Recommended: Yes, with restrictions
Genres: Crime, Historical Fiction
I received this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
If you are a fan of true crime, this book is for you. It tells the story of the ax murders of Andrew and Abby Borden, which today completes 125 years. See What I Have Done got me on the edge of my seat during the whole time, although I already knew the story previous to reading the book. It is so gripping and it sent a chill down my spine every time I thought the story it’s based on was real. Honestly, it felt like reading all the articles about the case, plus filling the blank spaces our imaginations tend to try and fill out. What goes through the head of someone who commits a crime like that? See What I Have Done tells you.
Synopsis from Goodreads:
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.
When I saw the synopsis of this book, my first thought was: if this is good, I’ll read it far too quickly. Result? I read it far too quickly.
There is a sort of fascination with true events, especially crime, which always seems to leave a sort of hunger to know the details that reports and articles can’t satiate: what was going through the mind of a killer? What could drive a person to such horror? If you don’t know the real events this book is based on, then I suggest you don’t look it up before reading this! If you’re really curious, though, you can read this Wikipedia article on it (has strong images, please be careful if you’re sensitive to them).
See What I Have Done is incredibly gripping, the writing style simple but, at the same time, brings such emotion. I enjoyed the different point of views from Lizzie, Emma and Bridget. Benjamin’s part of the story didn’t feel like it added anything to it except for an extra suspect/witness and felt like it was meant to add to the goriness of the story. The narration sometimes felt a bit confusing, without too clear a line between present (after the murders) and past, but it didn’t bother me too much.
Despite being familiar with the true crime story, I was so tense reading this book, perhaps because of knowing how much of that has happened in reality. This is Sarah Schmidt’s debut novel, and in my opinion she did a great job.
It must be said that this book gets creepy and gory quite often, so be wary of that. It depicts a very dysfunctional family with deeply unhealthy relationships.
Verdict: This book is a wonderful fictional retelling of the ax murders of Andrew and Abby Borden, it’s very gripping and impossible to put down. Trigger warnings: gory scenes of murder, psychological & physical abuse.