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Fates and Traitors

by Jennifer Chiaverini

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1909113,854 (3.71)8
"The New York Times bestselling author of Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker returns with a riveting work of historical fiction following the notorious John Wilkes Booth and the four women who kept his perilous confidence. The world would not look upon his like again. John Wilkes Booth--driven son of an acclaimed British stage actor and a Covent Garden flower girl, whose misguided quest to avenge the vanquished Confederacy led him to commit one of the most notorious acts in the annals of America--has been the subject of scholarship, speculation, and even obsession. Though in his plot to assassinate President Abraham Lincoln Booth did not act alone--"I am determined to be a villain," he tragically prophesized on the occasion of his acclaimed 1862 New York City debut in the role of Richard III--he is often portrayed as a shadowy figure, devoid of human connection. Yet four women were integral in the life of this unquiet American: Mary Ann, the mother he revered above all but country; his sister and confidante, Asia; Lucy Lambert Hale, the senator's daughter who loved him; and the Confederate widow Mary Surratt, to whom he entrusted the secrets of his vengeful wrath. In Fates and Traitors, New York Times bestselling author Jennifer Chiaverini renders for the first time as fiction the compelling interplay between these pivotal actors--some willing, others unwitting--who made an indelible mark on the history of our nation"--… (more)
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» See also 8 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 8 (next | show all)
I love Chiaverini’s historical fiction books. As with all the rest I was pulled into this story about John Wilkes Booth. At first, I was confused by what seemed like a disjointed story, but then I realized this was needed to flesh out all the other people in his life. One wonders at the path he chose to become remembered in American history. ( )
  brangwinn | Apr 5, 2020 |
I thought this was a very good book. I always like a book that gets me thinking afterwards and this one surely did. Now I'm more curious about his family and how everything affected them because before I never thought about a family for him.
  Wapil | Mar 23, 2019 |
I thought this was a very good book. I always like a book that gets me thinking afterwards and this one surely did. Now I'm more curious about his family and how everything affected them because before I never thought about a family for him.
  Wapil | Mar 23, 2019 |
Although its subtitle is "A Novel of John Wilkes Booth," Fates and Traitors - like nearly all of Jennifer Chiaverini's books - is really about women. In this case, four women whose lives were intricately tied to that of Lincoln's assassin: his mother, Mary Ann Holmes Booth; his sister, Asia Booth Clarke; his supposed fiancee, Lucy Hale; and a co-conspirator, Mary Surratt.

The book opens with a prologue from Booth's viewpoint about his capture, in which he is shot and as he is slowly dying, he thinks of these four women. Then his life's story is told through theirs in the next four chapters: his early years (1838-1851) with his mother, who has an fascinating background; the years 1851-1864 from his older sister Asia's point of view (she later became a poet and writer); then 1864-1865 as seen by both fiancee Lucy (daughter and later wife of senators) and Mary Surratt (the first woman hung by the federal government for her part in the plot to kill Lincoln).

This is followed by a chapter in John's voice again, set in 1865, just after Lee's surrender at Appomattox. The final chapters tell what happened to all four women in the rest of 1865, and end with Lucy in 1890. I knew very little of any of these women, and found their stories to be the intriguing ones. Telling the story this way, though, also adds to the mystique of Booth - because one can see how his words and actions sounded and appeared to others, yet still not be able to get fully inside his mind to fully understand his motivation to kill Lincoln.

The title comes from Shakespeare's play Julius Caesar, Act II, Scene III, the last line:

"If thou read this, O Caesar, thou mayst live.
If not, the Fates with traitors do contrive."

A longer passage including this line is the epithet of the book, rather fitting for Booth, who apparently stated his favorite Shakespearean role was that of Brutus, Caesar's lead assassin.

Chiaverini provides a map at the beginning of the book marking relevant locations in Washington, D. C., and lists her sources in three pages of acknowledgements at the end of the book. I liked this novel better than Chiaverini's other novels featuring Civil War era personages.

© Amanda Pape - 2017

[This book was borrowed from and returned to my local public library.] ( )
1 vote riofriotex | Jul 4, 2017 |
To be fair, I likely would have given this book another star had I not read Hanging Mary (also about the Lincoln assassination) just a few months ago. As it is, I did read that book and I found it far more compelling than Fates and Traitors. Still, I appreciate this novel for bringing Booth's sister, Asia, into the story. I had not encountered this woman previously and with the extensive writing she did later in life, she is certainly overlooked. Overall, this book is a good, but not great, novel about one of America's most dramatic episodes. ( )
  wagner.sarah35 | Mar 14, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 8 (next | show all)
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Epigraph
"There is but one mind in all these men,
and it is bent against Caesar. If thou beest not
immortal, look about you. Security gives way to
conspiracy. The mighty gods defend thee!
Thy lover,
Artemidorus"

Here will I stand till Caesar pass along,
And as a suitor will I give him this.
My heart laments that virtue cannot live
Out of the teeth of emulation.
If thou read this, O Caesar, thou mayest live.
If not, the Fates with traitors do contrive.
--William Shakespeare,
Julius Caesar, Act 2, Scene 3
Dedication
To Marty, Nicholas, and Michael, with love and gratitude
First words
A sound in the darkness outside the barn--a furtive whisper, the careless snap of a dry twig underfoot--woke him from a fitful doze.
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"The New York Times bestselling author of Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker returns with a riveting work of historical fiction following the notorious John Wilkes Booth and the four women who kept his perilous confidence. The world would not look upon his like again. John Wilkes Booth--driven son of an acclaimed British stage actor and a Covent Garden flower girl, whose misguided quest to avenge the vanquished Confederacy led him to commit one of the most notorious acts in the annals of America--has been the subject of scholarship, speculation, and even obsession. Though in his plot to assassinate President Abraham Lincoln Booth did not act alone--"I am determined to be a villain," he tragically prophesized on the occasion of his acclaimed 1862 New York City debut in the role of Richard III--he is often portrayed as a shadowy figure, devoid of human connection. Yet four women were integral in the life of this unquiet American: Mary Ann, the mother he revered above all but country; his sister and confidante, Asia; Lucy Lambert Hale, the senator's daughter who loved him; and the Confederate widow Mary Surratt, to whom he entrusted the secrets of his vengeful wrath. In Fates and Traitors, New York Times bestselling author Jennifer Chiaverini renders for the first time as fiction the compelling interplay between these pivotal actors--some willing, others unwitting--who made an indelible mark on the history of our nation"--

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