Friday, February 25, 2022

Booth (Karen Joy Fowler)

In the Author's Note at the beginning of Booth, Karen Joy Fowler explains that she did want to write a book about, nor give any more attention to, John Wilkes Booth. Which left her with a writing conundrum. She solved it by choosing to focus on his fiercely loyal family. This works most of the time, but unfortunately, you can't really write a book about the Booth family without talking about its most infamous member.

But the other Booths were interesting in their own right...and very, very theatrical. Father Junius Brutus Booth was a famed Shakespearean actor with many personal demons. This included abandoning his wife and child and running off to the United States with another woman. This woman, Mary Ann Holmes, became the matriach of the Booth family. Together, they had ten children, only six who lived to adulthood. 

Fowler follows the stories of these six -- June, Rosalie, Edwin, John, Asia, and Joe -- through their upbringing to adults. Three (June, Edwin, and John) followed in their father's footsteps to become actors. Booth is historical fiction though, so Fowler admits that she needed to take some liberties in the book. This is particularly true with Rosalie's story because hardly any historical materials exist about her. 

I had mixed reactions to Booth. I was fascinated by it at the beginning, but then the stories became a bit too tedious. As a reader, you can't help but wonder when she is going to get to the main event of which the Booth family will forever be associated with. This doesn't happen until almost the very end. It seems like Fowler is trying so hard not to focus on John Wilkes, that she focuses a bit too much on the other members of the family. All in all though, this is a worthwhile read.