Thursday, February 16, 2017


Fates and Traitors, by Jennifer Chiaverini, is billed as a novel of John Wilkes Booth, and I suppose that it is that, in that there are fictionalized reconstructions of conversations, etc. But it is testimony to the paucity of actual material about Booth that the book is largely descriptive of other people--most members of his rather extensive family, Mary Surratt, Lucy Hale. There is a rather weak attempt to portray Booth as a Confederate idealist, but there is no real information given as to evolution of his views, nor to development of his character. I'm not sure if this is deliberate, but if it was, it was a disappointment, because ultimately, in a novel ostensibly about him, the one central figure in the narrative that the audience learns very little of is John Wilkes Booth.
That isn't to say that the novel is totally without merit; the female characters are universally well-depicted and rounded, from his mother to the Surratts. Which makes me wonder whether this was the intention of the author all along, because consensus at the time was that Booth was a master manipulator of women more than men. The overall effect is that this isn't a bad novel at all--it just could have been so much more .

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