Monday, November 21, 2016

NONFICTION MONDAY: The Borden Murders by Sarah Miller


Lizzie Borden took an axe, gave her mother forty whacks. When she saw what she had done, she gave her father forty-one.

In linear narrative, Miller takes readers along as she investigates a brutal crime: the August 4, 1892, murders of wealthy and prominent Andrew and Abby Borden. The accused? Mild-mannered and highly respected Lizzie Borden, daughter of Andrew and stepdaughter of Abby. Most of what is known about Lizzie’s arrest and subsequent trial (and acquittal) comes from sensationalized newspaper reports; as Miller sorts fact from fiction, and as a legal battle gets under way, a portrait of a woman and a town emerges.

With inserts featuring period photos and newspaper clippings.


I knew very little about Lizzie Borden and the murder of her parents when I picked up this book.  But the blurb intrigued me.  The book does not disappoint.  In fact, I found it so compelling I read it in just a couple of days.  This is the best kind of narrative nonfiction.  A compelling story, fascinating but complex individuals, and a puzzling, not to mention brutal, set of circumstances.  Miller does a wonderful job of combining what is known as fact and what was opinions and speculation.  She's combined the very most factual information she could find with glimpses into the thoughts and beliefs of others.  She is careful to point out when information is false or misleading or incomplete.  It was interesting to read about the crime itself, the investigation, as well as the trial itself.  Not only does the book look at a particular crime, but also at a time and place and the behavior of both individuals and crowds.  While not intended to be a commentary on the fickleness and often unfairness of public opinion, the impact of that very thing on the proceedings leading up to the trial, but everything that came after.  I appreciated the great effort Miller made to be as objective as possible.  She shared evidence and testimony from both the prosecution and the defense, leaving the reader to decide what he/she thinks.  I was left, like the author, unsure about Borden's guilt or innocence.  There are some things that Borden did and said that definitely made her seem guilty, but on the other hand the evidence against her was far from definitive.  A fascinating account of an event that continues to puzzle even the experts.

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