In Memoriam by Alice Winn Book Review

In Memoriam by Alice Winn


In 1914, war feels far away to Henry Gaunt and Sidney Ellwood. They’re too young to enlist, and anyway, Gaunt is fighting his own private battle – an all-consuming infatuation with the dreamy, poetic Ellwood – not having a clue that his best friend is in love with him, always has been. When Gaunt’s mother asks him to enlist in the British army to protect the family from anti-German attacks, he signs up immediately, relieved to escape his overwhelming feelings. But Ellwood and their classmates soon follow him into the horrors of trenches. Though Ellwood and Gaunt find fleeting moments of solace in one another, their friends are dying in front of them, and at any moment they could be next. An epic tale of the devastating tragedies of war and the forbidden romance that blooms in its grip, In Memoriam is a breathtaking debut.

My Review:

One of the best debut novels I have read in a long time is In Memoriam (Viking) by Alice Winn. I was reading this late at night after a long day at work and evenings studying I found the hours would just go so quickly. There have been many novels on WWI but this is just stunning in the way Alice Winn writes.

The summer of 1914 and Henry Gaunt and Sidney Ellwood are a word away from war. But it does not escape them as they talk about the war and play act. What I enjoyed was the snapshots of the newspaper the school would publish called The Preshutian in this there would be columns and also debates. The war would also be debated. The two best friends though different, Ellwood was poetic whereas Gaunt was half German and half British. There was a secret that the boys could not openly discuss and that was they were in love, but dare not admit to each other. Remember this is 1914.

It would not be long before the names of the dead would appear in The Preshutian, those that had fallen and been at the school. War was getting close, in fact too close and now Henry Gaunt was under pressure to sign up and fight for his country. It is not long after the Ellwood arrives at the hell that was the trenches. This is were Alice Winn takes the story to another level, the horrors that the young men faced, the slaughter of the innocent as they went over the top or be shot for cowardice. The soldiers that suffered horrific injuries and the dead and dying left on the battlefield, let alone life in the appalling conditions they faced daily in the trenches.

This is a novel that is powerful and openly raw and emotional. You just cannot fail to wonder was fait was to follow for our two protagonists as the war intensified. But the two men who clearly were in love would soon admit there love for each other.

As for the ending of In Memoriam, that you will have to discover for yourself, but this is one novel that will remain with me for a very long time. I will say that the research that Alice Winn did for her debut novel is detailed at the back of the novel and is extensive. If you enjoy reading historical novels and you have been thinking of reading In Memoriam, then I am happy to recommend. It is harrowing in places, but war is harrowing, and World War One was beyond hell. I am really interested to see what Alice Winn now comes up with for her next novel.

400 Pages

In Memoriam by Alice Winn was Published on 9th March and is now available through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop or through that supports your local independent bookshop. UK

Go as a River by Shelley Read

Go as a River by Shelley Read


On a cool autumn day in 1948, Victoria Nash delivers late-season peaches from her family’s farm set amid the wild beauty of Colorado. As she heads into her village, a dishevelled stranger stops to ask her the way. How she chooses to answer will unknowingly alter the course of both their young lives.

So begins the mesmerising story of split-second choices and courageous acts that propel Victoria away from the only home she has ever known and towards a reckoning with loss, hope and her own untapped strength.

Gathering all the pieces of her small and extraordinary existence, spinning through the eddies of desire, heartbreak and betrayal, she will arrive at a single rocky decision that will change her life for ever.

GO AS A RIVER is a heart-wrenching coming-of-age story and a drama of enthralling power. Combining unforgettable characters and a breathtaking natural setting, it is a sweeping story of survival and becoming, of the deepest mysteries of love, truth and fate.

My Review:

When you have read the first few pages of Go as a River (Doubleday) by Shelley Read you know you are reading something very special. Already one of my books of 2023 and it will linger long in the memory when you finished reading. A story that is compelling and so beautifully written, heart-breaking but there is hope in the story.

