#BlogTour #BookReview - See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt

Just after 11am on 4th August 1892, the bodies of Andrew and Abby Borden are discovered. He's found on the sitting room sofa, she upstairs on the bedroom floor, both murdered with an axe.
It is younger daughter Lizzie who is first on the scene, so it is Lizzie who the police first question, but there are others in the household with stories to tell: older sister Emma, Irish maid Bridget, the girls' Uncle John, and a boy who knows more than anyone realises.
In a dazzlingly original and chilling reimagining of this most notorious of unsolved mysteries, Sarah Schmidt opens the door to the Borden home and leads us into its murkiest corners, where jealousies, slow-brewed rivalries and the darkest of thoughts reside.

It's my pleasure to be hosting the blog tour for See What I Have Done today, my grateful thanks to the publishers, author and Anne Cater for inviting me, and for my advance copy of the book.
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 must admit to not being familiar with either this playground rhyme or with the actual murder case that inspired See What I Have Done. On 4th August 1892, Andrew and Abby Borden were mutilated with a hatchet. After a few days, their youngest daughter, Lizzie Borden was arrested and tried for their murders but she was later acquitted and subsequently their deaths remain unsolved to this day. Sarah Schmidt has taken the facts of the case and written a fictionalised account that imagines what may have happened to the Bordens.
92 Second Street, Fall River, Massachusetts is an oppressive, wretched place even before the murders for which it has become notorious. Andrew Borden's first wife, Sarah passed away leaving him with two young daughters, Emma and Lizzie. A third daughter, Alice had died in infancy. The story is told from the point of view of the adult sisters, together with the housemaid, Bridget and an imagined character, Benjamin.
 From very start the lyrical language of the book lured me in but before long I felt almost trapped by the cloying claustrophobia of the household. I'm not sure I can recall reading a novel that is such a visceral assault on the senses. The sights, sounds and smells are tainted and rotten, the atmosphere in the house as toxic as the days-old mutton stew on the stove. Vomit, bone, blood and teeth are left in corners, stomach-churning symbols of the spoiled relationships within the house.
The relationship between Emma and Lizzie is particularly interesting, Emma's early desire to protect her younger sister following the death of their mother eventually makes her feel trapped by the domineering Lizzie whose demands on Emma's affections leave her overwhelmed. Raised by a controlling and critical father, the codependent bond between the sisters has become destructive, their feelings constantly switching from love to loathing and back again.
The meandering narrative jumps feverishly from events leading up to the murders to the immediate aftermath with characters often remembering moments from their pasts. This is a story of love that has soured, of a house that has become poisoned so that eventually the horrific violence is perhaps the inevitable result.
I can't pretend See What I Have Done is an entertaining read, it's far too unsettling for that. It is, however, a compelling, dark, atmospheric and beautifully written book that doesn't just shine a light on a damaged family relationship, it places it under a microscope to expose every horror hidden within the four walls of their home. A brilliant and disturbing debut, I thoroughly recommend it.

See What I Have Done was published in hardback by Tinder Press on on 2nd May 2017, and in paperback on 2nd November 2017. Don't miss the rest of the blog tour, details are below.

About the Author

After completing a Bachelor of Arts (Professional writing and editing), a Master of Arts (Creative Writing), and a Graduate Diploma of Information Management, Sarah currently works as a Reading & Literacy Coordinator (read: a fancy librarian) at a regional public library. She was inspired to write her first novel See What I Have Done after stumbling across the case of Lizzie Borden by chance in a second hand bookshop. Her research for the novel has included spending several nights in the infamous Borden house.

Website - www.sarahschmidt.org
Twitter - @ikillnovel