9/12/2017

See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt

See What I Have Done
Author: Sarah Schmidt
Publisher: Tinder Press
Publication Date: 2nd May 2017
Buy: Amazon | Book Depository | Wordery

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.

Told from the perspective of four narrators See What I Have Done is Sarah Schmidt's re-imagining of the notorious Borden murders. I picked this book up in Waterstones and had a read of the first chapter purely based on its beautiful cover. I'm a big fan of true crime and historical fiction, this book had the potential to be a perfect blend of the two.

Unfortunately the book can't quite seem to find the balance between a character driven whodunnit or a plot driven thriller. It seems to meander between the two, which sadly meant I found it slow going and I never really developed an understanding of the motives for any of the 'suspects.'

Lizzie Borden took an axe
And gave her mother forty whacks.
When she saw what she had done,
She gave her father forty-one.

The story is told over the days leading up to and following the murders. We hear the tale from Lizzie Borden, her sister Emma, their maid Bridget and a seemingly random character named Benjamin. All have a motive although, as I said earlier, these motives felt quite weak and underdeveloped. The only character with any real motivation seemed to be Benjamin, who ironically is the only character that is fictional, presumably included as a plot device. Any momentum in the book came from this character, a vagrant hired by the Borden sisters' uncle, John, to murder Andrew Borden for inheritance reasons.

For a debut novel See What I Have Done is by no means a bad book. Sarah Schmidt's writing, in places, is incredibly evocative, particularly scenes involving food and the more gruesome elements of the novel. I will certainly read future work from her.


Verdict:
Story - 2/5
Writing - 3/5
Character - 2/5
Memorability - 2/5
Overall rating - 2.5/5

2 comments

  1. I'll be really interested to see whether our opinions align on this one as it is on my Autumn reading list!

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    1. Yes I saw on your Instagram that you had it to read. It has very mixed reviews and I suspect its pace isn't a problem for others.

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