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See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt
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See What I Have Done (edition 2017)

by Sarah Schmidt (Author)

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4405434,077 (3.32)49
Member:Schmerguls
Title:See What I Have Done
Authors:Sarah Schmidt (Author)
Info:Atlantic Monthly Press (2017), 324 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:***
Tags:fiction, historical fiction, Lizzie Borden, Massachusetts, murder

Work details

See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt

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» See also 49 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 54 (next | show all)
‘’Should it matter when it happened?’’

I’ve always been interested in true and unresolved crimes cases and ever since I watched a documentary about the Borden murders, I try to read as much as possible about this strange, horrific crime. So, I eagerly started reading Sarah Schmidt’s novel which was highly recommended and which I found to be every bit as haunting, mysterious, gritty as the real story.

First of all, can I just say that we’re living in blessed times for us readers, because the plethora of beautiful debuts, their quality and exciting writing is every reader’s dream.I don’t think there’s ever been a time when most of the debuts have made such an impact on our community. For the last 5-6 years, we have experienced great literary moments by up and coming writers and this should give us hope for the future.

Anyway, back to our book. We start our journey with a quite gruesome scene- but well-composed and intense- when the bodies of the Borden couple are discovered. From then on, we move back and forth in time and through the eyes of Lizzie, Emma, Bridget and Benjamin, we try to glue the pieces of a broken family together, to discover the events that led to the bloody epilogue. Now, this time technique is fascinating, but it also requires serious skills. Schmidt succeeds in this and presents the story in a way that makes you forget you actually know it. The book takes you with it and you cannot help but watching the events unfold with the same trepidation we’d have felt for any novel whose plot was unfamiliar to us.

The writing reminded me of Hannah Kent’s [b:Burial Rites|17333319|Burial Rites|Hannah Kent|https://images.gr-assets.com/books/1384207446s/17333319.jpg|21943144]. There is the same combination of darkness and a strange tranquility underneath. There are domestic scenes described in realistic detail, moments of family dynamics that are uncomfortable, wild. Bloody images that are never over the top. There is a distinctive aura of Gothic, gritty and primitive at times, but always poetically beautiful. It is difficult to describe it, actually. Imagine a mist that covers every chapter, every paragraph and we have to wait for it to dissolve in order to discover hidden feelings and motives. And believe me, it isn’t easy and in certain moments, the mists remains still, unmoving.

This novel is an example of beautiful writing and equally well-written characters. It doesn’t matter whether they are likeable or not. (Frankly, ‘’likeable’’ is boring. Most of the times…) They are interesting, they drive the plot, providing dark company, revealing their souls to us. Emma and Lizzie, the Borden sisters, couldn’t be more different. Emma is the eldest, the sensible one, the daughter who wants to escape the family and yet is shuttered by the murders, because to her ‘’family is family’’, despite the fact that her father was cruel and unloving. Lizzie is the revolutionary, the child that doubts her father’s authority, the one who isn’t willing to compromise, she want to to punish what she considers to be cruelty and injustice. She may come across as petulant, spoiled and selfish. Bridget is the young maid of the household, the one who witnesses everything but is unable to intervene. She understands how heavy the darkness in the house is and tries to break free from Abby’s illogical, erratic behaviour. Abby and Andrew, the victims, the ‘parents’, are awful people.Judging by the way they come across in the novel, I couldn’t say that I felt any kind of pity for them, as harsh as it may sound. Benjamin, a man of ill repute, has his own father- caused traumas and his plans involve revenge, but they’re no well thought-out.

This is a beautiful, dark book. Attractive, gritty, exciting, emanating a deep sadness for a family that is destroyed by a tyrannical father and ill choices. I agree with a number of good friends in our community who said that this story isn’t for everyone. You need to invest yourself in the novel, to be willing to think beyond the words you read, to be open-minded. I loved the way Schmidt chose to end the story, it was so well-constructed and powerful.One more brilliant debut by an Australian author, one more brilliant example of Historical Fiction.

Many thanks to Grove Atlantic and NetGalley for this ARC in exchange for an honest review. ( )
  AmaliaGavea | Jul 15, 2018 |
‘’Should it matter when it happened?’’

I’ve always been interested in true and unresolved crimes cases and ever since I watched a documentary about the Borden murders, I try to read as much as possible about this strange, horrific crime. So, I eagerly started reading Sarah Schmidt’s novel which was highly recommended and which I found to be every bit as haunting, mysterious, gritty as the real story.

