So part of my “catch up while husband is overseas” plan involved writing 5 reviews per day but since that took roughly 100 years last night I decided to shoot for a more reasonable three. I am also going to try and find common threads between my reviews so it makes a bit more sense.
All of the below reviews are “true stories” but I only needed one to check off the True Story Bingo square-
CBR Bingo: True Story
The Trial of Lizzie Borden, Cara Robertson
Lizzie Borden took an axe.
And gave her mother forty whacks.
When she saw what she had done.
She gave her father forty-one.
I didn’t know much about Lizzie Borden before Cara Robertson’s focus on the trial surrounding the murder of her father and step mother; I actually didn’t realize the “mother” was her father’s second wife and their poor relationship goes a long way to explaining Borden’s possible motive. Robertson does a decent job of staying impartial so it is up to the reader to play the role of jury (of course if you’re a woman you couldn’t have been on Lizzie’s jury because patriarchy).
“The notion that a crime could be clearly gendered was rooted in European models of criminology, but such models of criminality struggled to account for a female criminal. Within the prevailing models of the human mind, women were seen as somewhat less evolved than men and with a corresponding lack of rational control over their actions—barely protected from their underlying degeneracy by male control, especially over their sexuality.”
Robertson touches on Lizzie’s upbringing and home life before delving into the murders and trial. She presents the circumstantial evidence that was presented at the trial like Lizzie burning a dress shortly after the murders and her sending the maid home so no one but Lizzie and her parents were home during the murders. At a time when there were no forensic scientists and Watson & Crick weren’t even a twinkle in their fathers’ eye it came down to one simple thing- women in Lizzie Borden’s social class did not kill people. And with that, she was acquitted in less than two hours.
I’ll be honest, I find it highly unlikely that Lizzie was innocent and I don’t think you can blame her period for why she did it.
CBR Bingo: Science!
Masters of Sex: The Life and Times of William Masters and Virginia Johnson, the Couple Who Taught America How to Love, Thomas Maier
Let’s talk about SEX baby!
“For nearly a decade, their secret remained safe. Rumors of a lab study devoted to sex, operating in the heart of St. Louis, never appeared on television or radio or in print. As a personal favor to Masters, St. Louis Globe-Democrat publisher Richard Amberg vowed his daily newspaper wouldn’t breathe a word to its readers. The city’s other competing paper, owned by Pulitzer, stayed mum. Reporters for the Associated Press and United Press International, the two wire services beaming scoops across the world, also knew of this sensational human experiment but refused to say anything to the American public.”
I never watched Showtime’s Masters of Sex but it was hard to make it through 2013 without gleaning some insight into the research of Dr William Masters and Virginia Johnson. Masters, an OBGYN who got his start in fertility treatments, and Johnson, a divorcee with no formal college education, became the premier sex researchers of the 1950s- picking up where Kinsey left off and then some. The first decade of their time together was full of ground breaking discoveries, including a never before focus on women’s sexual needs and responses, but what started as a quiet lab in St Louis eventually attracted numerous famous client and scientific renown. Unfortunately, the longer they worked together the messier their lives got and the more their research suffered.
While their first three books focused on the human sexual response their fourth book, published in the late 70s, focused on homosexuality- namely Masters’ belief it was “curable” through conversion therapy. It should be noted Johnson did not agree with this school of thought but her name is still on the book. But if I learned anything from this book it was that Masters was kind of a creep. He divorced his wife of thirty years for Johnson who he had more of a business relationship (with an expectation of sex- for research) with than anything resembling true love.
Overall this book is very interesting, even if it gets a little dry at times, and we owe a lot to the research Masters and Johnson performed but they were not infallible and several parts of the research are outdated.
CBR Bingo: PAJIBA
The Amnityville Horror, Jay Anson
I was going to tag The Amnityville Horror as my “Not in my Wheelhouse” read until I was looking through the Pajiba archives and discovered my lovely sister reviewed it for CBR5!
Unfortunately I read Amnityville before reading the review.
I am not a horror person but that is OK because this is not a horror book. It also isn’t a very good non-fiction book because there is an abundant lack of fact checking. I am not really sure what type of book this is but I suppose it doesn’t matter what I think because it has spawned two film adaptations and inspired The Conjuring film series. I haven’t seen any of these films because, again I am not a big horror fan, but I am vaguely aware of their premises.
If you’re unaware of the Amnityville plot- in 1975 newlyweds George and Kathy Lutz, along with Kathy’s children, move into a large house that was the site of a grisly murder. Luckily it was an absolute bargain. Unfortunately strange things start to happen (it is always cold, the kid gets a creepy imaginary friend etc) and in less than a month the young family abandons their home to the spirits of the murdered DeFeo’s. Oh and there is a priest who was brought into the bless the house the day the Lutzes moved in but he heard a demonic voice tell him to ‘get out’ and then he gets horribly ill and develops blisters resembling stigmata!
Luckily this read is quick, much like the Lutz’s stay in Amnityville, so while I wouldn’t recommend it as a read it isn’t a very big time commitment if you choose not to heed my advice.