I’ve seen the words “magnificent” and “riveting” being used to describe My Thoughts Be Bloody: The Bitter Rivalry Between Edwin and John Wilkes Booth That Led to an American Tragedy by Nora Titone — and I wholeheartedly agree with both descriptions.
This book is far more than a recounting of the Abraham Lincoln assassination. Titone first captivates us with the love story between Junius Booth, a well loved Shakespearean actor, and the young and lovely Mary Ann, with whom he has eight children. (Lest this sounds like the stuff of fairy tales, know that when his wife finds out, she isn’t too happy.)
We then observe the tumultuous childhoods of John Wilkes Booth and his brother, Edwin, the latter of whom is as brilliant of an actor as his father. We feel the pain of John Wilkes’ jealousy and yet we recognize that, even as a child, something wasn’t quite right with him.
We also see how the lives of the Booth brothers intersect with key events during the years leading up to the Civil War — and then throughout the war.
I love how we learn about the women in the Booth family, especially Mary Ann and one strong-minded daughter. Edwin’s wife Mary is also intriguing. Too often, historical texts focus on the actions of the men, while the women are mere window dressings; although My Thoughts Be Bloody shares the lives of Junius, Edwin and John Wilkes Booth in the most detail, the ladies are remembered.