About the Book
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.
I was beyond thrilled when I won a copy of See What I Have Done in a giveaway on twitter around Christmas-time. I read the book in a couple of sittings soon after it arrived but have held off posting my review until now so as to be closer to the release date.
This book is incredible. I knew a little about Lizzie Borden before reading the novel but this book really brought the case to life. The novel is told from the perspective of multiple narrators, who each add another layer to the story. It’s also told in a non-linear fashion – it opens with the murders having occurred and then goes back and forth from the days preceding the murders to the day of, and then the time that follows. I love the layering, the way each chapter adds a little more knowledge, and sometimes more questions, about the motivations of the characters.
I think the character I most cared about was Bridget – the maid who had travelled from Ireland to make a better life for herself and ended up in this cold and slightly strange family. Lizzie is the most memorable of characters though – she is never likeable, her manipulative side shows through from the start and she doesn’t seem to care who she tramples over to get what she wants. I was intrigued by her though. Sometimes it felt that Lizzie was much younger than the grown woman she was, but then there were flashes of a really calculating streak that showed her for the woman she was. Knowing from the start that it is she who is suspected of killing her father and step-mother with an axe, I was paying close attention to how she behaved before and after the killings.
The murders are gruesome and utterly horrific. It seemed impossible that a young woman could have physically done this to the large man her father was and yet her character traits made it seem absolutely possible. It made me uncomfortable that I believed it of her because of her being such a cold character, but then taking a step back it seemed she was the most likely culprit.
There are other suspects in the novel, and it seems likely that at least one of them is a plausible suspect. It’s strange that a man who is something of a wrong-un, who is asked to go to the house on the night of the murders by the Uncle of Lizzie and her older sister Emma, felt less likely to have done it than Lizzie.
The detail in the writing is stunning and so evocative – I swear I could smell the mutton broth on the stove in the kitchen as I was reading, and I felt like I could taste the pears from the trees in the garden. The stomach upset the family were suffering from was described in such a way that I ended up feeling very queasy as I was reading. There is a really stifling atmosphere around this house, it made me feel really claustrophobic and like the air in the room was pushing down on me at times and yet I still couldn’t stop reading. I love when the writing in a novel is so brilliant that it keeps you hooked even when you can hardly bear to read the unsettling, uncomfortable descriptions on the page.
I finished reading this book months ago now and yet it remains so vivid in my mind. I still think of the characters and what happened, it’s one of those books that really gets under your skin. I’m certain that this will be in my top ten books of this year – a book that makes you think, and one you can’t forget simply has to be up there in the best of the year list. I highly recommend this book. It’s due to be published on 2 May and you can pre-order it now.
I won a copy of this novel in a Twitter giveaway and have chosen to review it. All thoughts are my own.
The gorgeous proof copy that I was lucky enough to win has an interactive cover just like the one in this video: See What I Have Done blippar I’ll be buying a finished copy of the book but this is a proof that I will also be keeping in my my collection.
About the Author
After completing a Bachelor of Arts (Professional writing and editing), a Master of Arts (Creative Writing), and a Graduate Diploma of Information Management, Sarah currently works as a Reading & Literacy Coordinator (read: a fancy librarian) at a regional public library.
See What I Have Done is her first novel.
(Bio and author photo taken from here)