I am so excited to share this book with you guys! I've been sitting on this review for a while, waiting for the chance to finally focus on writing out my thoughts. I actually own two copies of this magnificent story, the UK version (I purchased on Book Depository in the Spring) and the US edition which was kindly sent to me by Grove Atlantic. You know you're a book nerd when having two different editions of a favorite book makes you SO happy. ;)
See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt is her debut novel, a fictionalized account of the infamous Lizzie Borden murder case, where Mr. and Mrs. Borden were found gruesomely butchered in their home on a Thursday morning, August 4th 1892. You can read more about the actual Lizzie Borden case online and also visit the Borden home in Fall River, Massachusetts.
Sarah Schmidt did something extraordinary with this story, it's almost hard to even explain. Using descriptive language in even the most mundane sentences, she created a sense of unease throughout all 319 pages that left me personally anxious to turn each page not knowing what I was going to find. She created a sense of dread that slowly crept up on you, with phrases that attacked your senses when simply describing the old mutton on the stove, the rotten pears on the ground or the smell of bodies in a room. Everything had a dark and gruesome undercurrent that built and built until the final page and sentence.
Told through the alternating view points of various characters over the course of three days, alongside flashbacks, See What I Have Done takes you on a ride that makes you wonder what really happened to this family while also being altogether disgusted and disturbed by them (thanks again, to Schmidt's excellent writing). Some of the scenes were particularly gruesome and descriptive! Every sentence is written with intention, to create suspicion and unease which creates an atmosphere of anxiety and horror. But its so expertly done, you almost don't even notice it until you close the book and wonder why you have such an awful feeling in the pit of your stomach. (Oh right, it's because I've just spent too much time inside Lizzie Borden's head).
She made my teeth want to sink into her flesh and eat her out of my life, made me want to swarm her mind and sort through all the thoughts she had of me, that I was being too stubborn, I was being too secretive, I was being bad, I was, I was. I felt her nastiness crawl over my skin, tiny deaths that made me want to become nothing.
It took me a few days to get this story out of my mind, while also continuously applauding Sarah Schmidt for creating such a beautifully written, dark and disturbing character study of Lizzie Borden and the terrible events that unfolded on that August morning.
I love both covers of this book as well, not just because they are beautiful in their own right but because by the end of the book the significance of both the pear and the pigeon meant so much more. I can't look at either without remembering scenes from the book. Read this book and trust me, you'll feel the same way.
I gave this book 5 stars on Goodreads and really can't say enough how brilliant this book was! When I saw it put out early at my local bookstore last week I just wanted to stand there and point it out to everyone who passed by..."THIS BOOK! Buy it. Buy it right now. There's nothing like it."
Published by Grove Atlantic