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The Brothers Boswell

3.22  ·  Rating Details ·  95 Ratings  ·  23 Reviews
The year is 1763.Twenty-two-year-old James Boswell of Edinburgh is eager to advance himself in London society. Today his sights are set on furthering his acquaintance with Dr. Samuel Johnson, famed for his Dictionary; they are going to take a boat across the Thames to Greenwich Palace. Watching them secretly is John Boswell, James’ younger brother. He has stalked his older ...more
Hardcover, 329 pages
Published May 1st 2009 by Soho Press (first published January 1st 2009)
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L.E. Smith

I write this review quite some time after the publication of Baruth's wonderful book, mostly because I am a writer preparing a list of places to ask for reviews of my own work, and after I visited Soho Press to get reviews of Baruth's novel The Brothers Boswell.

I was disappointed with Soph Press' website, as it has placed Philip's books (there are two novels of his from this press) onto a kind of "has been" link with little info. about the books, the writer, the wonderful reviews his books have
Apr 03, 2009 Chainman rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If you enjoy literary thrillers, this book has everything. The characters are complex and interesting, the action is riveting, and the humor is great. Baruth takes an indirect approach to the famous relationship between Dr. Samuel Johnson and his biographer, James Boswell. The main character is James's troubled younger brother, John, who stalks James and Dr. Johnson, all the while raging with envy and resentment. The twists and turns of the plot (and of John's mind) are surprising and totally be ...more
Jul 18, 2015 Nicole rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I was surprised to learn that this was supposed to be a literary thriller when I saw this page after I finished the book. I argue that it is neither. I usually have trouble with "thrillers" based on real events as I most often know what happens in the end. That somewhat takes the sting out of the big reveal. As for literary, it felt as if the author was writing whilst continually consulting a dictionary which does not lead to prose which takes the breath away. It felt inauthentic and posed - as ...more
William Stafford
This book is like time travel. Philip Baruth takes us back to Georgian London - with a few visits to Edinburgh too - as John Boswell stalks his famous brother James and his famous friend Dr Samuel Johnson as they converse, take tea and indulge themselves in their own brilliance. There is something of the travelogue here as well as elements of a thriller. Above all, it's a detailed portrait of life in England's capital in a bygone age; human nature hasn't changed. Each of the Boswell brothers rin ...more
Jul 07, 2010 Gary rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I was disappointed by this book. It has some good feel for Georgian London but the storyline is thin really and I am unable to stop myself thinking about what a writer like Neal Stephenson would have done with the story - much more depth and complexity of characters and action. Baruth spins the story of John and James Boswell far too thin for my liking and the twist at the end is no twist at all - on a par with Bobby Ewing's 'it all happened in a dream' calamity from Dallas in the 80's. I can't ...more
May 23, 2009 Selene rated it really liked it
Shelves: jan_09
This book is really, really good. It's beautifully written and painstakingly constructed, but it never reads like Historical Fiction. I believed in the voice of the narrator, Boswell's mad brother. This kind of writing is so often concerned with getting it all right: the address, the locality, the details of clothing & dress & foodstuffs that all the pressing accuracy actually crowds us out of the narrative. There's something looser and more confident at work here, which allows us to get ...more
This book did a good job illustrating the time period the story takes place in detail, it gave the reader the feeling of London in 1763 quite nicely. However, i felt like it took the story a long time to really get going and because of that it took me a while to get through the book. I also thought the ending was kind of weak and I wasn't surprised by the twist.

Still, I would recommend this book to fans of historical fiction. (especially in this time period)
Jul 15, 2009 Danica rated it did not like it
I'm trying to hold my books to the same standard as the movies I I was very disappointed when I got to page 100ish of this book and a totally unexpected very graphic scene popped up. I was really enjoying the writing - it was clever and funny and interesting - but I'm closing the book. I wouldn't watch a movie with a similar scene, so I ain't gonna read it either.
Oct 05, 2012 Jess rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Unlike any historical fiction I've ever read. At times, it was difficult to determine whether what I was reading was 'real' & actually happening or if it was the product of a madman's schizophrenic imagination. Gripping & suspenceful.
Aug 26, 2009 Ignacio rated it really liked it
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It's a great thriller, keeps the suspense going, and creates compelling characters. I especially enjoyed the depiction of the tenderness and drama of sibling rivalry.

Aug 07, 2010 Beth rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2010, unfinished
I really gave this book a go, I got to page 177, but I finally decided that I just didn't care at all what happened. This is a well-written book that I'm sure will appeal to some, especially if they are interested in the time period and Samuel Johnson.
Feb 08, 2010 Tuck rated it really liked it
great novel about samuel johnson, and james boswell and his little, insane brother john. or is he, insane? this has it all, good historical realism, nice literary/philosophical musings, thrilling tension, some pretty good sex scenes.
Aug 07, 2011 Julia added it
i got quite drawn into this book despite fact that nothing much happens until towards the end; it is all a build up to it. Interesting picture of Edinburgh and London life in the 18th century
Nov 19, 2009 Jobie rated it did not like it
Ugh. Terrible.
Erin Caldwell
Jan 17, 2017 Erin Caldwell rated it liked it
Interesting story with a twist at the end. A little slow in the middle, but worth finishing.
Nanette Williamson
Apr 06, 2010 Nanette Williamson rated it it was amazing
Shelves: abandoned
I didn't want to work that hard, but it is excellent.
Mar 15, 2010 Anne rated it really liked it
Not easy reading.
May 01, 2009 Andrea marked it as to-read
Sep 08, 2014 Mark rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting tale of society in Britain at the time and the intrigues that might occur. The apparent time available for such a life without appearance of working to live merits some thought.
Jun 03, 2012 Les rated it liked it

Well written.Historical value.
Apr 08, 2010 Krista rated it liked it
Story about the famous writer of dictionaries Samuel Johnson and sidekick James Boswell, as told by the demented brother John Boswell. Interesting, but not compelling.
Apr 23, 2012 Sonja rated it it was ok
hmmmm, don't know if I liked it or not. I finished it.
Jun 11, 2013 Janet rated it liked it
Shelves: read-in-2013
Local Author, Well written and interesting, I didn't find it compelling.
Tony Steele
Tony Steele rated it really liked it
Feb 20, 2017
Andrew rated it liked it
Mar 18, 2013
Nat Bond
Nat Bond rated it it was amazing
Apr 19, 2013
Katie Johnson
Katie Johnson rated it really liked it
Aug 05, 2014
Jamie McMahan
Jamie McMahan rated it liked it
Aug 27, 2012
Claire rated it liked it
Mar 25, 2012
Kay rated it really liked it
Aug 04, 2011
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Philip Baruth is a novelist, and has spent twelve years as a regular commentator for Vermont Public Radio. His commentary series, “Notes from the New Vermont,” focused on both the national and the local, the deeply political and the undeniably absurd.

In addition to Vermont Associated Press awards for commentary on Howard Dean and the effects of 9/11, Philip won a national Public Radio News Directo
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