Tuesday, July 4, 2017

See What I Have Done (Sarah Schmidt)

Lizzie Borden -- just hearing that name makes most people shiver.  What happened on that fateful day in 1892 continues to fascinate even in the year 2017.  But still to this day, no one is 100% sure exactly what happened, and Lizzie herself was never convicted of the brutal murder of her father, Andrew Borden, and his wife, Abby.

Sarah Schmidt's See What I Have Done attempts to make sense of the gruesome event in Fall River, Massachusetts.  The story goes back and forth in time and is told from four viewpoints: Lizzie's, her sister Emma's, housemaid Bridget's, and perceived stranger Benjamin's.  The strongest voice here is Bridget's, who offers a "fly on the wall" perspective that's the most interesting.  Schmidt strongly emphasizes the senses in her writing, which works in some instances but seems to bog down the novel in other ways.  For example, her obsession with minute details such as rotten mutton stew makes the book lose momentum, at least for me.

Schmidt is surely a talented writer, but I'm not understanding the rabidly high reviews for this one (as they say in books, to each his own).  It's a solid debut novel but not a slam dunk.