See What I Have Done

See What I Have Done

3.19 (13,468 ratings by Goodreads)
By (author) 

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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.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 352 pages
  • 137.16 x 208.28 x 30.48mm | 340.19g
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • Reprint
  • 0802128130
  • 9780802128133
  • 2,959,228

Review quote

A National Bestseller

"A bloody good read . . . A taut, lyrical account of the destruction of the Borden family . . . brings to mind Shirley Jackson's We Have Always Lived in the Castle. Everything about Schmidt's novel is hauntingly, beautifully off." --USA Today

"Schmidt has created a lurid and original work of horror." --New York Times Book Re-view

"A prickly, unsettling wonder: a story so tactile and feverishly surreal it feels like a sort of reverse haunting . . . As much as See What I Have Done is Borden's story, it's also an unvarnished glimpse of what it means to be female, in ways not strictly confined to the late 19th century." --Entertainment Weekly

"[Schmidt creates an] atmosphere of brooding dread and lurking neurosis . . . a sense of claustrophobia and entrapment appropriate to her tale of seething jealousies and familial love and hate inextricably in-tertwined." --Boston Globe

"A gripping and still puzzling story." --Wall Street Journal

"Deliciously disturbing . . . [Schmidt's] prose is clever and taut and generously seasoned with nouns verbing their way into literary history." --New York Journal of Books

"A barn-burning, fever-ridden first novel. It makes blistering reading out of first-rate historical fiction . . . Hilary Mantel, in her brilliant re-creation of Thomas Cromwell in Wolf Hall and Bringing Up the Bodies, may be the best practitioner alive, but this book announces Schmidt as a new sister in the craft." --Newsday

"Schmidt is undeniably a fine writer." --Dallas Morning News

"An outstanding debut novel about love, death, and the lifelong repercussions of unresolved grief." --Observer

"Schmidt weaves a complicated, compelling tale . . . giving fresh life to a sensational crime of old." --Marie Claire

"[A] moody, atmospheric tale . . . Superb." --Washington Independent Review of Books

"Novels that manage to spin a genuinely skin-crawling atmosphere, such as Patrick Süskind's Perfume, are rare, and Schmidt is a master . . . See What I Have Done deserves to be considered a Gothic classic." --Saturday Paper

"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)

"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)

"[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
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About Sarah Schmidt

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.
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Rating details

13,468 ratings
3.19 out of 5 stars
5 9% (1,231)
4 29% (3,887)
3 39% (5,248)
2 18% (2,410)
1 5% (692)
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