The Traitor's Wife

The Traitor's Wife

A Novel : the Woman Behind Benedict Arnold and the Plan to Betray America

Paperback - 2014
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"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."--from cover, page [4].
Published: New York :, Howard Books, a division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.,, 2014.
Edition: First Howard Books trade paperback edition.
ISBN: 9781476738604
Branch Call Number: F PAT
Characteristics: xiv, 467 pages ;,22 cm


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Jun 09, 2019

The Traitor's Wife has all the ingredients for a great story. The tale of Benedict Arnold going from the Revolution's hero to its bane has always been a fascinating one, and it only becomes more so as more research has been done on it and the hand that Arnold's wife, Peggy Shippen Arnold, had in the turning of Arnold's coat. The fact that this is the bare bones of the book automatically earns it two to three stars.

My issues with the book lie primarily with the characterization. In the after-word, Pataki points out that sources describe Peggy Shippen as a loving wife, mother, and stepmother, but in the actual story there is little to no indication of that. She spends most of her time acting the poisonous shrew toward Arnold whenever he disagrees with her, dumping her son on her servants whenever he so much as whimpers and ignoring him most of the time. There is no hint of the woman that Pataki mentions in the after-word. There is some cleverness to the character, but it is completely overshadowed by her spoiled, entitled behavior. She can’t have silks and the latest fashions, she pitches a fit. She can’t attend a dance with Major Andre, she pitches a fit. She’s a one-note character that never changes.

Arnold himself, at first glance, is portrayed a little more sympathetically - an ardent believer in the Revolution who was persecuted for doing things that many other men in the army were also doing, but he was the only one who was punished for it. He eventually shows some understanding of the flaws of his wife’s character, as shown when he discerns Peggy’s clumsy attempt to frame Clara for theft. He walks the middle road in that situation, letting Peggy think that he punished Clara, but never actually harming Clara in the process. It shows some wisdom on Arnold’s part, which puts him at odds with the decision to betray the Revolution to the British. Basically, Arnold is portrayed as a inherently flawed man, wise in some things, foolish in others. Unfortunately, it was a foolish decision that led to his name no longer being a name, but a phrase with a single meaning - betrayal. The story keeps implying that because Arnold let his wife lead him around by his… nose, he fell into the ultimate ruin. While that makes Arnold more pitiable, I’m not sure I care for the idea that Arnold is somehow less responsible for the betrayal of the Revolution than his wife. Both played their parts, both are responsible. One doesn’t need another rendition of Eve leading Adam into sin.

The character of Clara is a little more to my liking. There is some definite growth in her, going from the timid, eager-to-please young girl who delighted in the scraps of affection that Peggy tossed her, to someone who was determined to stand on her own two feet and throw her future in with the new nation the Revolution is struggling to build. It’s an understated growth, one you’re not even really completely aware of until the final pages of the book, when Clara finally shows her stripes to Peggy.

I did like how the romance between Clara and Cal was handled. It was very subtle, and didn’t overpower the storyline. Yes, Clara comes to love Cal deeply, and angsts a fair bit when she thinks he’s found a sweetheart, but she doesn’t wail and moan and make a scene about it like Peggy did when Andre left with the British. The romance was more incidental than anything, and wasn’t vital to the story.

Ultimately, the story was a decent read, a bit of a fluff piece. It has its flaws, but still was enjoyable enough to keep the reader entertained.

cmtocco May 09, 2019

A fresh and riveting perspective on the infamous betrayal of Benedict Arnold during the American Revolution. Although there are fictional characters and events, the POV is interesting to consider when looking at Arnold's decision to betray George Washington and the Continental Congress. A great read if looking for historical people and events, with a twist of fictional drama.

Sep 14, 2018

I did not think this was as engaging as "The Accidental Empress", it was a lot more fluff. I like more historical but it did give you a great picture of everyday life, people being torn between the King and the Colonies and giving up everything to take sides whether they fight or not. Even though we are having a rough time with division in our country now it is nothing like it was then.

BostonPL_LauraB Aug 01, 2016

This historical novel was really engaging and despite it's length I enjoyed every minute of it! Very happy the author decided to write it from Clara's perspective and not Peggy's, because I would have had to put it down. She is an incredibly unlikable and annoying character and I was very tired of her by the end. Highly recommend for a good piece of historical fiction, and I will definitely be trying out another novel by Pataki.

Jun 26, 2016

This was lighter historical fiction than I was expecting. The historical context is definitely there, but it takes a backseat to the romance and drama. The atmosphere, including descriptions of fashion and mannerisms, didn't feel truly authentic to 18th-century America. The secondary characters were also one-dimensional. Nevertheless, I enjoyed learning more about Peggy Shippen and her role in her husband's infamous treachery.

Nov 12, 2015

Really enjoyed this book. It's hard to know if Peggy Shippen Arnold was anything like the character portrayed, but considering some of the historical records, she was certainly a party to the treason. I liked this book better than her other one, "The Accidental Empress". I thought the characters had more depth and the whole tone of the book was less s"syrupy", for lack of a better word. Benedict Arnold is a somewhat sympathetic character, but when I read the author's notes at the end, I thought the portrayal was probably a little too sympathetic, considering what the historical records say about his character. I thought the maid and other servants were very believable and liked the fact that it was told from the point of view of Peggy's maid.

Aug 09, 2014

This is an interesting fictional account of the wife of Benedict Arnold, Margaret "Peggy" Shippen Arnold, and her deceptive role in the American Revolution. There are many factual incidents included which the author specifies after the end of the book.

steven7 Feb 14, 2014

This was a very well written book.The author really gets into the head of sly and scheming Peggy and her efforts to undermind the American revolution. Since this book is told from the perspective of the haplesss maid, her strong narrative voice provides an insider's view of what was happening in the household. However, Arnold was so disaffected that he probably would have gone over to the other side with someone not as dazzling as Miss Peggy.


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steven7 Feb 14, 2014

steven7 thinks this title is suitable for 14 years and over


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