Saturday, February 12, 2011
The Traitor's Wife by Susan Higginbotham
This is definitely one of my top ten historical fiction picks. I had never read a book that really gave you the dirty, DETAILED details of what was going on with Edward II of England. Yeah, I read Braveheart, and it hinted at the debauchery that was going on with Edward II and Piers Gaveston and Hugh Despenser, and there have been other books that mentioned that he was a homosexual, but this book really went into it! I think that's why I liked it so much. It didn't beat around the bush, or hint at certain activities, it went straight to the nitty gritty! Susan goes into detail on the homosexual relations between Edward II and Piers, and she also goes into detail about Edward II's relationship with Eleanor Despenser (Hugh's wife) as well as his relationship with her husband Hugh! There was somewhat of a crazy love triangle going on at one point in the novel! Edward II definitely gets around in this book!
The novel starts out with Hugh and Eleanor getting married, and having a bunch of babies. Edward II is portrayed in the novel as historians portrayed him in life, which was as a weak King who gave too much to his favorites, and made poor decisions for his country. The people hated him as King, and in return they also hated his favorites; and the fact that he bestowed so many gifts upon him. Susan tried to make Hugh seem like he was a decent guy, but it was a pretty impossible task, because Hugh Despenser was pretty much a villain while alive. His only redeeming quality in the novel is that he is shown as a good father and loving husband, well besides the fact that he was sleeping with the King behind his wife's back!
The book was pretty action packed, and it was hard to put down with the drama as well as the sexual misdeeds going on! After Edward II's affair with Piers ended (because Piers was exiled a couple of times and eventually ended up dead) Hugh and Edward started up their little affair. Of course none of this is proven, but it is believed that there was a sexual relationship going on between the King and Hugh, and historians seem to generally agree. In Susan's version, Hugh's wife Eleanor was unaware of what was really going on for the majority of the relationship, but who knows if she knew more than was let on in reality.
Towards the end of the book things come to a head. Isabel and Mortimer gather troops and rise up against the King to depose him. The people hate him, so they side with Isabel and her lover Mortimer (Isabel is Edward II's Queen, obviously not faithful), and the Queen and the people decide that they want to put his son Edward III on the throne and get rid of Ed the Second.
Hugh and Edward II make a desperate attempt to escape the country but end up getting captured and imprisoned. Hugh ends up dying a traitor's death with his guts being pulled out and all that nice stuff, and Edward abdicates the thrown in favor of his son Edward III in order to please the people. Edward II ends up dying mysteriously while under the care of some of Mortimer's men. Susan suggests that he was murdered by having a red hot fire poker shoved up through his ass into his innards (graphic, yes), but I don't think that anything about that was written down in a history book!
Overall, the book was great. I knew very little about Edward II before I read this novel. After reading "The Traitor's Wife" I felt like I had learned a great deal about that time period. Not only was I learning, but I was also being drawn in to all the crazy drama that was going on during that time, and in the character's lives. Since I wasn't very familiar with the time period of Edward II, there were some names of places and people that I had to look up, but other than that it was a good read that I thoroughly enjoyed. It was the first book I had read by Susan Higginbotham, and I am hooked! I've ordered and read all of her available books, and i like them all. She's an awesome author, who obviously knows her stuff, and has a style of writing that keeps the reader interested, and also gives lots of detail without getting tedious. I'd definitely recommend this one!