First of all, can I just say that we’re living in blessed times for us readers, because the plethora of beautiful debuts, their quality and exciting writing is every reader’s dream.I don’t think there’s ever been a time when most of the debuts have made such an impact on our community. For the last 5-6 years, we have experienced great literary moments by up and coming writers and this should give us hope for the future.

Anyway, back to our book. We start our journey with a quite gruesome scene- but well-composed and intense- when the bodies of the Borden couple are discovered. From then on, we move back and forth in time and through the eyes of Lizzie, Emma, Bridget and Benjamin, we try to glue the pieces of a broken family together, to discover the events that led to the bloody epilogue. Now, this time technique is fascinating, but it also requires serious skills. Schmidt succeeds in this and presents the story in a way that makes you forget you actually know it. The book takes you with it and you cannot help but watching the events unfold with the same trepidation we’d have felt for any novel whose plot was unfamiliar to us.

The writing reminded me of Hannah Kent’s Burial Rites. There is the same combination of darkness and a strange tranquility underneath. There are domestic scenes described in realistic detail, moments of family dynamics that are uncomfortable, wild. Bloody images that are never over the top. There is a distinctive aura of Gothic, gritty and primitive at times, but always poetically beautiful. It is difficult to describe it, actually. Imagine a mist that covers every chapter, every paragraph and we have to wait for it to dissolve in order to discover hidden feelings and motives. And believe me, it isn’t easy and in certain moments, the mists remains still, unmoving.

This novel is an example of beautiful writing and equally well-written characters. It doesn’t matter whether they are likeable or not. (Frankly, ‘’likeable’’ is boring. Most of the times…) They are interesting, they drive the plot, providing dark company, revealing their souls to us. Emma and Lizzie, the Borden sisters, couldn’t be more different. Emma is the eldest, the sensible one, the daughter who wants to escape the family and yet is shuttered by the murders, because to her ‘’family is family’’, despite the fact that her father was cruel and unloving. Lizzie is the revolutionary, the child that doubts her father’s authority, the one who isn’t willing to compromise, she want to to punish what she considers to be cruelty and injustice. She may come across as petulant, spoiled and selfish. Bridget is the young maid of the household, the one who witnesses everything but is unable to intervene. She understands how heavy the darkness in the house is and tries to break free from Abby’s illogical, erratic behaviour. Abby and Andrew, the victims, the ‘parents’, are awful people.Judging by the way they come across in the novel, I couldn’t say that I felt any kind of pity for them, as harsh as it may sound. Benjamin, a man of ill repute, has his own father- caused traumas and his plans involve revenge, but they’re no well thought-out.

This is a beautiful, dark book. Attractive, gritty, exciting, emanating a deep sadness for a family that is destroyed by a tyrannical father and ill choices. I agree with a number of good friends in our community who said that this story isn’t for everyone. You need to invest yourself in the novel, to be willing to think beyond the words you read, to be open-minded. I loved the way Schmidt chose to end the story, it was so well-constructed and powerful.One more brilliant debut by an Australian author, one more brilliant example of Historical Fiction.

