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This is a wonderful, totally absorbing biography of Edwin and John Wilkes Booth. Nora Titone has an almost magical ability to create a sense of place and time as she follows the Booth brothers from their family farm to New York, Philadelphia, and Baltimore. It really is about both brothers, and the look at 19th-century American theater fully justifies the dual focus: how is it possible that Edwin Booth (and their father Junius Brutus Booth -- not to mention their resourceful mother!) has been overlooked for so long? There is plenty of time as well in this generous narrative to develop a number of figures peripheral to the main story, like Julia Ward Howe and her husband "Chev" (short for "Chevalier"); John Brown; and a number of theatrical colleagues and managers.
John B. Lloyd provides a clear, well-paced reading. My only regret is that Titone leaves the description of the actual conspiracy to kill Lincoln to others; but reading this makes it clear what direction John Wilkes Booth was headed in, and why. I loved it. I would recommend it to anyone interested in Lincoln, the Civil War, the American theater, or the 19th century in general.
14 of 14 people found this review helpful
The author's wonderfully descriptive language and the sweeping epic quality of this book make it a perfect audio read. You'll really feel transported back to the era. Not just the Civil War, but steamboats, the Gold Rush, a time when Baltimore was the 3rd largest city in America, and much more.
And then there's the adultery, alcoholism, an immigration story, sibling rivalry... so much interesting information and drama! I don't read a lot of history -- tending to view it as a little dry -- but this story really is smart and gripping. Hard to turn off! The fascinating details of the lives of the Booth family of actors read like a Shakespearean tragedy themselves. The title of the book comes from a line in Hamlet, and this story will be fascinating to anyone who's interested in the history of theater, too. It is so much richer than a mere assassination tale.
Narrator is also great. You can tell when he's quoting things by the way he changes his inflection, which I appreciate since the author clearly did an enormous amount of research and includes a lot of direct quotes. Pace, tone, etc. are all good. No annoying verbal habits to spoil the tale, and I don't get tired of his voice. And at 19+ hours, it's a great deal. Highly recommended.
12 of 12 people found this review helpful