The Brothers Boswell

Published By: Soho Press

Book Category: Fiction, Historical

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Reviewed by Caryn St. Clair

The Brothers Boswell sweeps the reader back in time to 1763 in London where we meet John Boswell as he stalks his brother James and Samuel Johnson. Recently released from an asylum where he received treatment for mental problems, John, in a fit of jealously, has come to London to kill his brother and Johnson.

The current rash of reality and talk shows featuring dysfunctional families have nothing on the Boswell family.

After a quarrelsome period at home, his father has allowed James to travel to London for a year with the expressed purpose of gaining a commission in the King’s Guard. While it is doubtful that James ever had any intention of that, what he does set out to do is to meet as many of society’s “stars” as possible. And he is keeping a detailed journal of those meetings–a journal that is still read today. It is while in London for the year that he is introduced to Samuel Johnson who is best known for writing the English Dictionary. As a result of this introduction, a deep friendship develops that eventually leads to Boswell writing his famous biography of Johnson.

In this fascinating story of the Boswell brothers, readers meet characters that are familiar from history class as they come alive through the author’s descriptive language. You’re not just reading about John following, listening to and spying on James, author Baruth puts you right there. You are with John in the chase boat, you are at the door listening, and you are there rifling through the journal pages. In the end, there is a riveting encounter between the threesome.

The only complaint I have with this book, and it’s a relatively minor one, is that while I enjoy historical fiction, I am not a historical scholar. So as I read this book, I found myself making a list of questions about the events and people portrayed in this book. I think it would be helpful if there were a few author notes included at the end book giving at least the basic historical facts of the story.

Armchair Interviews says: A most interesting read.

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