‘See What I Have Done’ review: Sarah Schmidt’s blistering novel about Lizzie Borden

A crime scene photograph Lizzie Borden’s father, Andrew Borden, in Fall River, Mass., in 1892. Photo Credit: AP / Steven Senne Lizzie Borden — a Victorian New Englander tried and acquitted for the ax-murders her stepmother and father — whetted our national appetite for tales violent death. The swarming and salacious public made her the O.J. Simpson of her day. She memorialized in the Lizzie Borden Bed and Breakfast Museum in Fall River, Massachusetts, where the crime stunned and stimulated a nation. The scene — skulls crushed among a prim, well-to-do family — defiled our cherished sense of domesticity. And — 125 years later — she lingers in the jump-rope chant: Lizzie Borden took an ax And gave her mother forty whacks. she saw what she had done, She gave her father forty-one. Our fascination continues partly because the mystery was never solved, the murder weapon never found. Its chief suspect shattered Victorian notions of the feminine. The public could barely imagine a woman, let alone a daughter, capable of poisoning — certainly never a bloody, effortful chopping. Scholars believe this failure of imagination helped land Lizzie her acquittal. Now comes Sarah Schmidt, […]

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