See What I have Done by Sarah Schmidt – An Atmospheric True Crime Read
11th August, 2017
Based on the 1892 murder of two members of the Borden family, See What I have Done is true crime novel at its best.
“Lizzie Borden took an axe
And gave her mother forty whacks
When she saw what she had done,
She gave her father forty one.”
This is one of the many rhymes that has it’s roots in the Borden murder case. These rhymes were often sung by newspaper sellers to enhance the sales of the papers with the sensational news item printed in them. The cover art with the pear on the front and rhyme on the back of the jacket is just stunning. Yeti is one of my favourite cover designers now (Yes, you guessed it. One of the 14 Delicious covers of 2017). You will understand as you read further why this is such a brilliant cover.
Based on a real life murder
Lizzie Borden was acquitted for the murders of her father and step mother in Massachusetts in 1892 (See more). See What I have Done was my first book based on a real life murder case. I did my bit of ground work to learn more about the trial which was fascinating (although I am not sure if fascinating is the right word to use for such a gruesome act).
A clever structure
The book spans over the few days of the murder and each chapter is told from the POV of one of the many characters involved with the Borden household. We get an all rounded view of the Borden family by putting together the statements given by different members. But as a reader, the inevitable question of ‘should there have been a murder?’ nags you throughout the book. There is repetition of facts and description of the atmosphere in each of the chapters which strengthens the setting of the book and make it seem as real as it can be.
A chilling read
There is a gloomy, persistently secretive atmosphere throughout the book that sent chills down my spine. Schmidt’s finesse is in making the dysfunctional Borden household come to life. I could taste the rotten mutton stew and cringed my nose at the foul smell as I was reading. I kept wiping my hands on my clothes to get out the sticky pear juice (mentioned in the book) from my hands. The cover with the half eaten pear started haunting me. The book felt that real.
Promising character sketches
The novel has excellent character sketches that make the reader easily acquainted with the characters. I was able to empathize with them, feel irked by them and it almost felt as if I was a member of the same household.
An unlikeable heroine
Lizzie is selfish, scheming and manipulative. To me she sounded like that child in school we all would be cautious of. She somehow gets her way all the time. I could never picture her as an adult woman. She seemed like a grown up child. Yet I could not stop myself from reading about what could have possibly lead to the murders.
Final Verdict :
Sarah Schmidt has put forth a fine work to be devoured by all kinds of readers alike. If you like atmospheric reads, I would highly recommend the book.
Title : See what I have Done
Author : Sarah Schmidt
Publisher : Tinder Press
Language : English
Pages : 336
Rating : 4/5
Disclaimer : Much thanks to Tinder Press for a copy of the book. All opinions are my own.
Have you read this book? Do you read fictionalized accounts of true crimes?