See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt

See What I Have Done

Author: Sarah Schmidt
Genre: Historical Fiction
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Atlantic Monthly Press
Release Date: August 1, 2017
Pages: 324

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Goodreads Synopsis: In this riveting debut novel, See What I Have Done, Sarah Schmidt recasts one of the most fascinating murder cases of all time into an intimate story of a volatile household and a family devoid of love.

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.

Jen’s Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

REVIEW: See What I Have Done is captivating right from the beginning. The story and life of Lizzie Borden is already a telling that has several of us intrigued and this book does the same. There are insights in this that make us think even more on how things might have really happened. During that time, there was much that could have been missed, many circumstances and theories that may have been overlooked. Sarah Schmidt gives us her own re-imagining of this gruesome case in history, in hopes of making more sense of it all and what might have really been going on inside of Lizzie’s mind.

Lizzie’s character is a doozy. There is constant wonder about her guise, how someone like her may have become a heartless cold-blooded murderer. How could this person see her father in a bloody state and go into the kitchen to have johnnycakes and mutton broth and go out and get herself a pear for a snack? But she does so while taken in the scent of everything and not feeling queasy at all. Her repeated stability and almost robotic form of being makes the guilt so overwhelming it’s hard not to believe she didn’t systematically rid herself of both her father and step-mother.

Then we are drawn further in with revelations of the Borden’s not being as sweet or perfect as others assumed. Emma, who is Lizzie’s sister, had a love-hate relationship with her sister. The way their father allowed Lizzie to do anything, while she had to endure their scrutiny and stay at home. Wishing that one day the daughter she might have would not be filled with mystery or other attributes Lizzie possessed. Emma saw Lizzie for what she was. That sweet loving girl, who once others backs were turned, had many snarky and questionable comments to make about them.  A chilling conversation between them where Lizzie jokes about killing their father and wanting to know what sounds he would make, all while creepily laughing.

This novel is truly an absorbing read. Gripping ’til the very end. I couldn’t help but read this book until the last word on the page. My mind was transfixed by it all. Between family members, those in charge of the case, stories of life around the Borden’s, many conceivable theories that could have been the demise of the Borden’s. There are many interactions between characters, including the housemaid Bridget, their Uncle John, and several others. If you know nothing about Lizzie Borden or what transpired in 1892 on that fateful day, then this will bring you right to it. And maybe, just like I did, you’ll be looking into the actual case for more material and re-telling of this infamous time in the Borden’s existence.

***I received this copy from Atlantic Monthly Press via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.***

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