10 hours ago
Sunday, August 9, 2009
Belated book review
I've been meaning to post a review on this for more than a week.
*This* is The Traitor's Wife, a book by Susan Higginbotham. I finished it in only a few days and really, REALLY enjoyed it.
It is set in a time period about which I hadn't done a lot of reading- early 14th century England. Most of the story takes place during the reign of Edward II and the characters in the book- virtually all real people- are related to the royal family and closely involved in their lives.
It is the story of Eleanor de Clare, granddaughter and niece of the first two King Edwards. She is married at a very young age to Hugh le Despenser, and becomes a Lady-in-Waiting to Edward II's queen. Her relationships to the royal couple and her husband's ambitions combine to make a fascinating, and true, story.
I enjoyed it for a number of reasons. It is very well written- the characters and the story engaged me right from the beginning. I wanted to keep reading and find out what happened to these people.
There is an attention to the details of the time- clothes, furnishings and such- but without the painful particulars that sometimes distract in books set this far back in history. (I know about the differences in laundry, cooking, sanitation, etc at that time compared to our time- I don't need the specifics of how these things are handled, and especially not repeatedly as that can become intrusive to the flow of the story for me.)
The characters are fully developed; you see their good and bad, and they feel real. The history is obviously painstakingly researched and readily understandable. The culture of the time- the effects of religion and politics, the realities of health, life and death, the ideas of what is right and wrong- is presented well and in context.
Many, MANY years ago my beloved English teacher, Sr. Joanna Regan, taught me that a good historical novel should be well written and enjoyable, and also teach because it (most of it, at least) just happens to have happened. The Traitor's Wife meets Sister's criteria- a really good read and I learned some history in the process.
There is a follow-up book, Hugh and Bess, that continues the story in the next generation. I have it on my must-read list; I really want to find out what happens next. And, isn't that often the description of a good book?
The Traitor's Wife I definitely highly recommend!