The story set in the late 1940’s follows seventeen-year-old Victoria (Torie) Nash who has already know what tragedy is at a young age. Now Victoria is working on the family’s peach farm in Colorado. Torrie is now the only female in the family. It is late Summer and Torrie is heading into town to make a delivery of some of the late picked peaches, but here is a chance encounter with a stranger that will ignite many feelings but also there is danger. Wilson Moon is a Native American and has found himself in the town at the same moment as Torrie. They meet though it is a fleeting moment in time. Something has awakened in Torrie, and she finds Wilson captivating. This moment will change Torrie’s life forever more.

Though the start of the novel may seem a little slow to begin with, it sets the tone for what is to come in the remaining pages and for our main character. Something about hatred in the town where she lives and those who are not welcome in their town. Now we follow Torrie as she must flee the family home and hide in the mountains. How will she survive in the wilderness. She is now alone and must survive as the seasons change. But the one thing Torrie will find is that nature has a way of healing. But the story does not come to end for as she now must head home only to find more heartache, the family farm that has been theirs for generations is to be taken from them and flooded. The valley will be flooded and gone forever.

This is a story where we follow Victoria through the decades that follow, she has known tragedy at a young age, love, and lost love as well as the worst form of hatred. A novel set in the wilderness and is so descriptive of the mountains and landscape of Torrie’s life. There are several themes running through Go as a River. The characters are written so well into the novel. But the writing by Shelley Read is breath-taking. A novel not to be missed.

320 Pages.

My thanks to Alison Barrow and Doubleday for the review Copy of Go as a River by Shelley Read that is Published on 13 April 2023 and is now available to order through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop or through that supports your local independent bookshop. UK

The Exes by Jane Lythell

The Exes by Jane Lythell


When Holly is bequeathed a large but derelict house, she wants to share her good fortune. So she gets in touch with former boyfriend Ray, a builder who can project-manage the renovation in exchange for the basement flat. The spacious middle floor would make a glorious studio space—perfect for her friend and first love, Spencer. And before Holly knows it, the upper floor is let to soon-to-be ex-husband James, who’s on a path of reinvention from city highflyer to osteopath. What could possibly go wrong?

But no good deed goes unpunished, and soon the house is riddled with tension, rivalry, and petty spitefulness. And as Holly is beset with migraines, nausea and spiralling self-doubt, even the house itself seems to be turning against her. But for someone, everything is going to plan . . .

My Review:

Over the years, I have read a number of books by Jane Lythell and I have really enjoyed reading all of them Jane has also had one of her books made into a film in the USA. How delighted I was to receive a copy of Jane’s latest book The Exes (Bloodhound Books) that has recently been released and it is one of those books that you just cannot leave alone.

What an opening to The Exes and this really is how to pull in a reader from the very start, no spoilers from me but just take my word for it. The story follows the main character Holly as she has been bequeathed Penumbra House situated in Brighton from her aunt Lillian and the house does need a lot of work to make it into her dream home. The house has a large garden at the back that also needs a lot of work to hack down the brambles and weeds, at the bottom of the garden there is a tree. Do you take it down or cut it back? What Holly does decide to do is to invite some of her former boyfriends to move in and so long as they pay rent, it also helps that one is just really good at renovation and this will become a project to get the house fixed up and that includes the leaky roof as the rain pours in.

It is not long after that things start to go wrong, and talk about things that go bump in the night. It tuns out that there are now threats to Holly personally and then there are the extracts from her aunt’s diary that suddenly and unexpectedly start appearing on her doormat each morning that tell a story of her aunt Lillian that Holly never knew about and the disturbing unease that this causes starts to play at Holly’s mind. Who is doing this and why? Clearly someone has a grudge at her being given this rundown old house.

Why does Holly’s friends dog seem to have a real interest in tree at the bottom of the garden, he heads straight there as soon as the backdoor is open. It is not long before the exes start to bicker as tensions rise. I really enjoy how Jane Lythell creates her characters and weaves a story within a story. What transpires is a psychological drama that twists and turns and keeps you wanting more. What is really going on at Penumbra House?

The Exes delivers on all fronts and if you are looking for your next book to read you will not be disappointed.

