Bell Bridge Books, $14.95, ISBN 978-0-9802453-3-2
Historical Fiction, 2008
Jane Singer’s Booth’s Sister is an account of Asia Booth Clarke’s life, inspired by Asia’s own personal memoirs. Asia was the sister of John Wilkes Booth, the man who killed one Abraham Lincoln without letting that poor man catch the ending of the movie he was watching, as you may know. She was placed under house arrest in the days after the assassination until John was finally cornered and killed. While she was never charged as an accomplice, Asia knew of John’s plot – although in this story she claims that she has never considered that John would actually go ahead with the plot – and allowed her brother to hide in her house.
This story attempts to tell the story of Asia, from her childhood to the aftermath of President Lincoln’s assassination. The Booths are a clan of actors and they are, I am led to believe, always talking to each other as if they are overwrought actors on stage. A part of me wonders whether John wouldn’t misbehave as badly as he did if their father had toned down his over-the-top antics when the kids were younger. I have a hard time getting into the first few dozens of pages in this book because everyone, especially the father, is always shouting lines from Shakespeare’s plays, bursting into songs just like in those Bollywood movies, and behaving as if they are in some kind of amateur barn stage production.
To my dismay, I soon realize that the entire story is written as if the whole thing is… I don’t know, A Midsummer’s Night Dream on crack or something. Every other scene is so melodramatic and over-the-top, the characters tend to speak as if they are reciting lines from plays of a previous century, and I have a hard time taking the whole story seriously. I am hoping for some pathos, some insight into Asia’s mind perhaps, but all I get is Ms Singer’s attempt to turn Asia’s life into a musical. This is definitely not my cup of tea.