Title: The Traitor’s Wife
Author: Susan Higginbotham
Release Date: April 1, 2009
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
From the publisher’s website:
Eleanor de Clare, favorite niece of King Edward II, is delighted with her marriage to Hugh le Despenser. It soon becomes apparent, however, that Eleanor’s beloved uncle is not the king the nobles of the land – or his queen – expected. Hugh’s unbridled ambition and his intimate relationship with Edward arouse widespread resentment, even as Eleanor remains fiercely loyal to her husband and to her king. But loyalty has its price.
The Traitor’s Wife is a tome that chronicles the reign of Edward II, who reigned in England from 1307 – 1327. It is told from the point of view of Eleanor de Clare, a young woman with strong ties to the royal family. The book spans many years and is intricately woven; there are many characters and storylines weaving their way through this well-written novel.
The most striking thing about The Traitor’s Wife is the sheer amount of research that went into writing the book. Higginbotham must have spent years reading about medieval England, figuring out how to craft a novel that would exude the atmosphere necessary for a story such as this. The cast of characters is so expansive that there is a multi-page list of characters and descriptions at the beginning of the novel. It is a very handy guide that I found myself referring to more than once. I was simply astounded at how well this book is written, in terms of the history involved. Higginbotham makes medieval England come alive in The Traitor’s Wife.
The characters are also very well written, yet each is flawed. I liked Eleanor, but was sometimes frustrated with her blindness. Edward II was easy to love, yet he wasn’t a good king and let his personal feelings interfere with the way he ruled. Hugh was likeable, yet grew increasingly ambitious as the novel progressed. Higginbotham managed to create three-dimensional and well-rounded characters that are completely believable. They are by no means perfect; instead, they are like real people.
The Traitor’s Wife is long, and is slow going at times. I can understand why Higginbotham chose to end the novel where she did, yet sometimes I felt like she could have ended it much earlier and it would still have had the same effect. As a result, it is best read slowly. Due to the complexity of the plot, it is not a book someone can rush through or expect to finish quickly. This is a book to savor and to read leisurely.
As I’ve said before, I was very impressed with The Traitor’s Wife. It is by no means perfect; there were plot twists I didn’t like and relationships I wasn’t fond of. But it was real – with the amount of detail, I could believe that this novel was non-fiction. It is a must for any historical fiction fan, especially those who are a fan of British history. I highly recommend it!