334 Pages.

My thanks to Jane Lythell and Bloodhound Books for the review Copy of The Exes by Jane Lythel Published on 2nd March 2023 and is now available through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop or through that supports your local independent bookshop. UK

Poor Naked Wretches: Shakespeare’s Working People by Stephen Unwin

Poor Naked Wretches: Shakespeare’s Working People by Stephen Unwin


Was Shakespeare a snob? Poor Naked Wretches challenges the idea that our greatest writer despised working people, and shows that he portrayed them with as much insight, compassion and purpose as the rich and powerful. Moreover, they play an important role in his dramatic method.
Stephen Unwin reads Shakespeare anew, exploring the astonishing variety of working people in his plays, as well as the vast range of cultural sources from which they were drawn. Unwin argues that the robust realism of these characters, their independence of mind and their engagement in the great issues of the day, makes them much more than mere ‘comic relief’.
Compassionate, cogent and wry, Poor Naked Wretches grants these often-overlooked figures the dignity and respect they deserve.


My Review:

What do you think of when you read a Shakespeare play or someone talks to you of William Shakespeare’s plays? The setting the actors perhaps or maybe it is the key characters of his plays? On a recent study trip to The London Library I was just looking through the recent releases section of books and one book really caught my eye. Poor Naked Wretches: Shakespeare’s Working People (Reaktion Books) by Stephen Unwin. One of those books that you were really pleased to find. Now here is a book that will make you see Shakespeare’s plays in a whole new light.

Read or watch closely William Shakespeare’s plays and there is more to see and understand than the leading characters. What reading Stephen Unwin’s book teaches us is that there lies a whole new dynamic of the great mans plays. It is the poor and the working class, the common people that go to make up his plays that really are missed. Together with a series of images in the book they go to understand about the lives of the ordinary people that actually mirrored Shakespeare’s own life.

The books is laid out so that you get to read chapters on various social settings so there are chapters on “Fools, Clowns and Jesters”, “Soldiers, Sailors and Men at Arms”, “Maids, Nurses and Witches”, “Inns, Taverns and Brothels” to name a just a few and each chapter will take a close look the settings and in turn some of Shakespeare’s plays and a whole new world of understanding how Shakespeare wrote his plays whether they were the comic plays or the more darker plays and in turn what you do get by reading Stephen Unwin’s outstanding book is a deeper and closer understanding of details and character formation of his plays. So much detail goes into each play, be it in written form or acted on stage it can easily be missed and now comes along this book that opens up a whole new world of understanding. An outstanding book. Even if you are not an avid Shakespeare reader or watcher of his plays, it gives a voice to the poor and the working people.

Stephen Unwin is a theatre and opera director who founded the English Touring Theatre in 1993 and you get a real sense of Stephen’s own experience of Shakespeare’s plays and Poor Naked Wretches went on to win the Falstaff Award Best Book 2022.

On a personal level, I have to say just how well the book is laid out, and the research Stephen has done to make this such a fascinating read. Sadly, I must return my copy to The London Library in the coming days, so I will now be getting my own copy as this is going to be of real help with my studies that include Shakespeare in the coming years.

304 Pages.

Poor Naked Wretches: Shakespeare’s Working People by Stephen Unwin.     Published by Reaktion Books in hardback on 11 July 2022 and is now available through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop or through that supports your local independent bookshop. UK

A Winter Grave by Peter May

A Winter Grave by Peter May



A young meteorologist checking a mountain top weather station in Kinlochleven discovers the body of a missing man entombed in ice.


Cameron Brodie, a Glasgow detective, sets out on a hazardous journey to the isolated and ice-bound village. He has his own reasons for wanting to investigate a murder case so far from his beat.


Brodie must face up to the ghosts of his past and to a killer determined to bury forever the chilling secret that his investigation threatens to expose.

Set against a backdrop of a frighteningly plausible near-future, A WINTER GRAVE is Peter May at his page-turning, passionate and provocative best.

My Review:

I have always looked forward to a new a new thriller by Peter May and out today 19 January is his new standalone novel A Winter Grave (Riverrun) and based in the Scottish Highlands and there is clear climate warnings through this brilliant and very readable thriller.

A Winter Grave is set in the future and the year is 2051 the planet we call our home has changed forever and people are on the move to survive. On a Scottish mountain Addie is checking the weather station the weather station for the latest readings. But there is something really chilling up that ice covered mountain near Loch Leven. Encased in ice inside an ice tunnel is a body of a man but how did he get here and what really happened to him. Alone up a mountain and you come across a body in ice is frightening and for Addie she needs to get off the mountain and get the police involved.  

