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Booth by Karen Joy Fowler


Booth by Karen Joy Fowler
UK Publication:  March 2022
Reviewed by: Book Worm
Rating: [★★★]

One word review – Tragic. Two word review – Epic Tragedy

This ARC was provided by Serpent’s Tail (via NetGalley) in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis from Goodreads:  From the Man Booker finalist and bestselling author of We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves comes an epic and intimate novel about the family behind one of the most infamous figures in American history: John Wilkes Booth.

In 1822, a secret family moves into a secret cabin some thirty miles northeast of Baltimore, to farm, to hide, and to bear ten children over the course of the next sixteen years. Junius Booth–breadwinner, celebrated Shakespearean actor, and master of the house in more ways than one–is at once a mesmerizing talent and a man of terrifying instability. One by one the children arrive, as year by year, the country draws frighteningly closer to the boiling point of secession and civil war.

As the tenor of the world shifts, the Booths emerge from their hidden lives to cement their place as one of the country’s leading theatrical families. But behind the curtains of the many stages they have graced, multiple scandals, family triumphs, and criminal disasters begin to take their toll, and the solemn siblings of John Wilkes Booth are left to reckon with the truth behind the destructively specious promise of an early prophecy.

Booth is a startling portrait of a country in the throes of change and a vivid exploration of the ties that make, and break, a family.

My Thoughts: Living in the UK I was aware that Lincoln had been shot but I had no idea where or by who, that has now been rectified. Rather than glorify John Wilkes Booth and his action the author instead decided to explore this historical character through the medium of his family and what a family he had.

I loved learning about the Booth family, a family of actors plagued by alcoholism and personal competition as they come out from the shadow of their father and into their own personalities. I loved the details about life for the family on the farm and in the city as well as details about life being an actor the on and off stage rivalries and the critics reviews.

Interspersed with the Booth story are various updates about Lincoln and the abolition of slavery this takes the form of quotes from Lincoln followed by details of what he was doing at specific points in relation to the Booths. These are all viewed entirely separately until their lives tragically clash.

Who would like this? I would recommend this to fans of historical fiction, to those who have an interest in the Lincoln assassination and to those who love a great family story.

We want to hear from you! Have you read this book? What did you think? 

3 Comments Post a comment
  1. I expected to love this, as Booth had quite an interesting life, and I live in the area all these events took place. But I found the pacing a bit slow, too much focus on the theater. I would have liked more about the politics of the time. But I did appreciate the thoughtful look at Booth’s family.

    Liked by 1 person

    April 10, 2022
    • Book Worm #

      The things that you disliked are the bits I enjoyed and I also tend not to like books that are too political LOL


      April 10, 2022
  2. Remedial Stitcher #

    I have this on my TBR list. I’m less interested in the politics (history classes in school, though probably biased in some way) and more interested in the family and its dynamics.

    Liked by 1 person

    April 10, 2022

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