Book Review: See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt

First line: He was still bleeding.

This book is delicious.

It's also so bonkers. But delightfully so.

This debut novel explores the infamous Borden murders, opening with when the first body is found. The novel then shifts to two days before, and eventually, the days after the murder, and the story unfolds through Lizzie, her sister Emma, their maid Bridget, and Benjamin, an itinerant stranger.

Everyone in this book -- save for Bridget -- are awful. If one couldn't think of a reason for the murders, Schmidt offers a handful. The novel is creepy but not gory (just right for me), and there's a wonderfully claustrophobic feel to the narrative. It's a story, too, about frustrated ambitions and passions, petty jealousies and dysfunctional love. (I was reminded a bit of Shirley Jackson's We Have Always Lived in the Castle, which made me wonder if Jackson was inspired at all by the Borden murders and if Schmidt had been inspired by Jackson...)

My only complaint about this book is that Schmidt doesn't include any sort of historical/author's note detailing what is historical record and what is her own invention, so I don't know if the way she depicted the Bordens is "true" or if the things that happened before the murder occurred. (I'm too much of a whimp to Google, lest I come across gruesome details I'd rather not know/see.)

I read this book in one day; as I said on Instagram, I felt like I couldn't breathe until I finished. If you're vaguely intrigued, just get it and tell everyone to leave you alone for the day!

Title: See What I Have Done
Author: Sarah Schmidt

Genre: Fiction (Historical / 19th Century / Massachusetts / Lizzie Borden / Historical Figure Fictionalized / Murder / Mystery / Sisters)
Publisher/Publication Date: Atlantic Monthly Press (8/1/2017)
Source: Edelweiss
Reading Challenges: Historical Fiction


  1. I just finished this one and agree about the bonkers part! today they would have been sent for some rehabilitation or treatment! I did not know it was a factual account till I read this book.

    1. I went through a phase in college when I was obsessed with historical true crime, which is how I learned about her. I really wish there had been an author's note so I can tell what is true -- we live close to Fall River -- altho I'm not sure I'd ever visit!

  2. I came across Lizzie Borden when I was young, and I was traumatized by the story, to the point of having nightmares. Even so many years later, I've never managed to read much about it, or about Jack the Ripper for that matter. This might work, if it is non-gory. Bonkers isn't a problem :)

    1. The murders are lightly described so it's not entirely gore-free. But Schmidt doesn't wallow in the physical crime/crime scene, so I was able to tolerate. But these characters will give you shivers!

  3. I've been trying to decide whether I want to read this book or not, but I think you've convinced me! It sounds great, though it's annoying that there's no author's note.

    1. Very annoying! You might be able to find an excerpt online if that might help you decide. Lizzie's POV is crazy (crazy!good).

  4. I have seen this around but wasn't sure if it was for me. Your comparing it to We Have Always Lived in the Castle made it a sure thing. I absolutely loved that book.


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