Just as history’s greatest men usually had a great woman behind them; encouraging, inspiring them, sometimes working alongside them, a treacherous woman can often be found behind history’s most notorious scoundrels as well. Allison Pataki’s book, The Traitor’s Wife: A Novel, looks at the powerful and complex role Benedict Arnold’s wife Peggy Shippen Arnold played in the conspiracy to betray the colonies and deliver West Point to the British.
This novel tells the captivating story of a woman who has, up until now, been a mere footnote in history. We learn how the scheming and ambitious socialite seduced the much older war hero, Arnold, when he was serving as a military commander in Philadelphia; why she was motivated to plot against the colonies, and how she conspired with her both her husband and former lover, British spy John André, to sabotage the new nation’s fight for independence from Great Britain.
Given the fact that the book centers on a trio of enemies to the United States, it was a wise decision for Pataki to tell the story through the more sympathetic perspective of a very patriotic lady’s maid, from a humble background, who chooses to intervene in Peggy’s affairs, for the sake of her country, although it means risking everything she has.
This is the debut novel of Allison Pataki, who happens to be the daughter of former New York Governor George Pataki. If the commercial and critical success the book has garnered so far is any sign, her career is off to a great start.