Horrific crimes, where the main suspects are acquitted, are perfect fodder for the true crime/fictionalised history/based on a true story genre.
Especially when that crime involves a dysfunctional family, a hot sultry summers day and conflicting, circumstantial evidence.
Bungled police procedure simply adds to the intrigue.
The gruesome murder of Andrew and Abby Borden in 1892, rocked the small community of Fall River, Massachusetts.
The local paper, the Fall River Herald, at the time featured the screaming headline,
“Shocking Crime: A Venerable Citizen and his Aged Wife Hacked to Pieces in their Home“.
The entire court case became one of the first mass media events and Lizzie Borden became a celebrity granting interviews to give her version of events.
To this day the murders are unsolved mysteries.
The crime became mythologised – with a skipping rope chant and an appearance on The Simpsons by Lizzie Borden.
Lizzie Borden took an axe,
Gave her mother forty whacks.
When she saw what she had done,
She gave her father forty-one.
Endless speculation about possibly sexual abuse, lesbianism, an illegitimate son and financial disputes all added fuel to the fire.
Can we learn anything new from recent interpretations?
Will new technology and testing reveal the secrets kept for so long?
Can modern thinking really shed light on old events?
Brona’s Salon is a newish meme which aims to gather a group of like-minded bookish people ‘under the roof of an inspiring host, held partly to amuse one another and partly to refine the taste and increase the knowledge of the participants through conversation.’
I will provide a bookish prompt or two to inspire our conversation.
However please feel free to discuss your current read or join in the conversation in any way that you see fit.
Amusement, refinement and knowledge will surely follow!
What are you currently reading?
See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt
Haunting, gripping and gorgeously written, SEE WHAT I HAVE DONE by Sarah Schmidt is a re-imagining of the unsolved American true crime case of the Lizzie Borden murders, for fans of BURIAL RITES and MAKING A MURDERER.
When her father and step-mother are found brutally murdered on a summer morning in 1892, Lizzie Borden – thirty two years old and still living at home – immediately becomes a suspect. But after a notorious trial, she is found innocent, and no one is ever convicted of the crime.
Meanwhile, others in the claustrophobic Borden household have their own motives and their own stories to tell: Lizzie’s unmarried older sister, a put-upon Irish housemaid, and a boy hired by Lizzie’s uncle to take care of a problem.
This unforgettable debut makes you question the truth behind one of the great unsolved mysteries, as well as exploring power, violence and the harsh realities of being a woman in late nineteenth century America.
How did you find out about this book?
I was given an ARC from Hachette Australia.
Why are you reading it now?
See What I Have Done is due to be published in April.
I want to finish it before then!
I’m loving the language – the feel of the hot, hot summer, the different perspectives, the doubts and suspicions. Wondering who Schmidt suspects of committing the murders – she’s playing a close hand right now.
Which character do you relate to so far?
Hmmm not sure if I want to relate to anyone in this story so far!
Although I do feel for poor Bridget, the Irish maid, who got stuck working for this ghastly dysfunctional family.
Are you happy to continue?
Most definitely – I can’t wait to see what Schmidt reveals.
I read Angela Carter’s, The Fall River Axe Murders
a few years ago and found her interpretation of what happened and why to be utterly fascinating.
Where do you think the story will go?
Being based on a true story, certain facts are a given. but Schmidt is obviously open to seeing multiple perspectives. I’m very curious to see if she comes down on the same side as the jury did or if she interprets events differently.
I’m not normally into true crime or gruesome crime stories, but this one appeals to me for the psychology behind it all. The family was so dysfunctional but thanks to the times and the lack of modern police procedures and counselling, so much was left unexplored, unasked and assumed. Fertile ground for speculation and imagination.
What are you reading now?
Do you read true crime stories?