Book Review: See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt

See What I Have Done Sarah Schmidt

“Lizzie Borden took an axe and gave her mother forty wacks. When she saw what she had done. She gave her father forty-one.”

Book Description:

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.

My Thoughts:

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.

This book is available to buy from: Amazon UK / Book Depository

30 thoughts on “Book Review: See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt

  1. I didn’t know much about Lizzie Borden either before reading this novel. It was a bit of a struggle for me to get through this one and I think it is in fact due to the narration style and the peculiar character that Lizzie is. I’m happy to see you were able to get past this and enjoyed it!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! Even if you don’t love it, I honestly don’t think it’s as bad as some of the reviews make it out to be. I think if you struggle with the narration style, you’ll struggle with the book, so I was psyching myself up to read it but it turned out I really liked the narration style lol

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m glad I’m not the only one – it must have been a highly popular case for there to be a rhyme attached to it. I agree there have been a wealth of mixed reviews for this one but it was one of those books I had my heart set on reading regardless of the reviews so I’m happy I enjoyed it haha

      Liked by 1 person

  2. This is one I’d like to read as well. True crime is fascinating. I had no idea who Lizzie Borden was prior to this release either, by the way.

    Oh, I agree about trials. Haven’t read much books about it, but I’ve seen some great series focusing on court work. Love it!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. True Crime fascinates me too, and I really like the way Schmidt embellished this novel to make a full length fiction book. It definitely is a peculiar case and must have caused quit a stir for it to have its own rhyme.

      And yes to trials, I can read whole books about them!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I do see a trend in these literary takes on true crime. Before Schmidt’s novel, there was Little Deaths by Emma Flint and His Bloody Project by Graeme Macrae Burnet. All of which, I want to read, by the way.

        Any suggestions on trial novels? I know John Grisham has written a few. Are they any good?

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I’ve read His Bloody Project, the trial in that is extremely good! I have Little Deaths sitting on my shelf waiting to be read.

        My favourite book by Grisham will forever be The Innocent Man, it’s true crime not fiction but a very good book. But yes, he’s one the best when it comes to legal thrillers.


  3. I just couldn’t get into this one when I tried to read it, though I really want to try again and hope it was just frame of mind at the time that stopped me. Great review!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Great review! I totally agree with you about wanting more of the trial in the book. I was disappointed that she didn’t really delve into the trial at all. I was one who didn’t particularly care for the musical quality of the writing – sometimes I think it really worked, other times it was too much and too over-the-top.
    I really like the pear cover – but I also really like the pigeon cover as well, it is stunning to see in person, and both covers really capture the spirit of the book!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Glad to hear your thoughts, I think quite a few people didn’t like the song-song writing style. And yes, a shame about the trial portion of the book.
      I definitely prefer the pear cover, until I’d read the book, I didn’t see the significant of a pear on the cover but you’re right, they both captured the spirit of the book!

      Liked by 1 person

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