Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Review: "The Traitor's Wife" by Alison Pataki

Hello dear readers! I'm back with a new review, but not without some hesitation. I'm going to post the bulk of what appeared in the Historical Novel Review and then follow up with some comments at the end.
Beautiful. Tempestuous. Cunning. Peggy Shippen is all these things. As the reigning belle of Philadelphia society during the British occupation of 1778, she is admired by men and envied by women. First the lover of the notorious British spy John Andre, and then the wife of celebrated American general-turned-traitor Benedict Arnold, Peggy and her story are brought to life through the eyes of her loyal maid, Clara Bell.
The Traitor’s Wife is a refreshing departure from the typical royal-themed historicals pervading the market today. The upheaval caused by the American Revolution makes for fascinating reading, and yet Peggy Shippen has been little written about. Perhaps it is because she is not a sympathetic character, and this novel does nothing to disprove that notion. Nonetheless, Peggy’s magnetic ability to obtain her desires is vividly brought to life; the reader can almost imagine her melting gaze in the midst of her full-fledged assault on the brash, yet unassuming Benedict Arnold.
Unfortunately, this novel has some drawbacks. The story’s narrator, Clara Bell, has little depth. While generally loyal to Peggy, she floats along without much purpose beyond bemoaning her living conditions with the Arnolds and pining after Caleb Little, the Shippen family stable hand. Even when given a chance to make a difference, she agonizes over what to do. Additionally, there are numerous mistakes in the details of the period. Descriptions of clothing and customs are misrepresented throughout the novel.
However, it is clear that the author has a passion for the story of Peggy Shippen; she accomplishes the re-telling of the historical narrative very well. General historic fiction readers will enjoy the quick plotting and originality of the The Traitor’s Wife, but historical fiction purists may want to pass.
OK, so I was really looking forward to reading this novel. As I have mentioned before, I am a Revolutionary War re-enactor. I've also a American Civil War re-enactor as well. I've loved both periods since I was a child, and have read a ton of books on the subject(s). I'm also very interested in social history and women's roles in history. Let's just say that I know more than the average historical fiction reader at least when it comes to these two subjects.
The Traitor's Wife is a good book essentially. It is certainly no mean feat to write a novel featuring one of history's most notorious women. But I'm one of those historical fiction purists mentioned in my review. I have little patience for mistakes in details and they were numerous in this novel, which made it difficult to read for me. However, if you are one of those who can overlook such things, you should definitely pick up a copy, especially if American history is of interest to you.

No comments:

Post a Comment