Book Review | Fates & Traitors by Jennifer Chiaverini

fates-traitorsIn 1865, the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln shocked America. It was an act committed by John Wilkes Booth, the son of an actor and a Covent Garden flower girl. In FATES AND TRAITORS Jennifer Chiaverini looks into the life of Booth through four woman: his mother, Mary Ann, his sister Asia, his lover Lucy and a co-conspirator, Mary Surratt. 


Let me say that I gave this book 4/5 overall. I actually really liked reading it. I didn’t know much about Booth before (actually, I didn’t even know his name. Sorry, American people, American history isn’t really taught over here. I obviously knew who Abraham Lincoln was, and about the Civil War, and the assassination, but not much else. It’s just not something we learn. Anyway), so this was a really interesting read. 

Fates and Traitors is divided into six chapters. The first is more of a prologue, told from the point of view of John after all the events of the book, on the night he is shot (and, subsequently, dies). Then the book goes back to before John was even born, with Mary Ann (mother) and Junius (father) in London. This was the first chapter, of course. The book continues with Asia, then Lucy Hale, before finishing with Mary Surratt where the assassination happens. The final chapter is called “ENSEMBLE”, and it shows what happens to everyone, switching between points of view (well, omnipresent 3rd person) to show what takes place. There is also an epilogue from the point of view of Lucy.

I had many conflicting emotions towards this book. I was almost angry that it made me sympathise with Booth – after all, he’s the bad guy here! But it also is the point of this book, I guess. Because it’s about Booth’s background and life you do begin to sympathise with him. It shows him as a human, rather than just an assassin. For example, I never knew that he was an actor, and an acclaimed one at that. (I didn’t know anything, as aforementioned, but that’s not the point here.)

fates-and-traitorsThe book was compelling. It took me a long time to get through because there was a lot of historical, factual information mixed into the fiction, but it was so interesting I really didn’t mind too much. I always knew what was going to happen at the end of course, but something gripped me and kept me reading.

I know that a lot of people have disliked this book. It is a ‘faction’ novel – a combination of fact and fiction (and one of my favourite types of book!) – and there is definitely more fact than fiction. I think Lucy was probably my favourite chapter, because there was more of a balance between these two, but I didn’t want to move on from Mary Ann’s either (the first).

This book is realistic both historically and humanly, which is so great. I love historically accurate novels. The characters felt real to me as well. I think that if you are a big Lincoln buff, not much of this will be new to you, but it is definitely a good twist on a general history book and this therefore makes it more accessible for audiences like yours truly, who like to learn about history and also like to read fiction.

I would totally recommend this book, but it’s not for everyone. You have to have some sort of interest, otherwise you probably won’t keep reading! (Despite there being a very nice writing style, I would just like to say.) It was so interesting to read and I have to stop Googling information and more history and actually complete the degree I came to university to do.

Thank you very much to Penguin Random House and Dutton Books for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review! None of the opinions here have been influenced by other people or companies. 

TITLE: Fates & Traitors
AUTHOR: Jennifer Chiaverini
GENRE: Historical faction
ISBN: 9781410492210
PERSONAL SOURCE: Sent by Dutton Books (Hardback copy)

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