We now get to meet police detective Cameron Brodie who has been sent to investigate the body on the mountain. The body has been identified as missing journalist Charles Younger but now the question is what happened to Mr Younger was it an accident or was it fowl play. When the report from the pathologist arrives, it points to something more sinister. What I loved about Peter May’s latest novel is the characters hat really bring a personal touch to the plot especially when it comes to DI Cameron Brodie and Addie Sinclair and Cameron now needs to tell her who he really is.

Now Brodie is investigating a mysterious murder but soon he is going to have his hands full with another. This quiet Scottish Highland spot is now a murder scene.

There is enough here to keep you really guessing as to what really is going on and who is behind the murders and why. It is superbly written and crafted. If you are a Peter May fan, then A Winter Grave is your next read. If you have not ready, any novels by Peter May, what a book to start with. You will not be disappointed.

368 Pages.

My thanks to Sophie Ransom (Ransom PR) and Jess Hunt and Riverrun for the review copy of A Winter Grave by Peter May Published on 19 January 2023 and is now available in Hardback through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop or through that supports your local independent bookshop. UK

Babel: An Arcane History by R.F. Kuang

Babel: An Arcane History by R.F. Kuang


Oxford, 1836.

The city of dreaming spires.

It is the centre of all knowledge and progress in the world.

And at its centre is Babel, the Royal Institute of Translation. The tower from which all the power of the Empire flows.

Orphaned in Canton and brought to England by a mysterious guardian, Babel seemed like paradise to Robin Swift.

Until it became a prison…

But can a student stand against an empire?

My Review:

I am not normally taken to reading fantasy novels but there has been one book that before Christmas I was completely absorbed in and it was Babel: An Arcane History (Harper Voyager) by R.F. Kuang. I have to say it completely blew me away with the style of writing and how absorbed in the main characters I became.

Welcome to Oxford it is 1836 and the city of dreaming spires. This though is an alternative nineteenth century and the British Empire. Here in Oxford the centre of all knowledge lies Babel an institute that is the centre of translation. But that is not all, there are things going here that really is the lynchpin to the British Empire.

It is here that some of the brightest come to learn from all parts of the British Empire and there is one that is the main character in this incredible novel. His name is Robin Swift. Robin was born in Canton but at a young age he lost his mother to the dreaded plague. Robin could easily have lost his way in life at such a young age but his has a benefactor and soon Robin finds himself taken from his home to England but now he will need to prove himself in education to gain entrance to Oxford. When Robin does finally qualify he also gets to join Babel, the institution that is the heart of translation. But what have the production of magical silver bars got to do with powering the British Empire. This dear reader is for you to find out for yourself. No spoilers from me. Though I will say it is absolutely ingenious piece of work that is Babel.

Robin gets to meet some of the other students and becomes friends with three of them. But all is not as it seems. Robin along with a few other students and are subjected to discrimination on a shocking level. But the they are at Babel to study translation and languages it here that things may sound complicated as the students seek matching words from different languages that in a sense make the magical silver bars. All sounds incredibly fantastic. And it really is. If you have an interest in philology then you will really appreciate R.F. Kuang’s writing as she is a translator herself a Marshall Scholar in Chinese-English. There are many themes that you will encounter within the storyline and does not shy away from the some of the horrors of the British Empire. Throughout the novel R.F. Kuang has added many footnotes that are really helpful. But if like me you love the study of words then you will be chomping at the bit on every page and there is close to 560 pages. I look forward to the day when I have more time to go back and re-read Babel at my leisure and enjoy once again.

560 Pages.

Babel: An Arcane History by R.F. Kuang is Published by Harper Voyager and is now available in hardback through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop or through that supports your local independent bookshop. UK

Papyrus: The Invention of Books in the Ancient World by Irene Vallejo. Translated by Charlotte Whittle

Papyrus: The Invention of Books in the Ancient World by Irene Vallejo.

