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Booth cover art

Booth

By: Karen Joy Fowler
Narrated by: January LaVoy
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Summary

LONGLISTED FOR THE BOOKER PRIZE 2022

Sunday Times Book of the Month

SIX BROTHERS AND SISTERS. ONE INJUSTICE THAT WILL SHATTER THEIR BOND FOREVER

From the million-copy bestselling author of We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves comes an epic novel about the infamous, ill-fated Booth family.

Junius is the patriarch, a celebrated Shakespearean actor who fled bigamy charges in England, both a mesmerising talent and a man of terrifying instability. As his children grow up in a remote farmstead in 1830s rural Baltimore, the country draws ever closer to the boiling point of secession and civil war.

Of the six Booth siblings who survive to adulthood, each has their own dreams they must fight to realise—but it is Johnny who makes the terrible decision that will change the course of history—the assassination of Abraham Lincoln.

Booth is a riveting novel focused on the very things that bind, and break, a family.

©2022 Karen Joy Fowler (P)2022 Hachette Audio UK

Critic reviews

"In its stretch and imaginative depth, Booth has an utterly seductive authority." (Guardian)

What listeners say about Booth

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Momentous

I was gripped - it is beautifully read, the characterisation and story spans the human experience - in parts I laughed out loud and in other parts I felt the chills prickling my neck. I can not accurately describe how very good and interesting - immersive - I found this book

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Spoilt by narration

Had to abandon audio book and will need to purchase a written version as narration is terrible. Every single line is given far too much dramatic emphasis making it difficult to follow this fascinating story. I had hoped that by persevering I would get used to it but it unfortunately it proved just too exhausting to listen to! There has to be light and shade not this grim intensity.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Gripping, powerful, masterful

This is one of the most memorable books I’ve encountered in a long time (and I read a LOT).
A fictional account of the real-life Booths, a 19th century family of actors, the book weaves an unputdownable tale of their lives first as children growing up in the shadow of their father’s ‘mad genius’, and expands into their adulthood during the Civil War… ending in fame for one, and eternal notoriety for another.

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1 person found this helpful

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Outstanding

At last, a thoroughly engrossing historical novel. My only gripe is the American pronunciation (in Audiobooks) of ‘Booth’ with a soft ‘th’…..
really irritating. But accurate in terms of American speech, I suppose.

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Loved it

Fantastic book and wonderfully read. Perfectly juggles the weight of it's historical moments with the humanity of its characters. What could have either been just a list of facts or fantastical guesswork always feels firmly grounded and engaging. 100% recommend.

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Brilliant

I learned a great deal about American history as well as this extraordinary family. Fabulous novel, well narrated too.

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An excellent and well read novel.

This English reader was not as well informed on the details of this story as many of my American counterparts will doubtless be. I now consider myself very well and entertainingly informed and indeed am following up on many of the stories and characters that feature herein. In short I loved the story and the telling of the story. Well done to all concerned.

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

An interesting book

I found this book interesting from a historical perspective, it was also a little dry. I’m supposing this is in the interest of maintaining as much historical accuracy as possible. I liked the character of Rosalie which was by the authors admission mostly fictional, I suppose I’d have preferred more of that to make the book more accessible but it was worth listening to.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

A fascinating, ominous, and important novel

Fowler tackles a formative and highly complex period in American history with a sprawling, spellbinding biography of the Booth family. We are taken at pace but with surprising intimacy through a select series of events in the Booth family history, told from constantly varying perspectives of different family members, while carefully and effectively limiting the focus on John W Booth himself. Fowler finds a compelling and just faintly sinister tone in her writing, which is kept compact and tense by excellent editing. Whilst necessarily fictional in parts, it reads authentically with scattered quotes from Lincoln and others that ground the novel without making it dry. The story builds dramatically towards its well known conclusion, while retaining emphasis on the dynamics and emotional struggles between the Booth family members. The author’s notes rightly raise the continued significance of these 19th century events on present day politics, and American racial politics in particular.
LaVoy narrates with a relentlessness suiting the drama and tempo of the novel, such that this is not an audiobook to listen to with any distractions. Fowler and LaVoy demand your full attention, as almost every sentence is pregnant with significance; and times and perspectives shift so quickly that the preoccupied listener will rapidly find themselves lost. Though I understand if some listeners may find LaVoy’s pressing, theatrical intonation off-putting, I found her to be very clear with excellent characterisation that makes for an immersive, distinctive experience. Highly recommended.

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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Well written but not for me

I just didn't enjoy this book. There is no doubt the author is highly talented but I kept losing interest. I didn't finish it.

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