Like many of you, I’m sure, I have a weird obsession with true crime. So I’ve been kind of obsessed with Lizzie Borden ever since I first discovered her story, which was at least ten years ago. So it’s been a while. And yet, I had not read any books about her or the legendary Borden murders. Naturally, when I saw that Sarah Schmidt’s debut novel, See What I Have Done, was a fictionalized account of the Borden murders, I had to read it.
(All reviews are spoiler-free unless otherwise noted.)
(From Goodreads) On the morning of August 4, 1892, Lizzie Borden calls out to her maid: Someone’s killed Father. The brutal ax-murder of Andrew and Abby Borden in their home in Fall River, Massachusetts, leaves little evidence and many unanswered questions. While neighbors struggle to understand why anyone would want to harm the respected Bordens, those close to the family have a different tale to tell—of a father with an explosive temper; a spiteful stepmother; and two spinster sisters, with a bond even stronger than blood, desperate for their independence.
As the police search for clues, Emma comforts an increasingly distraught Lizzie whose memories of that morning flash in scattered fragments. Had she been in the barn or the pear arbor to escape the stifling heat of the house? When did she last speak to her stepmother? Were they really gone and would everything be better now? Shifting among the perspectives of the unreliable Lizzie, her older sister Emma, the housemaid Bridget, and the enigmatic stranger Benjamin, the events of that fateful day are slowly revealed through a high-wire feat of storytelling.
We all know the story. Lizzie Borden took an axe, gave her mother forty whacks. When he saw what she had done, gave her father forty-one. Sarah Schmidt made me feel like I was hearing the tale for the first time. I went in with an opinion about who committed the murders, but there were definitely moments I doubted that while reading this book. Schmidt introduces characters I wasn’t familiar with, but who gave the story so much depth.
The characters in this novel were so incredibly dimensional and interesting. Schmidt really has a handle on the psychological elements of a dysfunctional family. Every relationship between the characters was so complex. It was fascinating to read about them.
I particularly enjoyed the alternating perspectives in this book. Since most of the story takes place within the span of a day, switching back and forth between characters made discovering the story seem almost like a puzzle. The pieces all fit together, it was just a matter of reading them. The multiple perspectives were done well and served the story very effectively. When I read multiple perspectives, there is almost always one or two perspectives or characters I don’t particularly like hearing about. That wasn’t the case here. I savored each different perspective and how it played into the story.
Overall, I thought this was a brilliant novel. The story took what I knew about these very real events and made it feel tangible, made me feel as if I was there. It was horrific, but utterly magical at the same time. I was blown away by this book, especially because it is a debut novel, and am very excited to see what Sarah Schmidt does next. She is well on her way to becoming one of my must-buy authors!
★★★★★ – I loved See What I Have Done. It was a fantastic historical thriller that had me compulsively turning pages. I highly recommend this novel, especially if you, too, are fascinated by Lizzie Borden. It’s also the perfect read for anyone who enjoys dark historical fiction.
See What I Have Done is scheduled for release on August 1. However, if you can’t wait to get your hands on it, Amazon appears to be shipping them early! I preordered myself a hard copy – because I need this in my library – and it arrived almost a week ago!
To get the audiobook for free, use this link to sign up for a free trial of Audible and choose See What I Have Done as one of your two free books.
This book was provided to me by the publisher and NetGalley in exchange for my unbiased review.