Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The Traitor's Wife by Allison Pataki

This is the kind of historical fiction I really like. I learned about Benedict Arnold in grade school. He was the turncoat who aided the British during the Revolutionary War. But I never knew he did not act alone and that his wife was the one who orchestrated the espionage.

Pataki has done a great job in creating the character of Margaret “Peggy” Shippen Arnold. She comes to life as a crafty and scheming woman, doing almost anything to catch the eye of the man she was after. When Philadelphia was in the hands of the British, it was the dashing Major Andre. When Andre fled as the colonialists retook control of the city, she set her sights on General Arnold.

We read of the activities of 1777 to 1780 through the eyes of Peggy's maid, a fictional young woman, although there was such a maid. Writing from this perspective provided a great contrast between a poor maid loyal to the colonial cause and a young socialite who wanted to be the center of attraction in the kind of society the British provided. I admired the genuine character of the maid while Peggy was one I loved to hate. And I felt sorry for General Arnold, in a way, as he was mistreated and manipulated many times.

Much of the novel is based on historical fact with dialog and other details imagined to enliven what is known for certain. After reading the historical note at the end, I was amazed and very pleased to realize that what I had read was based on a great deal of actual history.

This is a fascinating account of the woman behind Benedict Arnold, the woman who initiated the written correspondence between Major Andre and General Arnold. A woman who managed to hide her involvement in her husband's treason until after her death. It is amazing to think that one woman came so close to changing the course of the Revolutionary War.

I highly recommend this historical fiction. It is well written, entertaining, and you'll learn some history too!

Allison Pataki graduated from Yale University and spent several years writing for TV and online news outlets. She was inspired to write this novel based on the Revolutionary War history of her hometown in New York. The Traitor's Wife in her first novel. She and her husband live in Chicago. You can find out more about her and the book at http://allisonpataki.com/.

Howard Books (a division of Simon & Schuster), 482 pages.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher for the purpose of this review. The views expressed are my own.
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