***Release Date August 1, 2017***
See What I Have Done is a historical fiction based on Lizzie Borden, a woman accused of murdering her father and step-mother with an axe. I am quite familiar with the actual story and events, so I was interested in the potential of a fictional spin on the story.
The POV alternates between Lizzie, her sister Emma, their maid Bridget, and a transient acquaintance of their Uncle John. On top of that, the timeline jumps back and forth continuously, from just days before the murders to over a decade after, making it difficult at times to keep track of what’s going on.
The writing is creative and believably descriptive. Sometimes too descriptive.
“…my hands dived into my own vomit. Cold, gravel-think.”
“I sat next to Grandpappy’s infected body and tasted gangrene on the tongue, foul, rotted fat.”
The book left me with relief that I didn’t live during the 19th century and have to suffer through all of the awful smells.
The pace is slow and not much actually happens in the story. Rather than focus on the murders and the investigation, much of the story actually centers on the family and their borderline hatred for one another, setting up potential motives. If I had to choose a word to describe the Borden family, it would be ‘dysfunctional’, and Lizzie is the main contributor. She has an unhealthy attachment to Emma, and Emma reciprocates with love and affection on the surface but deep down, wants nothing more than to be done with Lizzie. Uncle John is awfully creepy and even gets handsy with Lizzie at one point. Step-mother Abby’s a mess, desperate to keep Bridget as her surrogate daughter since she had none of her own. Andrew was so contradictory between his demeaning of his daughters, yet demanding they stay home and not marry. Their dynamic was confusing and frustrating, making me wonder how long could I survive a family like that before trying to kill one of them?.
The murders are off-page in order to keep the murderer’s identity a secret until the very end, and once it’s clearly revealed, it just ends. Granted, the ending was beautifully written, but I would’ve preferred more content on characters’ reactions knowing all along who the killer was.
See What I Have Done isn’t one I’ll read again, but I will be looking forward to more of Sarah Schmidt’s unique writing in the future.
I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.