Review: The Traitor's Wife
While much is known about Hugh le Despenser and his role in the downfall of King Edward II, history tends to overlook the woman behind the man. Susan Higginbotham takes this on in her novel of Eleanor le Despenser, The Traitor's Wife.
We meet Eleanor prior to her being married to Hugh, as a repayment of a debt owed by her father. Her uncle has just become King Edward II and Piers Gaveston is the "favorite" at this time, and he is returning from exile. Rumors of the nature of their true relationship run amouk through the court.
Eleanor, who is totally in love with Hugh, and completely blind to his flaws seems to be wearing rose-colored glasses as she flitters through her luxurious life, having baby after baby. And who can blame her really? What woman in love doesn't think her husband's perfect? But, while this naivete bothered me a little, her strength in character certainly made up for it. This poor woman went through a lot! After her sister's husband, Piers Gaveston, is slain Hugh becomes the new "favorite" and quickly rises to the height of power and wealth. And with that brings resentment from other powerful lords in the realm, especially when Hugh begins seizing lands left and right. Also, those pesky rumors of homosexuality between Hugh and Edward become all the talk.
Well, as most of you know, this is the beginning of the end for poor Eleanor and Hugh and here is where Eleanor's strength comes into play. What follows is nothing short of harrowing - the Queen Isabella and her lover, Roger Mortimor have taken over the throne, King Edward II is imprisoned, her husband is executed, her girls are forced into a nunnery and she herself is imprisoned and taunted daily with details of Hugh's horrific death. As a testament to her resiliency, Eleanor does marry again and have more children before her death.
Ever since my passion for historical fiction began, I've been wanting to read this book, but it was too hard to come by. So, I've been waiting for this novel for about 4 years now and the wait was SO worth it! The Traitor's Wife is an un-put-downable, bring with you everywhere, brilliant historical fiction novel and will most likely be in my top 5 reads of 2009 list. King Edward, Piers and Hugh were very likable, regardless of their faults and I am very glad to have read their story. I really enjoyed getting to know the private Hugh, the husband, lover and father Hugh.
You must go out and get this book immediately!!!
What are you waiting for?
Click here to read my interview with Susan Higginbotham.