Karen Joy Fowler
LONGLISTED FOR THE BOOKER PRIZE 2022
A SUNDAY TIMES HISTORICAL NOVEL OF THE YEAR 2022
AS HEARD ON BBC RADIO 4 OPEN BOOK
‘Brilliantly recounts the story of the American theatrical dynasty that produced Lincoln’s assassin’ Sunday Times Book of the Month
In 1822, a stage is set: Englishman Junius Booth – celebrated Shakespearean actor and man of mesmerising charm and instability – moves to a remote cabin outside Baltimore with his wife, who bears him ten children.
Of the six who survive infancy, one is John Wilkes – the hot-tempered but much-loved middle son who, in 1865, fatally shoots Abraham Lincoln in a Washington theatre, changing the course of history.
What makes a murderer? His family or the world? And how can those who love him ever come to terms with his actions? Strikingly relevant to the world today, Booth is the story of one extraordinary family and the terrible act that shattered their bonds forever.
Booth is a triumph! No one writes like Karen Joy Fowler. With wit, heart, and revelatory insight, she teases ghosts from their shadows, transforming the way we see the past, shedding new light on our troubled present. -- Ruth Ozeki Accomplished, immersive, and profoundly satisfying. Booth is both highly relevant to modern life and a fully realised piece of fiction ... I can't praise it highly enough, what a range Karen Joy Fowler has. -- Cathy Rentzenbrink Booth is a subtly devastating meditation on how the USA arrived at this troubled point in its present history by looking at a mid-nineteenth-century family. Its world - dense, granular, intricate - is created with immense care and precision ... This is her finest, most beautiful novel to date. -- Neel Mukherjee With each book, Karen Joy Fowler masterfully fuses style with subject, prose with plot, and explores the terrifying power that parents wield. Booth brilliantly cracks open the history of a country and a family and shows us the private secrets and suspicions that run underneath. -- Jonathan Lee, author of The Great Mistake The historical context [Fowler] offers is of a pre-Civil War America of deep moral divides, political differences tearing close families apart, populism and fanaticism run amok. The similarities to today are riveting and chilling. * Kirkus starred review * Fowler sets the stage in remarkable prose ... the nuanced plot is both historically rigorous and richly imagined. This is a winner. * Publishers Weekly starred review * Booth is an epic tale of a divided country seen through the prism of an extraordinary family and with uncanny parallels to the present moment. Stunning. -- Simon Humphreys * Mail on Sunday * A historical epic that's like Succession set against the backdrop of the looming Civil War in 1830s America. Explaining so much of the country's history while telling a deeply immersive story, it's an unforgettable read. * Stylist Best New Books March 2022 * An impressive epic * Independent, Books of the Month * An imaginative new novel offers glimpses of John Wilkes Booth, Abraham Lincoln's killer, and his family, told chiefly through the perspectives of some of his nine siblings * The New York Times, books to read in March 2022 * An intimate, engaging portrait of a tribe whose aims and alliances were always shifting, buffeted by tragedy (several beloved siblings died young) and fickle fortunes * Entertainment Weekly * Effortlessly resonant... breathes rich imaginative colour in her characters -- Claire Allfree * Daily Telegraph * Karen Joy Fowler's novels are wildly inventive and deservedly popular * Daily Mail * Captures with enthralling vividness a country caught in the grip of fanatical populism, ripped apart by irreconcilable political differences and boiling with fury and rage .... An unalloyed triumph. Like Hilary Mantel in her Wolf Hall trilogy, Fowler skilfully exploits the present tense to remake the past as something surprising and new. -- Clare Clark * Literary Review * The Booths have receded into history, but in Fowler's telling their stories - personal and political - remain painfully relevant ... Booth is yet another urgent reminder that the US has been down the road to disunion before, with horrific consequences. * Financial Times * Fowler's riveting saga explores these strains of familial devotion and sorrow connecting the colorful Booth brothers and sisters * Washington Post * Booth doesn't hold anyone in judgment; like all the best literature, it seeks to better understand the human heart in all its flawed complexity. It's a haunting book, not just for all its literal ghosts, but for its suggestion that those ghosts still have not been exorcised from this country. * USA Today * She weaves an intimate, engaging portrait of a tribe whose aims and alliances were always shifting, buffeted by tragedy (several beloved siblings died young) and fickle fortunes. * Entertainment Weekly * Masterful...Fowler's excavation of this material is astonishing in its breadth and specificity, treating events of historical record with the same detail and care as secret bedtime talks and plays staged in treetops. * San Francisco Chronicle * Fowler returns here with an ambitious and consequential saga about a family with a monster in their midst. * Philadelphia Inquirer * Solid research mixed with empathetic imagination enriches Booth. * Christian Science Monitor * Fowler unfurls the Booths' tumultuous, theatrical lives against the backdrop of an unruly America, mired in the brutal violence of the Civil War, in this troubling, nuanced, engrossing novel -- Eithne Farry * Daily Mail * A labyrinthine and detailed exploration of the family... Fowler has form in family dynamics: her joyous, heart-breaking novel We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves anatomised the complexities of parental and sibling bonds under extraordinary stress. She does something similar in Booth, charting the personal stories that culminated on that fateful day in Washington. * Spectator * Drives home with rich theatrical flair the extent to which contemporary America remains locked inside the ugly ideological battles of the Civil War -- Claire Allfree * Telegraph * Booth manages to combine its interests with great skill, depicting slavery and all of its horrors accurately, while also showing the political consequences as those in the Union tentatively seeking abolition... Anyone with an interest in American history, family life 150 or so years ago or the stage should relish a book that brings all three together in a dramatic story that is both informative and enjoyable throughout * British Theatre Guide * History may claim to be about facts, but stories, like families, are largely about feeling, and the novel gives us feeling on a grand scale, even as it asks pertinent and topical questions about who owns those facts ... In its stretch and imaginative depth, Booth has an utterly seductive authority * Guardian * Brilliantly recounts the story of the American theatrical dynasty that produced Lincoln's assassin, John Wilkes Booth ... The story moves inevitably towards the fatal encounter in Ford's Theatre, but its strengths lie in its depiction of the decades-long interactions and rivalries between the various members of an extraordinary family. * Sunday Times Book of the Month * Captivating ... looks beyond the criminal * Press Association * Enjoyable and exceptionally poignant -- Alex Clark * Irish Times * A slice of social history, subtly evoking the horrors of slavery and touching on the fanatical populism that kept such a system in place. You don't have to look too hard to find such echoes today. * The Crack * A wonderful evocation of the colourful family life of John Wilkes Booth ... Deftly conjuring a 19th-century America riven by Civil War, it is a cautionary tale of divisive politics and rash impulses present-day world leaders should pay heed to. * Traveller * Fascinating * Metro * Absorbing and expansive * Irish Times * Absorbing and expansive new novel ... an insightful look at both a unique family and the dark roots of modern America. -- Anna Carey * the Irish Times * Utterly brilliant * Irish Catholic * The epic-sized tale of an ill-fated theatrical family living in 183Os Baltimore as civil war draws ever closer, this is a whip- smart, funny, inventive and blazing triumph of a book -- Rachel Joyce Moving and colourful and tragic * Evening Standard * Accomplished, immersive, and profoundly satisfying. Booth is both highly relevant to modern life and a fully realised piece of fiction. I loved learning about the Booth family and all their eccentricities, set against the backdrop of American history. I can't praise it highly enough, what a range Karen Joy Fowler has. -- Cathy Rentzenbrink
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