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See What I Have Done Hardcover – August 1, 2017
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Praise for See What I Have Done
“Debut novelist Sarah Schmidt tackles the murk and silence in this old tale, imagining the cruel secrets of a respected family.” ―Elle, one of 24 Best Books To Read This Summer
“[The] novel is compelling, scary―and gruesomely visceral.” ―Entertainment Weekly, one of Summer’s 20 Must-Read Books
“A bloody good read . . . A taut, lyrical account of the destruction of the Borden family, both through ax murder and subtler means . . . Schmidt inhabits each of her narrators with great skill, channeling their anxieties, their viciousness, with what comes across as (frighteningly) intuitive ease. Everything about Schmidt’s novel is hauntingly, beautifully off. It’s a creepy and penetrating work, even for a book about Lizzie Borden.” ―USA Today
“This palpable imagining of what led to the murder of Lizzie Borden’s parents will stay with you for as long as this historical mystery has enthralled pop culture.” ―Redbook, one of the Best Summer Reads
“A gripping and still puzzling story . . . a credible imagining of a bizarre episode.” ―Wall Street Journal
“This fictional retelling of the Lizzie Borden murders is a domestic nightmare . . . [with] staggeringly gorgeous, feverish prose and the thrill of deep, dark, gruesome detail.” ―BookPage, Six of the Brightest New Names in Fiction
“[A] moody, atmospheric tale . . . Superb.” ―Washington Independent Review of Books
“Riveting . . . See What I Have Done is a stay-up-late novel for crime and psychological suspense fans. The profiles feel spot on. The drama is intense. The fetid atmosphere of over-ripening fruit, summer heat and festering emotional wounds is not for sissies. But brace up and dive in.” ―Book Browse
“A terrifically dread-inducing, claustrophobic, nightmarish immersion in a fictional version of one of the most famous crimes in American history . . . a tense psychological study of family dysfunction, painted with a vividness bordering on the hallucinogenic . . . A gripping and accomplished novel.” ―Tampa Bay Times
“Schmidt makes a case in See What I Have Done that feels truthful in its emotional intensity . . . [and] sheds a different light on what once seemed an open-and-shut case.” ―Portland Press Herald
“See What I Have Done enters the murder house before and after that fateful August day and, with quiet intensity, creates a memorable place of horror.” ―Forward Reviews (starred review)
“[A] sensual new novel . . A prickly, unsettling wonder: a story so tactile and feverishly surreal it feels like a sort of reverse haunting.” ―Entertainment Weekly
“Schmidt brings to life one of the most unexpected and fascinating crimes in American History.” ―Refinery 29, Best Beach Reads of the Year
“A complicated, compelling tale . . . giving fresh life to a sensational crime of old.” ―Marie Claire
“Schmidt’s debut novel reimagines the crime and tells the story of a family in chaos.” ―New York Post, 29 Best Books of the Summer
“[An] unforgettable debut . . . Equally compelling as a whodunit, ‘whydunit,’ and historical novel.” ―Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“A dazzling debut novel that is as unsettling as the summer heat that permeates the crime scene . . . an unusually intimate portrait. There are books about murder and there are books about imploding families; this is the rare novel that seamlessly weaves the two together, asking as many questions as it answers.” ―Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“Heralds the arrival of a major new talent . . . Nail-biting horror mixes with a quiet, unforgettable power to create a novel readers will stay up all night finishing.” ―Booklist (starred review)
“What better subject for a psychological thriller than one of the most notorious murders in U.S. history . . . A fresh treatment of Lizzie Borden.” ―Library Journal (starred review)
“[A] gory and gripping debut.” ―Guardian
“Lizzie Borden might be the archetypal transgressive female, and Sarah Schmidt has taken the 81 whacks and the parents that were dealt them and spun a mesmerising reimagining of it all . . . Schmidt writes with precision and flair about the oppressive boredom of domesticity, the twisted intensity of sisterly love and the forlorn dreams of leaving and of personal reinvention . . . A glittering, gory fever dream of a book, See What I Have Done is a remarkable debut.” ―Telegraph
“This novel is like a crazy murdery fever dream, swirling around the day of the murders. Schmidt has written not just a tale of a crime, but a novel of the senses. There is hardly a sentence that goes by without mention of some sensation, whether it’s a smell or a sound or a taste, and it is this complete saturation of the senses that enables the novel to soak into your brain and envelope you in creepy uncomfortableness. It’s a fabulous, unsettling book.” ―Book Riot
“Eerie and compelling, Sarah Schmidt breathes such life into the terrible, twisted tale of Lizzie Borden and her family, she makes it impossible to look away.” ―Paula Hawkins, author of The Girl on the Train
“Everyone knows the rhyme. We’ve all heard the story. But not until you read See What I Have Done will you learn the truth behind one of the most spine-tingling horror stories of all time. In this stunning debut novel, Sarah Schmidt transforms the Lizzie Borden story from lurid infamy to flawed reality.” ―Christina Baker Kline, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Orphan Train
“Sarah Schmidt’s beautifully wrought See What I Have Done is a compelling, psychologically rich take on a well-loved tale, bringing new insight into the myth of just who Lizzie Borden was. This glorious gothic novel brings to mind the work of Sarah Waters and Patrick McGrath.” ―Sabina Murray, author of Valiant Gentlemen
“Haunting, evocative and psychologically taut, See What I Have Done breathes fresh life into the infamous 19th-century murder case surrounding Lizzie Borden. This is a powerful, beautifully researched debut novel that brings us into contact with the recurring American dramas of violence and retribution while summoning the beguiling voices of the past.” ―Dominic Smith, author of the New York Times bestseller The Last Painting of Sara de Vos
About the Author
Sarah Schmidt works as a reading and literacy coordinator at a regional public library. See What I Have Done is her first novel. She lives in Melbourne, Australia.
