Tuesday, April 14, 2009
Review: The Traitor's Wife, by Susan Higginbotham
Description from Amazon:
In fourteenth-century England, young Eleanor de Clare, favorite niece of King Edward II, is delighted with her marriage to Hugh le Despenser and her appointment to Queen Isabella’s household as a lady-in-waiting. 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…
Moving from royal palaces to prison cells, from the battlefield to the bedroom, between hope and despair, treachery and fidelity, hatred and abiding love, The Traitor’s Wife is a tale of an extraordinary woman living in extraordinary times.
A noblewoman pays the price for her loyalty to an unpopular king and her unfaithful husband...conveys emotions and relationships quite poignantly...ultimately, entertaining historical fiction.
I really wanted to like The Traitor’s Wife. It promised to have all the things I look for in a good historical novel—a tight plot, good writing, and historical accuracy. Unfortunately, I was disappointed.
First, I found it really difficult to identify with the main character, Eleanor. I understand the idea of the “innocent abroad,” but I found it really hard to believe that anyone could be as ignorant as Eleanor was in this novel of what was going on with her husband. Instead, I felt as though she came off as rather dumb.
In addition, I found it hard to identify with any of the characters, all of whom seemed like cardboard cut-outs instead of flesh-and-blood people. I really failed to see why Eleanor was so attracted to her husband Hugh, or why she fell in love with him from the very first moment she met him. The hallmark of a good novel for me is creating believable characters. I understand Higginbotham's reason for wanting to show the Despensers in a sympathetic light, but ultimately, I'm not a believer.
The author also seems very fond of the “tell, don’t show” method of writing. Things happen, but the author never illustrates them, instead having one of her characters mention what happened in a passing comment. There’s very little tension and no romance. I’m not sure about the historical accuracy of the book, but I felt that the characters seemed a bit too modern in their speech sometimes. And the entire novel is written in a sophomoric style of wring; I know of middle schoolers who can write better than Higginbotham. In short, this is sadly not a book I’d recommend. The new cover is lovely, though.
Also reviewed by: S. Krishna Books, Passages to the Past, The Tome Traveller's Weblog, The Bookworm, Medieval Bookworm, Peeking Between the Pages, Savvy Verse and Wit, Becky's Book Reviews, Devourer of Books