how to transfer your review to my Amazon book-page here in the U.S. Its not just an excellent review, it's an education, and would be a service to readers. If you know how to do this, may I ask for your assistance? Meanwhile, my sincere alohas from Hawaii. Kiana Davenport

In reply to an earlier post on 15 Aug 2012 13:44:41 BDT
J. Mcdonald says:
Hi Kiana,
I`m so pleased you were happy with my review; I was greatly moved by your book, and wish you every success with it!
I tried to post the review on the, but because the book hasn`t been published yet, posting rights are currently only available to U.S. Vine members; as I`m on the U.K. Vine programme I can only review it here. Once the book has been released, I should be able to post it across.
Kind regards, Jeff Mcdonald.

Posted on 22 Sep 2013 13:00:52 BDT
Corona says:
What a beautifully written review. I sincerely hope that the book's prose is as good as yours because you 'talked' me into buying it :-)

In reply to an earlier post on 22 Sep 2013 20:32:50 BDT
J. Mcdonald says:
Hi Corona,
Thank you for your kind remarks; I really hope you enjoy the book as much as I did!
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Review Details



J. Mcdonald

Location: Glasgow, UK

Top Reviewer Ranking: 141