Translated by Charlotte Whittle


Long before books were mass produced, those made of reeds from along the Nile were worth fighting and dying for. Journeying along the battlefields of Alexander the Great, beneath the eruptions of Mount Vesuvius, at Cleopatra’s palaces and the scene of Hypatia’s murder, award-winning author Irene Vallejo chronicles the excitement of literary culture in the ancient world, and the heroic efforts that ensured this impressive tradition would continue.

Weaved throughout are fascinating stories about the spies, scribes, illuminators, librarians, booksellers, authors, and statesmen whose rich and sometimes complicated engagement with the written word bears remarkable similarities to the world today: Aristophanes and the censorship of the humourists, Sappho and the empowerment of women’s voices, Seneca and the problem of a post-truth world.

Vallejo takes us to mountainous landscapes and the roaring sea, to the capitals where culture flourished and the furthest reaches where knowledge found refuge in chaotic times. In this sweeping tour of the history of books, the wonder of the ancient world comes alive and along the way we discover the singular power of the written word.

My Review:

Imagine a book that would take you back to the earliest days of writing when before the earliest forms of paper it was on tablets of stone, then the same book would bring you right up to modern times. One of the most incredible books of this year has to be Papyrus: The Invention of Books in the Ancient World ( Hodder & Stoughton) by Irene Vallejo and translated by Charlotte Whittle. A book that has become an international bestseller.

This really is the story of the birth of the alphabet and the first papyrus scrolls. These were fought over and died for. Irene Vallejo takes the reader on journey that for anyone who has a love of books and their history will rejoice. It is a pure delight to read from the first page to the last. I can really understand why Papyrus has sold over a million copies worldwide. But this this is not just a history of books, as Irene Vallejo covers a wide spectrum of topics, which is why I think this book will become a classic over time, of this I have no doubt. When you think back thousands of years to the great library of Alexandria and the thousands of scrolls that that must have contained. It was Mark Antony who brought many thousands of scrolls to the great library as a gift to his love that was Cleopatra.

Irene Vallejo really has done her research and her love of the written word really pours out of every page. There are so many stories and facts about ancient literature that it one of those books you can dip in and out of and learn something each time you do. This is not a heavy book for academics as such, but anyone with a love of a history of ancient literature and where and how it all began as well as the great philosophers are all here. This is a book about libraries of the past and of the present and also the booksellers. As Irene will tell the reader about how you can create a parallel world when opening a book and reading every word, and yet at any moment you can move you gaze away and return to the world that is.

When you think of the first ancient letters on clay to papyrus and move through the ages to leather bound books to the modern day books on both paper and then those words read on electronic devices, think back to where it all began in the ancient world. This really does bring those earliest moments of ancients times alive. It is a phenomenal achievement and a book that will stand the test of time. Just to mention that the translation is by Charlotte Whittle. A book of discovery and wonder and Papyrus: The Invention of Books in the Ancient World by Irene Vallejo I highly recommend.

464 Pages.

Papyrus: The Invention of Books in the Ancient World by Irene Vallejo is Published by Hodder & Stoughton and is now available in hardback through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop or through that supports your local independent bookshop. UK

Murder on the Christmas Express by Alexandra Benedict

Murder on the Christmas Express by Alexandra Benedict


Eighteen passengers. Seven stops. One killer.

In the early hours of Christmas Eve, the sleeper train to the Highlands is derailed, along with the festive plans of its travellers. With the train stuck in snow in the middle of nowhere, a killer stalks its carriages, picking off passengers one by one. Those who sleep on the sleeper train may never wake again.

Can former Met detective Roz Parker find the killer before they kill again?

My Review:

I do love a Christmas crime novel and last year I really enjoyed reading The Christmas Murder Game by Alexandra Benedict and Alexandra returns with another Christmas murder mystery. Murder on the Christmas Express (Simon & Schuster) is very much in the mind of an Agatha Christie murder mystery.

