“Lizzie Borden took an axe and gave her mother forty wacks. When she saw what she had done. She gave her father forty-one.”
When her father and step-mother are found brutally murdered on a summer morning in 1892, Lizzie Borden – thirty two years old and still living at home – immediately becomes a suspect. But after a notorious trial, she is found innocent, and no one is ever convicted of the crime.
Meanwhile, others in the claustrophobic Borden household have their own motives and their own stories to tell: Lizzie’s unmarried older sister, a put-upon Irish housemaid, and a boy hired by Lizzie’s uncle to take care of a problem.
This unforgettable debut makes you question the truth behind one of the great unsolved mysteries, as well as exploring power, violence and the harsh realities of being a woman in late nineteenth century America.
Everyone’s heard of Lizzie Borden right!? Wrong – before I read this novel, an embellished version of a true crime case in America, I had absolutely no idea who Lizzie Borden was and what she did or did not do [I know, I need to brush up on my true crime!] So, everything I read in this novel was new to me, I was hearing the “facts” for the first time and wow, this is an interesting case. Schmidt caught my full attention with this novel, and even had me researching the true events once I finished the book.
See What I Have Done has multiple narrators: Lizzie, her sister – Emma, the maid – Bridget and a thug for hire – Benjamin. Together they tell the story of the day preceding, and the day of, the murders and what followed after. Lizzie has the opening narrative, after all she is the star of the show, and what an interesting narrative it is. Lizzie comes across and cold, she doesn’t have quite the reaction one would expect from someone whose father and stepmother have just been murdered. She was such an odd character, to be honest, I thought all the characters were rather odd and weirdly this made the novel extremely intriguing for me because I wasn’t familiar with the real-life case, I had no idea where this plot would go.
I liked Schmidt’s almost sing-song narration style, it added to the eerie feel this novel had, and made the characters seem all the more peculiar. Granted, it’s not a narration style that everyone may enjoy but I thought it added to the whole peculiarity of the plot.
I thought it was an interesting choice, the way Schmidt chose to narrate the trial of Lizzie Borden, it didn’t take up a huge chunk of the story and I was slightly upset by this. As someone who enjoys reading about trials [true or fictional], enjoys seeing the evidence and the case brought by both parties, I would have liked a stronger, more detailed look at this particular event – the way it was narrated fit with the tone of the novel, wanting a closer, more detailed look is just my personal preference.
Overall, I enjoyed this historical crime fiction novel, knowing it was based on true events gave it that extra chill, and I really got caught up in the oddity and peculiarity of it all and I certainly hope to read more from Schmidt in the future.