Lizzie Borden took an axe and gave her mother forty whacks,
When she saw what she had done, she gave her father forty-one
I can’t remember when I first heard of Lizzie Borden but I was a rather macabre child so probably quite early on. She seems to be having a bit of a moment right now – with this book and two tv shows about her (Netflix currently has one with Christina Ricci as Borden).
Schmidt researched this book rather thoroughly – including staying in the Borden house. Luckily her writing style means it doesn’t feel like an academic tome.
In fact it reads like a rather modern thriller – with multiple narrators and flashbacks. The setting is the rather claustrophobic house the Borden family lived in – Mr Andrew Borden, his two adult daughters, Lizzie and Emma, second wife Abby and housemaid Bridget. The doors and windows are always kept locked even in the heat.
It’s a small cast of characters and Lizzie dominates the household with her childish behaviour and temper tantrums. Sister Emma desperately wants to escape and Lizzie refuses to let go.
The book is incredibly well written and really draws you in to the tense environment. Opening in the immediate aftermath of the murders, Schmidt spins a tight web of resentment and bitterness.
I read this in two sittings, breaking for an appointment because it’s so gripping. Even knowing the rough outcome didn’t matter.
If you like thrillers, historical, biographical books, this is one for you. In fact, even if those genres aren’t your thing, read it anyway.