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Review: Spying on the South: Travels with Frederick Law Olmsted in a Fractured Land

Spying on the South: Travels with Frederick Law Olmsted in a Fractured Land Spying on the South: Travels with Frederick Law Olmsted in a Fractured Land by Tony Horwitz
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

To say that two of the most politically divisive eras in the US occurred prior to the Presidential elections of 1860 and 2016. In each of these timeframes, the country was more or less divided (North versus South and Red versus Blue, respectively) and thought the other half was wrong.

It is this notion that drives the compelling narrative in this book. Horwitz follows the path Fred Olmstead took in the 1850s, and describes his encounters with others below the Mason Dixon line and across the political fence. His experiences are interwove with what Olmstead shared in his writings, and often shows how history truly does repeat itself.

I enjoyed the parts dealing with Hortwitz better than Olmstead, but this is to be expected since Hortwitz could provide more details than can be gleaned from centuries old writings. He meets a very colorful cast of characters and helps to understand the differences and common threads among all Americans.

A splash of historical textbook, part historical narrative nonfiction, and largely a memoir of one man's present day journey into the South, this provides an enjoyable read. It has a slow start, but I found myself more into it after getting past the first third of the book.

I recommend this book to fans of the Civil War era or people who just want an enjoyable nonfiction memoir about a man's observations of a different life.

Thank you to the publishers of this book for furnishing me with a copy to read and review. All opinions are my own.

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