Saturday, March 7, 2015

The Traitor's Wife, Alison Pataki

Holy WOW! What a debut novel! Some of the most riveting Historical Fiction I've read. I am DEFINITELY going to seek out more Allison Pataki books in the future-especially as she's chosen Historical Fiction as her genre of choice.

The other thing I found absolutely FASCINATING is that this is the SECOND Historical Fiction piece I've read about the exact same historical event. The first being "Sophia's War" by Avi. The first historical fiction book I read with my older daughter to introduce her.

What was intriguing about juxtaposing both of these is that it was the maid who made privy the information that a betrayal was going on. Sophia, if I remember correctly, from the New York front, as she was recruited to be a spy posing as a maid to John Andre, and in this one, Clara, the ladies maid to Miss. Peggy Shippen Arnold. What is striking is that in both accounts, the fatal flaw was that they assumed their help to be of such a simple mind that they couldn't possibly understand what was going on; either that or they overestimated the loyalty such a person of help could have. The upper class was so high as to believe that out of their magnanimity, they provide their servants with food, shelter and employment, and in return they brazenly expect loyalty. Or at the very least, they expect their hired help to agree with their political sentiments. But in both cases, the hired help were greatly underestimated. Sophia by her agreement to be a spy and Clara by her free will as a person who wants freedom-and who is, in fact, a very smart person with morals and integrity.

So this story, is, as you may have surmised, told by Clara, Peggy's maid from the time she was 18 years old. She is at the height of Philadelphia society and the most sought after beauty. A loyalist through and through, youngest child of Judge Shippen who also has him wrapped around her little finger. She's used to getting what she wants, and sources after her death strongly suggest that it was she who orchestrated the treachery that was to be handing over West Point and even perhaps General Washington's life. Of course, nothing is simple and Benedict Arnold was certainly wronged on many accounts and appears that he was kind of a difficult personality to deal with as well. I absolutely loved reading the section at the end that talked about what was fact and what was fiction. I TOTALLY want to read some of the non-fiction books she read as preparation for writing this novel! This is truly only of those salacious stories that are so crazy it probably all reads more like fiction than reality.

And if you aren't familiar with the story of the Revolutionary War enough to know about Benedict Arnold and his betrayal-you should get yourself familiar with it! Kudos to the real people in history who uncovered this plot. Otherwise, it is quite likely that we never would have had a United States of America.

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