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Book Review: See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt

Lizzie Borden took an axe
And gave her mother 40 whacks
And when she saw what she had done
She gave her father 41

Everyone knows this rhyme, and everyone knows this crime.

See What I Have Done is Sarah Schmidt’s debut novel, and a gripping triumph. It’s a thought-provoking fictional retelling of the infamous unsolved double murder, and is a testament to the limitations of criminal investigations of the 1890s.

I remain convinced Lizzie Borden killed her father and step-mother for their fortune, and am even further convinced that the all-male jury severely underestimated her.

Is a woman truly incapable of such brutality? 

What this story does, is paint a picture of motive. Lizzie and her sister, Emma, grew up in one fucked up household filled with abuse of all kinds. The double murder of Andrew and Abby Borden was not the first in the family – another relative drowned her two young daughters before slitting her own throat. 

To help Lizzie and Emma, their uncle (their deceased mother’s brother) hired a “fixer” to set Andrew straight. Someone beat him to it though – as in, he was hacked to death.

This novel doesn’t close the case, but it does provide insight into how an environment can influence one’s actions. It recalls a crime that lives in infamy while wondering if there is more to the story than what lies in plain sight.