It seems as though 2015 has been the year of “Let’s read and watch everything about the Revolutionary War.” From TURN on AMC (they changed the night it’s on, so sadly it doesn’t work to recap it on the blog) to books, to documentaries, seriously Internet, I feel like George and I are b/f/fs. This was a perfect read to feed my current obsession.
Everyone knows Benedict Arnold—the Revolutionary War general who betrayed America and fled to the British—as history’s most notorious turncoat. Many know Arnold’s co-conspirator, Major John André, who was apprehended with Arnold’s documents in his boots and hanged at the orders of General George Washington. But few know of the integral third character in the plot: a charming young woman who not only contributed to the betrayal but orchestrated it.
Socialite Peggy Shippen is half Benedict Arnold’s age when she seduces the war hero during his stint as military commander of Philadelphia. Blinded by his young bride’s beauty and wit, Arnold does not realize that she harbors a secret: loyalty to the British. Nor does he know that she hides a past romance with the handsome British spy John André. Peggy watches as her husband, crippled from battle wounds and in debt from years of service to the colonies, grows ever more disillusioned with his hero, Washington, and the American cause. Together with her former love and her disaffected husband, Peggy hatches the plot to deliver West Point to the British and, in exchange, win fame and fortune for herself and Arnold.
Told from the perspective of Peggy’s maid, whose faith in the new nation inspires her to intervene in her mistress’s affairs even when it could cost her everything, The Traitor’s Wife brings these infamous figures to life, illuminating the sordid details and the love triangle that nearly destroyed the American fight for freedom.
Peggy Shippen is awful in her treatment of other human beings. Spoiled, manipulative and caring only for herself, she’s one of those characters you truly want to slap. My book club had a fabulous discussion about her and I think it’s an accurate portrayal. People can really be that bad. I also believe there was more to Arnold becoming a turncoat and I wish more of that would have been in the book, but since this was a story about Peggy, I understand why the focus was on her role.
I thought Clara was an honest character as well. While it’s easy for me to think I would have gone all “guns a blazin” if I were her, I’m sitting in my comfy chair in 2015. Her struggle of what to do, in the place of a servant in a crazy time of change in our nation’s history would have been difficult, no doubt. I appreciated the struggle. Oh and I’m a fan of Cal. He’s an excellent character as well!
I’ve really enjoyed both her books (The Accidental Empress is her sophomore novel) and once again Pataki brings to life another woman who greatly impacted history.
Have you heard of Benedict Arnold and the infamous Peggy Shippen before? Do you watch TURN?