What’s it about?
Just after 11am on 4th August 1892, the bodies of Andrew and Abby Borden are discovered. He’s found on the sitting room sofa, she upstairs on the bedroom floor, both murdered with an axe.
It is younger daughter Lizzie who is first on the scene, so it is Lizzie who the police first question, but there are others in the household with stories to tell: older sister Emma, Irish maid Bridget, the girls’ Uncle John, and a boy who knows more than anyone realises.
In a dazzlingly original and chilling reimagining of this most notorious of unsolved mysteries, Sarah Schmidt opens the door to the Borden home and leads us into its murkiest corners, where jealousies, slow-brewed rivalries and the darkest of thoughts reside.
This was my book club choice for our November read. I picked it as I was looking for a book in a similar vein to Hannah Kent’s Burial Rites as I’d loved that book club choice.
I rated the book as a 4* read but do have mixed feelings about it. As interesting as the subject is the book is really very slow and quite repetitive. From the outset Lizzie and her father are painted as not very nice people but I actually got to more than half way though Schmidt’s version of events thinking there were several contenders of the who the murderer could be. I have a real respect for books that intermingle fact and fiction and as a reader you can’t tell where those lines are blurred and because of this I went one star higher with my rating.
The relationship between Lizzie and her sister Emma was a very strange and strained. Lizzie treated Emma like her maid and Emma let her do it. I just wanted Emma to make a break from the family and live her the life the way she wanted. I don’t know if this was how they really were but the sections of both their Wills at the end of the book make for interesting reading and would suggest it was.
I thought there were too many pear and mutton references and I wasn’t crazy about some of the writing style i.e. referring to the clock on the mantelpiece or time which was then followed by ticked.ticked.ticked. I get we were supposed to be in Lizzie’s head but I felt it was odd.
Ultimately I wanted to know did Lizzie do it or didn’t she, which we’ll never know, however based on this book I’d said she most definitely did.
Do you remember the childhood rhyme?
Lizzie Borden took an axe
And gave her mother forty whacks.
When she saw what she had done,
She gave her father forty-one.
Small print for info
No of pages: 336
Publisher: Tinder Press
It was with sadness that we learned on the morning following this meeting that a member of our book group had passed away. RIP Sue – forever now reading!