“Lizzie Borden took an axe
And gave her mother forty whacks.
When she saw what she had done
She gave her father forty-one.”
Although I love history and true crime, the above summed up all I knew about Lizzie Borden before reading this book. See What I Have Done attempts to put some flesh on the story, by imagining what may have happened in the Borden household up to and around the killings.
The Borden household is a pretty dysfunctional one, much to the dismay of their maid, Bridget. Mr Borden is controlling and abusive, Mrs Borden highly strung and manipulative, and the sisters, Emma and Lizzie, are more like tempestuous teens than adult women. The picture painted of their lives in their house is a vivid one, with days old mutton constantly simmering on the stove while sickness and door-slamming abounds.
Told through multiple perspectives – Bridget, Lizzie, Emma and a stranger, Benjamin, who’s been hired by an uncle to ‘persuade’ Mr Borden to lighten up a bit – some of these were better than others (with Bridget’s being the best, and most illuminating) but all added a new angle from which to see how things may have been. I have no idea how close any of what’s imagined is to the known facts, but Schmidt did a decent job of building the tension and presenting a plausible scenario in which any one of the inhabitants had reason to do away with the awful heads of the house.
See What I Have Done didn’t end up grabbing me quite as much as I’d hoped it would, but it’s a decent book nonetheless.