Monday, April 23, 2012

The Traitor's Wife by Kathleen Kent


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The book's description from the author's website:

This novel was originally published under the title The Wolves of Andover.

In the harsh wilderness of colonial Massachusetts, Martha Allen works as a servant in her cousin's household, taking charge and locking wills with everyone. Thomas Carrier labors for the family and is known both for his immense strength and size and mysterious past. The two begin a courtship that suits their independent natures, with Thomas slowly revealing the story of his part in the English Civil War. But in the rugged new world they inhabit, danger is ever present, whether it be from the assassins sent from London to kill the executioner of Charles I or the wolves—in many forms—who hunt for blood. A love story and a tale of courage,
The Traitor's Wife confirms Kathleen Kent's ability to craft powerful stories from the dramatic background of America's earliest days.
The Traitor's Wife was my first experience with the early history of colonial America. For some reason, I have never been all that interested in this period in history (even though, historical fiction and history in general are my favorites). I can't say that Kent's book kindled my fire for books set in the Puritans' America, but it alone was written so skillfully that I indeed was interested and felt myself being pulled into that long gone world. What made The Traitor's Wife especially engaging is the retelling of England's Civil War led by Oliver Cromwell. The author blended these two continents and their moments in history smoothly, without causing any confusion.

In all honesty, I was for a moment considering rating The Traitor's Wife at three stars instead of four but in the end I realized that it would have been unfair to the author for a couple of reasons. One, it's well written. Ms. Kent is one of those rare writers (especially debut ones) who have a proper command of the English written language. I know, it may sound silly and definitely not as something to point out as a part of quality literature, but sadly bad language skills seem to be the norm nowadays among authors. For me, it's not the direction I want to see the literary art going and that's why any book that's written using the proper English will always get a higher rating from me. The meanings of this are many, but the main one is that the author (in this case Kathleen Kent) actually cares about her work, puts a lot of time and effort in creating something of value, and, however indirectly, respects her future readers.

Speaking of effort, a good amount of it Ms. Kent invested in the research of Thomas Carrier's and Martha Carrier's lives. Pretty much all that's in The Traitor's Wife, is factually and historically accurate  and where history blends with myth (whether Thomas Carrier was Thomas Morgan), Kathleen Kent freely admits to it in her afterword, which is yet another thing that separates her as a true practitioner of the craft from 'authors' who only wish to be just as good.

Lastly, and maybe even most importantly, The Traitor's Wife is simply a really good story. There is something in it that pulled me right in and made me want to just keep reading until I got to the last page. I can't even remember when was the last time I finished an over-300-page novel in two days, as I did Kent's book. It wasn't simple or simplistic and therefore easy to finish quickly, but rather a true pleasure to read, with the first pages already inviting me to immerse myself in the lives of Martha and Thomas and their growing love for each other. I'm only glad that I just found The Heretic's Daughter (Ms. Kent' debut novel) in my library (that's what happens when you have more books than wits to remember them all) since Kathleen Kent is the author whose books I'll always look for and read.

FTC: I received The Traitor's Wife from the publisher, Hachette Book Group via NetGalley.