Top customer reviews
Ms Schmidt’s debut novel fictionalises this infamous murder, and makes me wonder (yet again) who actually committed the murders. Lizzie Borden was tried and acquitted, and no-one was ever convicted of the murders.
Ms Schmidt sets the scene. A claustrophobic household, where doors are kept locked. A frugal household where food is cooked and reheated so that nothing is wasted. The usual inhabitants are Andrew and his second wife Abby Borden, Andrew’s adult daughters (from his first marriage) Emma and Lizzie and the family’s Irish maid Bridget. At the time of the murders, Emma is away from home.
Four different voices tell their stories in the novel: Lizzie, Emma, Bridget and a man named Benjamin who has been hired by Lizzie and Emma’s maternal uncle to take care of a problem for him. Lizzie and Emma tell of difficulties between them. Bridget tells of a lack of trust, of frugality, of food which surely contributes to sickness, of the challenges of being the only servant in a house where she is expected to do everything. Can we trust any of these voices?
‘All the spaces between an hour, between life and death, came towards me.’
Quite a few books have been written about these murders and I’ve read some of them. What’s different about this novel is that by telling the story from a number of different perspectives, Ms Schmidt makes it possible to imagine that others had motivation (and possibly opportunity) to commit the murders. But in my reading, this novel is less about the murders than it is about the middle-class household in which such murders could occur. Behind the blank windows and walls, Ms Schmidt describes a household full of tension, and petty (and sometimes not so petty) grievances. I can feel the heat, feel squeamish over the killing of Lizzie’s pigeons, and the pots of food on the stove. I can almost smell the blood after the murders. What I can’t do, though, is get inside Lizzie’s head. I’m afraid to try.
This is not a novel for the squeamish. It invites the reader to step back in time to August 1892 and consider possibilities.
It really breaks my heart to have to write this review. I love true crime more than anything, and I was so excited to read this book since it combines fiction and true crime in a way that I haven’t really seen before. I also didn’t really know much of anything about Lizzie Borden prior to my starting this book, so I was looking forward to learning more about her both through reading this book and through researching as I read.
I didn’t like this book as much as I thought I would at all. This has everything to do with Schmidt’s writing style.
I really don’t like multiple-narrator stories, or stories that jump around in time. Most authors who write multiple-narrator stories don’t do a very good job of distinguishing the narrators through their voices’ diction and syntax (hence, why there’s always chapter headings specifying who’s talking). With the exception of Lizzie’s, the characters’ internal monologues all sounded quite the same. Most authors who write stories that jump around in time also don’t usually do a very good job of distinguishing the time periods they’re writing in. There is a timeline at the end of the book, but the flashbacks and flash-forwards sometimes don’t even fit onto the timeline Schmidt gives us. Thus, most of the time, I had no idea what time Schmidt was writing in. And I had even less of an idea as to whether or not some of the instances of jumping time were actual flashbacks and flash-forwards or just recollections of past and future times mixed into the present-day day-of-the-murders narration.
Then there was Lizzie herself. And oh, wow… Her narration was just so ridiculous and annoying to read that I almost put the book down. Throughout the first chapter, her period-accurate language was pretty interesting. But it’s pretty much gone after that first chapter, to the point where, by the end of the novel, she’s talking like a modern person with some really weird exceptions. And by “weird exceptions”, I mean all that word repetition that people keep talking about in their reviews. I get why it’s there; Schmidt’s writing is very poetic. It’s poetic throughout all the POVs in this novel. But that poetic language just seemed very out-of-place in this book. I was really getting impatient towards the end of the novel; so much so that I started skimming entire pages that didn’t contain any pertinent plot information. I skimmed so many pages that were essentially nothing but overly poetic purple prose.
But even though I didn’t like this book at all, I’m giving it two stars. This is because See What I Have Done has actually gotten me interested in reading more about the Lizzie Borden case. So I guess the experience wasn’t all bad. But I’m sorry to say that I cannot recommend this book. I wish I could tell you otherwise.
Most recent customer reviews
After seeing some reviews for this book pop up on Goodreads and realizing the book...Read more
See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt
This was a good read. While not exactly action packed, the writing made this a gripping psychological...Read more