Many thanks to Grove Atlantic and NetGalley for this ARC in exchange for an honest review. ( )
  AmaliaGavea | Jul 15, 2018 |
A fictionalized account of the infamous 1892 axe murders in Fall River, MA, of Andrew Borden and his wife Abby, for which Andrew's daughter (by his first marriage) Lizzie was to eventually be tried and acquitted. The story is advanced in chapters told from different characters' points of view (with shifting chronologies): Lizzie herself, her older sister Emma, the family maid Bridget, and a mysterious stranger named Benjamin who is hired by the girls' Uncle John to 'take care of' Andrew. -- This book is a mystery: a mystery, to me, at least, how it managed to earn starred reviews from four of the major book review sources (Library Journal, Publishers Weekly, Booklist, even the notoriously finicky Kirkus Reviews). I found the characters uniformly unappealing. In the end -- since Benjamin encounters both Bordens dead in the house and Lizzie seems to know where the murder weapon was hidden -- the author seems to suggest that Lizzie was, in fact, guilty -- especially with that last sentence! The novel reads quickly -- its only great virtue, IMHO. ( )
  David_of_PA | Jul 14, 2018 |
I didn't know anything about the Borden murders (still don't, beyond what I read in this book), so I came to this fresh. I thought it was such an intriguing story, and I liked how the finger never settled exactly on one person and left it open to interpretation as to the range of motives. It shows that even if there is an accepted version, there are always multiple possibilities. Sometimes the writing style jarred me, just a few sentences which needed a bit of polishing, but overall I enjoyed it. ( )
  SadieBabie | Jun 23, 2018 |
The true story of the Bordens of Fall River, Massachusetts is a strange one, and this fictionalised version by Australian author Sarah Schmidt follows the mould rather well. Told through the eyes of the Borden sisters Lizzie and Emma, and also their Irish maid, Bridget, we get a descriptive, and at times graphic, retelling of this historical massacre that does little towards solving the mystery. The family dynamics are toxic and many questions are left unanswered concerning the relationship between father and daughters, and between the family and community itself. But then, as a novel, these are not necessarily what is required of it.
Opinions differed quite severely on this one. A good portion of us enjoyed this book, finding the style clever and completely engrossing. The historical aspect of Lizzie Borden drew some in and had them researching the topic, curious as to the factual outcome of the case. The song of Lizzie Borden was recalled …
Lizzie Borden took an axe,
And gave her mother forty whacks
When she saw what she had done
She gave her father forty-one

Contrary to this favoured view, it was thought to be repetitious, have poor character development and a weak writing style. With no appealing characters and a low impact outcome, they found little to like or even care about. Contrasting viewpoints? Very much so, which made our discussion all the more interesting.

It was decided that the Lizzie Borden story surely involved a case of mental illness (possible psychotic episode), and a dysfunctional family during a time when such circumstances were ignored or accepted. And whether you like or dislike the story and/or the writing style, the sensual and tactile narrative, the continual tasting, smelling, touching (eg. pears, stew, blood!) that brought life to Lizzie and her surroundings did in fact create a fascinating atmosphere. And if it gave the reader an uncomfortable sensation, then who’s to say … maybe it came very close to what was actually going on within Lizzie’s troubled mind. ( )
1 vote jody12 | Jun 5, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 54 (next | show all)
The oddness, and the interest, of See What I Have Done is its ability to inveigle the reader to spend so much time with the Borden family. These characters are, almost without exception, each strange and terrible in their own ways, and their struggles to have lives they can call their own raise for us enduring questions about autonomy and family attachment.
 
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Important events
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Epigraph
We outgrow love like other things
And put it in the drawer


Emily Dickinson
Knowlton: 'You have been on pleasant terms with your step-mother since then?'

Lizzie: 'Yes Sir.'

Knowlton: 'Cordial?'

Lizzie: 'It depends upon one's idea of cordiality, perhaps.'

Lizzie Borden's inquest testimony
Dedication
For Cody.
And for Alan and Rose who left before I could finish.
First words
He was still bleeding.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0802126596, Hardcover)

Lizzie Borden took an ax
And gave her mother forty whacks
When she saw what she had done,
She gave her father forty-one.


Or did she?


In this riveting debut novel, See What I Have Done, Sarah Schmidt recasts one of the most fascinating murder cases of all time into an intimate story of a volatile household and a family devoid of love.

On the morning of August 4, 1892, Lizzie Borden calls out to her maid: Someone’s killed Father. The brutal ax-murder of Andrew and Abby Borden in their home in Fall River, Massachusetts, leaves little evidence and many unanswered questions. While neighbors struggle to understand why anyone would want to harm the respected Bordens, those close to the family have a different tale to tell―of a father with an explosive temper; a spiteful stepmother; and two spinster sisters, with a bond even stronger than blood, desperate for their independence.

As the police search for clues, Emma comforts an increasingly distraught Lizzie whose memories of that morning flash in scattered fragments. Had she been in the barn or the pear arbor to escape the stifling heat of the house? When did she last speak to her stepmother? Were they really gone and would everything be better now? Shifting among the perspectives of the unreliable Lizzie, her older sister Emma, the housemaid Bridget, and the enigmatic stranger Benjamin, the events of that fateful day are slowly revealed through a high-wire feat of storytelling.

(retrieved from Amazon Tue, 03 Jan 2017 16:59:41 -0500)

Reimagines "the infamous true story of Lizzie Borden, who gained celebrity status after being tried and acquitted for the murders of her father and stepmother"--

(summary from another edition)

» see all 3 descriptions

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