Clare Clark at Literary Review:
On 14 April 1865, less than a week after Confederate General Robert E Lee surrendered his army in Virginia and effectively ended the American Civil War, John Wilkes Booth gained entry to the private box at the theatre in Washington, DC, where Abraham Lincoln and his guests were watching a performance of Our American Cousin and shot the president in the head. Lincoln was pronounced dead the next morning. His assassination thrust much of the country into fresh despair and prompted the largest manhunt in American history.
Booth is Karen Joy Fowler’s ambitious exploration of the family at the centre of this seismic moment in the making of modern America – the entire family, that is, except John Wilkes Booth himself. In an author’s note at the end of the novel, Fowler acknowledges that it was never her intention to write a book about John Wilkes (known to the family as Johnny). He was, she writes, ‘a man who craved attention and has gotten too much of it; I didn’t think he deserved mine.’