Wednesday, July 2, 2014

George Washington's Secret Six: The Spy Ring That Saved the American Revolution by Brian Kilmeade with Don Yaeger | Book Review

I just love reading nonfiction books on George Washington.  I've read well over a dozen and I'm not bored yet.  If I remember correctly, I added this to my own tbr list and within days my sister emailed me to say that I should add this to my tbr list.  She knows me well.  :)  

George Washington's Secret Six didn't actually focus much at all on the man himself and instead concentrated nearly entirely on the spy ring members.  I focused on Revolutionary American History in college and I hadn't heard of the Culper ring before; I was very excited to learn more.  The hubby and I had been watching the TV show White Collar and one of the episodes has Mossy obsessing over this spy ring, then this book came to my attention.  And I must say, this is one of the most accessible adult nonfiction history books I've read!  Accessible meaning: relatively short, to the point, and with excellent prose.

That being said, I want to go ahead and address all the negative reviews on Goodreads.  I feel like most of the people writing these reviews would maybe be happier reading one of the suggested further reading books listed by the authors at the end of the book.  The authors did a ton of research and then boiled it down to make it accessible to the general public.  Not everyone always wants to tackle a 400+ page dense history book that mentions every single known fact about the subject.  In other words, I feel like this poor book may be just a little misjudged.  I thought it was fantastic, and have already passed the recommendation back to my sister, telling her that it was full of neat information about a little-known spy ring without getting bogged down in too much background or detail.

During the Revolutionary War, the British managed to take Long Island.  A lot of people feared that this could cost the colonists the war.  Most of the Loyalists hoped it would cost the revolutionaries the war!  New York became a safe place for Loyalists and a dangerous place for colonists.  Like, there were British soldiers stationed searching cargo boats going back and forth!  And British soldiers were commandeering supplies and foodstuffs, raping women, and demanding quarter in private homes.  They were really not cool.  Five men and one woman were enlisted by George Washington to act as spies.  They were to keep an ear to the ground and gather information that could help the colonial army re-take New York.  All of the agents were issued invisible ink and elaborate chains of communication were set up so that no one was discovered.  One agent, the female known as Agent 355, is still unknown today.  That's how good the Culper ring were at covering their tracks!  

Yes, the authors took a little liberty in re-imagining conversations between members of the spy ring.  But they did so after lots and lots and lots of reading and research.  I feel like they kept true to the original feelings of the spies, and I feel like adding some conversation into the book only improved the comprehension.  

I highly recommend this book to anyone and everyone.  You do not need to have a deep understanding of the Revolutionary War era in order to learn a lot of neat history from this book.  The prose is excellent and never feels bogged down.  It's also a pretty short book for being adult history nonfiction.

*I received my copy from my public library.

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