Cold. Creepy. Claustrophobic. I have just finished reading a book that perhaps I would not normally have picked up. You may have heard of it. As a debut novel it has amazing buzz and promotion from the book industry. See What I have Done by Sarah Schmidt.
In one way, I may have picked it up because I enjoy reading memoirs, biographies and true stories and this aligns, but it was at the end of the day, because, I know the author, a work colleague, that I wanted to read this book. After ten years she is now published locally and internationally by a mainstream publisher.
This fictionalised account of the real- life Borden Murders that took place in Fall River, Massachusetts, 1892, takes the reader into the heads of this dysfunctional family and associates, cleverly weaving back stories of the key living characters in this heartless joyless house. We know from page one, a murder has been committed.
“He was still bleeding. I yelled. “Someone’s killed Father”. I breathed in kerosene air, licked the thickness from my teeth. The clock on the mantel ticked ticked. I looked at Father, the way hands clutched to thighs, the way the little gold ring on his finger sat like a sun. I gave him that ring for his birthday when I no longer wanted it..”
The setting and time period has been well researched but it is Sarah’s skill as a writer in voicing the key characters in all its detail:
“I looked at him, saw the beginnings of a grin, saw a little gap between his front teeth. He struck out his hand and I grabbed it, gave a handshake. His skin was elderly-soft, someone who never had to use their hands for work. There was blood on my thumb, on my wrist, and when we finished shaking hands, there was blood on his too.
..that makes you pay attention to this book…
The murders became international news almost immediately, with many articles to be found via the digitized newspapers via Trove.