Archive for September, 2022


Saturday, September 10th, 2022

By Karen Joy Fowler

The Short Take:

This novel was fantastic. It focuses on the Booth family, which included several well-regarded actors in addition to the assassin John Wilkes Booth. It makes for compelling reading, revealing fascinating family dynamics, loves, jealousies, hopes, successes, scandals, and great losses.

A Little Plot:

Fowler did her research for this historical novel but admits that sometimes the stories that grew up around these family members were hard to separate from the facts. And, of course, she had to fill in the gaps, especially with the family’s oldest daughter, Rosalie, about whom little is known.

The same can’t be said about patriarch Junius Booth, considered by many to be the greatest actor of his time. His eccentricities were legendary, his capriciousness a continuing burden to his wife and their many children. Their lives were complicated but their love for each other was strong.

Beyond that, you can draw direct comparisons to the intense hatred and cultural divisions leading into the Civil War with our current, divided situation. When it comes to political actions and rhetoric Fowler uses only solid facts and actual words. It can be disturbing.

It’s no wonder this book was long-listed for the Booker Award (as of this date). It’s a giant step forward from The Jane Austin Book Club, which felt like formulaic book club material. This one is steeped in passion as it carries the story forward through the eyes of one Booth sibling after another, giving you different perspectives on each family member and their respective roles.

It is a powerhouse.

A Little Plot:

Though Junius Booth makes his living on stages in important American cities, his family lives in a rural setting, where a series of births and deaths reshape relationships within the family and with their farming neighbors. It’s a strange paradox.

For more about Fowler and her books click here.


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September 2022