Book Review

Karen Joy Fowler’s Booth

A Civil War historical fiction about Lincoln’s assassination told through a family saga lens, outlining the many Booth actors in the generation that made one brother infamous while resonating without naming the divides of our current political culture. Junius Brutus Booth was a Shakespearean actor who moved his family into the countryside. The large family lived a farming life when they were not in the very busy cities, learning Shakespeare and growing strong-headed to a one. Many of the brothers took to the stage, traveling the huge country from Maryland to San Francisco and spending time on the London scene.

The story does not start or end with the fateful bullet, it’s told through letters and impressions gathered from those around the family. We knew that Edwin, Jun, and Johnny Booth were all actors, but the lives they lived with their alcoholic father and Asia and Rosalind with strong opinions and small stages in the home as women.

Booth by Karen Joy Fowler

The people involved are given depth and motive as we see their mother who dotes on some children and is emotionally scarred by the loss of so many others; the father who drank himself senseless plays a large role in their lives and memories expressed through letters and their interactions and concerns.

The unironic declarations of the plays as being low entertainment by Asia when it’s discovered Lincoln died at a theater and John’s feeling of being bound due to the restrictions of the Union are noted and apt. Small vignettes of Lincoln’s life concurrent with the lives of the Booths.

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