Booth by Karen Joy Fowler
IX BROTHERS AND SISTERS. ONE INJUSTICE THAT WILL SHATTER THEIR BOND FOREVER.
Junius is the patriarch, a celebrated Shakespearean actor who fled bigamy charges in England, both a mesmerising talent and a man of terrifying instability. As his children grow up in a remote farmstead in 1830s rural Baltimore, the country draws ever closer to the boiling point of secession and civil war.
Of the six Booth siblings who survive to adulthood, each has their own dreams they must fight to realise – but it is Johnny who makes the terrible decision that will change the course of history – the assassination of Abraham Lincoln.
Booth is a riveting novel focused on the very things that bind, and break, a family.
If there has been on book that I have read this year that upon opening the first page I was not sure what to expect, then Booth (Serpent’s Tail) by Karen Joy Fowler is that one book. But at the same time if there was one book that I am so pleased I have ended up reading then this was it. Booth is just an incredibly powerful look at one complex family that begins in 1822 and the name of John Wilkes Booth.
The story begins in 1822 and Junius Brutus Booth and Mary Ann have moved to the United States and set up home on a farm near Baltimore. Junius is a well-known Shakespearean actor. The years pass and not only are they now maintaining a farm, but they have a large family and over the next 16 years they have ten children. Each one will have the hopes and aspirations to be successful in whatever they choose to do with their lives, that is those that make it to adulthood.
Junius though has his demons and drink is one of them and this alone causes real worry and anxiety in the family as well as scandals along the way. But it is one of these children who makes the wrong decision that will have serious consequences for him, for his family and the course of history. John Wilkes Booth. He becomes one of the most notorious assassins in the history of America. He assassinates President Abraham Lincoln on that fateful day, 14th April 1865. But what drove John Booth to want to kill the President?
The story of the family is narrated by three siblings, two sisters Rosalie and Asia and his brother Edwin. Each will tell their story in their own words just as each one of them is different. Some of the family follow their father into stage acting, but it is John’s beliefs surrounding the civil war finally boil over and it is while attending a performance with his wife John Booth shot the President in the back of the head. Abraham Lincoln died the next day.
Through the story there are moments about Lincoln’s life as the timeline is weaved together. It is an outstanding book and how Karen Joy Fowler has created a story out of history is simply brilliant. It is an epic story of a family that no-one would know anything about had it not been for John Wilkes Booth. The family were complex but at the same time a celebrated family of actors. But now all they will be forever known as the family of John Wilkes Booth, the man who shot President Abraham Lincoln. Booth is one of those books that I was hooked on and found difficult to leave alone, I wanted to know more about the family and especially John Wilkes Booth.
My thanks to Serpent’s Tail for Copy of Booth by Karen Joy Fowler. Published on 17 March 2022 and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop or through Bookshop.org that supports your local independent bookshop. UK Bookshop.org