Every murder mystery needs its great characters to keep you guessing and Alexandra Benedict has written in some, well lets just say interesting characters that will keep you guessing. It is Christmas and everyone is trying to be somewhere but the weather is setting in and there is travel chaos. As the title suggests the main scene is aboard the sleeper and it is heading north to the Highlands but the snow is getting worse and so the train is not going to be stopping at all the stops. On board the train is the former Met detective Roz Parker, but one by one you get to meet the leading characters and what a real mix they are. There is a social media celebrity who is constantly engaging with her followers, then we have a quiz team, there is even a stowaway on board the train, there is a TV star and many others. In the small hours of Christmas eve, miles from anywhere the train is derailed and passengers are tossed around or jolted from their sleep. And a killer strikes. Now they are all alone and who is going to be next. It is down to our heroine Roz to take control and find the killer before there are more bodies to be found.

What I really enjoyed about Murder on the Christmas Express is the complex characters and just how the storyline flowed and the twists and turns that keeps the reader guessing. The train is going nowhere and it is a race against time to find the killer. Roz has her candidates but now she has to catch the killer. Probably not the book to read if you are heading to the Scottish Highlands on a sleeper on Christmas eve. There are a number of fun quiz games and anagrams to keep you involved as you read, in a similar frame as last Christmases offering from Alexandra Benedict.

All told I would be happy to recommend to anyone looking for a Christmas based crime novel. There are a number of themes involved in the story but I really enjoyed Murder on the Christmas Express.

352 Pages.

Murder on the Christmas Express by Alexandra Benedict is Published by Simon & Schuster and is now available in hardback through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop or through that supports your local independent bookshop. UK

Opera by Julie Anderson

Opera by Julie Anderson


It had been solely personal. Not anymore.

Determined to lay the ghosts of her past, Cassandra Fortune asks a former head of GCHQ for help, only to receive a message from beyond the grave. A riddle to puzzle out and a murder to solve. She revisits an old betrayal in an ancient land, uncovering subterfuge and treason, but finds that it is linked with her own quest for the truth.

As Christmas approaches, a shadowy presence haunts her footsteps. Is this because of the case, or is it the return of an old enemy? His criminal network shattered, is he seeking revenge?

What is real and what only appears to be? Who can be trusted and who is double-dealing? Cassie must find the truth. And survive.

My Review:

I have followed this brilliant series by Julie Anderson that stars Cassandra Fortune from Plague (2020) and Oracle (2021) and now arrived is the third in the series comes Opera (Claret Press). Now I enjoy going to the Opera when I can, but little did, I know that the third book would involve just that.

If like me, you have followed the series from the start you will know that Cassandra Fortune is our heroine. With questions still lurking at the back of her mind about why she was more or less hung out to dry and had to leave her previous role, Cassandra Fortune now back from Greece must settle her mind and find out what really lay behind her being forced out and to get to the truth there is risk and there is always an adversary to get past and the risks to her wellbeing are real and apparent.

To finally get to the truth, our heroine pays a visit to her old GCHQ boss Angela Kayser, but someone has got there before she has and now Angela is dead, so the scene is well and truly set as Cassie now has a murder to solve. The past must be solved and to find the killer may well answer more questions about her own past.
One of the great aspects of Julie Anderson’s books is her knowledge of the how the Palace of Westminster works and having been there earlier this year, this really made Opera stand out even more, after all the Prime Minister is Cassandra’s boss. As the title of the novel says, Opera plays a part in this book and now as Christmas fast approaches Cassandra must arrange a visit for a Greek delegation to go to the Royal Opera House for a performance of Tosca. There really are some tense situations in this game of cat and mouse where death seems to follow Cassie around. Crime and politics don’t mix, and it is a dirty business. But not only is she now trying to solve a murder and it is clear it is someone she knows but at the same time she must keep some important people safe while in London. That is not easy as someone clearly wants Cassie to come to some harm.

Opera is a fabulous crime and spy thriller that has just about everything in it and you really get into the mindset of Cassandra Fortune by the way Julie Anderson has set up her leading character. Without giving too much away the ending is something wait for that includes a chase deep underground. If it is the end of the series, then what a way to go out on. If you have missed the first two. You are in for a treat.

200 Pages.

My thanks to Claret Press for the review Copy of Opera by Julie Anderson    Published on 5th September 2022 and is now available through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop or through that supports your local independent bookshop. UK

Booth by Karen Joy Fowler

Booth by Karen Joy Fowler



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.

My Review:

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.

480 Pages.

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 that supports your local independent bookshop. UK