Thursday, 21 September 2017

Book Review: See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt

Title: See What I Have Done

Author: Sarah Schmidt

Pages: 336

Publication: 2nd May 2017 by Tinder Press

1 line synopsis: a deliciously unsettling look at the true story of the Lizzie Borden murders.


If you don’t already know the details of the Lizzie Borden murders, it is well worth researching the case on Wikipedia, because a) it gives you a context and b) it quickly becomes apparent that Sarah Schmidt has done her research. It’s incredible how Schmidt takes the facts of the case and uses them to create this account with its intricate familial relationships and very clear characters.

Each chapter is told from a different character’s point of view and what I found brilliant was how Schmidt gives each character a very distinct voice. Lizzie comes off very clearly as someone who is untrustworthy and is also incredibly disgusting at times - it reminded me of something along the lines of Ottessa Moshfegh’s Eileen. Emma, her older sister, feels trapped within the family and longs to escape. Hers were actually the chapters I most enjoyed because I felt a real sympathy for her. One thing I did struggle with was believing that Emma and Lizzie were actually middle-aged women, because the way their relationship is written makes them feel like teenagers. On the flip side, this sometimes added to the general creepy feeling that pervades the novel and called into question a lot of things about the murder.

One of my Goodreads updates was about how I had never realised what people meant when they described a novel as ‘delicious’ until I read this one. It felt like an incredibly luxurious novel to be reading, and engaged all of my senses - something that no other book I can remember has done so well. It got to the point where it was actually quite disgusting but in a fascinating way. There are some quite gory details concerning the bodies and the aftermath of the deaths so be warned!

Something I think could have been better is the general pacing and tension-building. With the timeline being a little haphazard, at times it was a little confusing and something was missing to make me completely devour the book all in one sitting, as I was expecting to do. I did find that I had to keep telling myself to get to the end of the chapter - which by the end of the chapter I was very glad I had done but it did feel a little laborious.

Overall, I’d give this book 4 out of 5 stars. I wouldn’t say it is a victim of hype but I was expecting it to be an incredible 5 star read. Mainly, it was the pacing of the book that let it down for me because all of the quotes on the cover are true. I would still definitely recommend it though, and if anyone has any other Lizzie Borden-related books, I would love to hear from you!