A Thousand Steps

A Thousand Steps
A Thousand Steps by T. Jefferson Parker

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

See What I have Done by Sarah Schmidt- Feature and Review


In this riveting debut novel, See What I Have Done, Sarah Schmidt recasts one of the most fascinating murder cases of all time into an intimate story of a volatile household and a family devoid of love.

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.



See What I Have DoneSee What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

See What I have Done by Sarah Schmidt is a 2017 Atlantic Monthly Press publication.

After seeing some reviews for this book pop up on Goodreads and realizing the book was based on the infamous Lizzie Borden murders, I knew I had to read it.

For decades, I have been fascinated by the Borden murders, never quite sure if I fully believed in Lizzie’s guilt or innocence. I’ve read true crime and historical fiction based on Lizzie or the murders in general. Some of these novels are quite convincing, for one side or the other, and entirely plausible, while others are so far fetched I barely recognize the central characters. The same can be said for true crime books which also tend to lean to one side or the other and like to add, or leave out, any evidence that doesn’t fit their narrative.

Still, I never pass up the chance to read a book about the murders, fiction or nonfiction. This newest look at the day the Borden’s died and the subsequent fallout, is a work of fiction, and it appears to have received a few mixed reviews.

Initially, my personal experience with the novel, was one of boredom. The only interesting cog in the wheel was the arrival of Lizzie’s uncle on her mother’s side of the family, which explores a theory only some give credence to. I was glad the author decided to explore that angle, and the question of what John's motive may have been.

Other than that, there wasn’t much here I had not heard before, and many times it reminded me of the old made for television movie starring Elizabeth Montgomery. The speculation was different, but the characters and the family dynamics were very similar, as was the overall atmosphere.

However, towards the last quarter of the book, things really started to perk up. At one point, a chill went down my spine, literally.

The author doesn’t attempt to solve the riddle, instead leaving the reader, once again, to spend their spare time mulling over the evidence presented, which left plenty of room for reasonable doubt.

Although the book raised some interesting questions and presented some unexplored theories, and the author did a fair job of recreating the intense hostility and resentment in the Borden household, as well as giving the main players individual and pronounced personalities, there was something missing or lacking along the way that prevented the type of suspenseful build up I was hoping for. Perhaps my familiarity with the case squashed the anticipation aspects just a little, so maybe it was just me.

Still, I think the book was worth the time I invested in it, and it has renewed my interest in this case, causing me to rethink the facts I am one hundred percent sure of. But, at the end of the day, I find myself continuing to waffle, unable or unwilling, to stand on one side of the fence or the other.

The bulk of the book was mildly interesting, and kept me engaged just enough to propel me forward, but by the end, I was feeling much more impressed, and my attention was totally undivided.

For the discussion the book could prompt, I do recommend giving it a try. What are your theories?





Sarah Schmidt is a Melbourne based writer who happens to work at a public library. 
See What I Have Done is her first novel.

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