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Australian Women’s Weekly NZ - - CONTENTS -

See What I Have Done by Sarah Sch­midt, Ha­chette. “I wiped my hand across my mouth, tasted blood... I watched blood river down his neck... The clock on the man­tel ticked, ticked. I walked out of the room, closed the door be­hind me and made my way to the back stairs... ‘Some­one’s killed Fa­ther.’”

This dark, creepy, tac­tile novel is a retelling of the real life story of Lizzie Bor­den, who was tried and ac­quit­ted for the bru­tal axe mur­ders of her fa­ther and step­mother in the town of Fall River, Mas­sachusetts, in 1892.

Lizzie’s case cap­ti­vated the US at the time and still does. She was the O.J. Simp­son of her era, with a huge body of opinion to­tally con­vinced that she was guilty, her main de­fence be­ing that she was a mere woman!

Sarah Sch­midt’s novel is not a foren­sic anal­y­sis of the facts, but a blood­bath of the senses with a night­mar­ish qual­ity that messes with your head and fre­quently sends chills shoot­ing down your spine. Be­hind the griz­zly de­tail, there is a rather thrilling sense of who­dunit and this ten­sion, cou­pled with some bril­liantly drawn char­ac­ter­i­sa­tion and heav­ily de­scrip­tive prose, sucks you in to what is a very well-known story.

Sarah knew lit­tle of the his­toric case un­til she “stum­bled across an old, ratty pam­phlet” in a se­cond­hand book­store in Mel­bourne. “For a whole week, I dreamt about Lizzie sit­ting on the end of my bed show­ing and telling me things. It was un­be­liev­ably creepy,” she says.

“In the end, I thought the only way to make these hor­ri­ble dreams end was to write them down. And that was how the book started. The dreams never ended.”

Af­ter thumb­ing through end­less re­search, the au­thor re­alised she needed to re­ally im­merse her­self in the Bor­den story and slept at the ac­tual house – now a bed and break­fast (only in Amer­ica!). “It was one of the best, strangest things I’ve ever done,” she says.

Her novel seeps out through mul­ti­ple nar­ra­tors, who give dif­fer­ent ex­pe­ri­ences of life in 92 Sec­ond Street, to build up a pic­ture of an en­vi­ron­ment bristling with emo­tion, be­trayal, greed and dark pas­sion.

There’s Lizzie’s sis­ter, Emma, who was away when the mur­ders were com­mit­ted, the fam­ily’s dis­grun­tled Ir­ish maid Brid­get and the fic­tional char­ac­ter of Ben­jamin, a drifter and out­side ob­server. The love-hate re­la­tion­ship be­tween the sis­ters is fas­ci­nat­ingly drawn and the claustrophobia of the Bor­den home pal­pa­ble.

The re­sult is not a com­pre­hen­sive anal­y­sis of the case, but it is com­pelling and in­cred­i­bly haunt­ing.

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