Booth delves into the intricate history of the family connected to one of America’s most infamous figures, John Wilkes Booth. Junius Booth, a renowned British stage star, escapes with his “wife” Mary to rural Maryland despite being married to another woman. Over sixteen years, they raise ten children in a bohemian lifestyle, characterized by vegetarianism, anti-slavery beliefs, literary pursuits, and free-thinking.
Junius’s constant travel for his acting career leaves Mary to care for the children and the home. His alcohol-fueled infidelity plunges Mary into severe bouts of depression, leaving the children to rely on each other. The Booths move from rural Maryland to Baltimore in 1846, where they establish themselves as one of the nation’s leading theatrical families.
The novel unfolds with a series of scandals, family successes, and criminal misfortunes. It focuses on the lives of several of the siblings: Rosalie, Edwin, John, and Asia.
Booth was named Best Book of the Year by Real Simple, AARP, and USA Today, but I can’t fathom why. If you want to learn about the life and downfall of John Wilkes Booth, find another source. He doesn’t become the focus of this novel until nearly seventy percent through.
Fowler captures the essence of the setting and era while developing intricate characters. Her incorporation of significant national events, such as the Dred Scott case and John Brown’s uprising, was impressive, but it felt like she didn’t want to exclude any of her research findings. Sadly, the writing occasionally suffers from extensive philosophical digressions, lacking in action. The slow pacing, lengthiness, and boring storyline were disappointing. 3 stars.
** Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for a review copy of this book. The opinions are my own.