Like the author, I am often intrigued to learn the backstory and family history of people who kill. Why do they kill and what skeletons in their closet could possibly cause such violence. Fowler creates a remarkable novel of both facts and fiction about the family of the infamous John Wilkes Booth. Here is my book review Booth by Karen Joy Fowler.
The Booth Family
You are half way through this novel before John Wilkes Booth is even born. Though he will be a character in this book, the real story is much, much broader. Fowler looks at the instability of patriarch Junious Brutus Booth, the sad and sorrowful life of Mary his wife and their ten children.
The story, though told from the view point of most of the individual family members, is notably narrated by eldest sister of Wilkes, Rosemary or Rose. Surprisingly, Fowler has the least amount of information to draw from in history about Rose. So most of the details about her invalid and spinster life is fictional. But as the eldest sister, she makes a perfect guide to chronicle her unique and tragic family.
If John Wilkes Booth was crazy, he came by it through his mercurial father. The siblings often in competition, both feared and loved their father, who was absent for long periods due to his life as a Shakespearean actor. Three of the brothers; Junius, Edwin and John would all become actors with Edwin being considered one of the premier actors of the era.
The trials and tribulations of this family make a great story, long before anyone shoots Lincoln. Extreme poverty to wealth and prosperity are combined with unfathomable loss of of children and property, alcoholism and rivalry, illegitimate accusations, polygamy, egos and family love and regret. It’s all there to taunt the remaining family after Wilkes pulls the trigger.
This is a fantastic novel about characters lost in history due to the vitriol that surrounds the most famous of them. Thank you for reading my book review Booth by Karen Joy Fowler.
*****Five stars for Booth by Karen Joy Fowler.
Read last week’s book review Horse by Geraldine Brooks
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