Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Traitor's Wife

Higginbotham, Susan. 2009. The Traitor's Wife. Sourcebooks. 500 pages.

The good, the bad, the ugly. The Traitor's Wife did hold my interest. I was expecting--in a way--to find it a bit dry and, well, boring. But that is far from the case. I also assumed it would be a tricky book, one that would be so complex that I couldn't keep the characters straight. I didn't find that true either. It was way more accessible than I assumed it would be.

The Traitor's Wife is set during a time period that I am largely unfamiliar with: the reign of several Edwards. (Edward I, Edward II, and Edward III) The novel ranges several decades: 1306 to 1337. These were very turbulent years. And reading about the politics of the day only reaffirmed my belief that I'd never, ever, ever want to have lived back then. I suppose the better way to phrase it would be that I can't understand this thirst for power that would prompt people to WANT to raise themselves up and gamble their lives by interacting with the royal court and politicians.

Our heroine, Eleanor, doesn't have much choice being born into the royal family. Her grandfather is Edward I, king, and her uncle is Edward II. (Of course, she's also related to Edward II's son, Edward III.) She is the wife of Hugh le Despenser. Hugh, when we first meet him, seems a little distant from politics. It seems that the royal court is far removed from his concerns. His wife, Eleanor, is a lady in Queen Isabella's court. He seems more annoyed that his wife can't be a full-time wife and mother than pleased that she is a favorite of the current king and queen. But this doesn't last. Sadly.

Because Hugh becomes power-hungry. He becomes obsessed with getting what he wants. Having the best land, the most land. Accumulating wealth. Bossing others around. How does he get this power? He becomes the king's bedfellow. Being intimate with the king seems to give Hugh everything he ever wanted out of life. But this choice leads to several problems. For one, his gimme gimme attitude makes everyone at court (excepting the king and his wife) hate him. He has enemies. And every week, he gets more and more and more. Soon almost everyone hates him and begins demanding his exile and/or death.

Eleanor is no saint. She isn't a heroine that I entirely sympathized with. None of the characters were really. But while I may not have *loved* the characters, I was always ever fascinated by their choices. (Though almost always I disagreed with them.) It was interesting to see what choices people had, what choices women had especially. (Which, as you might have guessed, was almost nil.)

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews
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Kailana said...

I really need to get around to reading this book!

JessicaLeigh said...

This looks like a fascinating book. I'm not educated on that era, either, but I think the premise is interesting.

Thanks for your review!

Zibilee said...

I think this one sounds like just my cup of tea. I love historical fiction and think that based on the handful of reviews I have read that I would enjoy this book.

Anna said...

Glad to hear you liked this one, too. I thought it was going to be a difficult read, but once I started, I couldn't put it down.

Diary of an Eccentric